Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre offering early childhood education program this fall

Anyone who has tried to find daycare for their children knows how difficult it can be. Niagara Region has a wait list of more than 10,000 names.

To help address this crisis, Six Nations Polytechnic in Brantford partnered with the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre (FENFC) to offer the early childhood education (ECE) diploma program.

Credit: Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre

Dr. Johanne McCarthy, from the Onondaga Nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and dean of academic programs at Six Nations Polytechnic, said this fall will be the second time the program is running. The first cohort of eight students is set to graduate from the program in June.

The program will be located on the campus of the Friendship Centre at 796 Buffalo Road and answers call to action 12 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada: to develop culturally sensitive early childhood education programs for Aboriginal families.

McCarthy explained how the curriculum comes from Niagara College and is then enhanced with “Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing.”

McCarthy said students often have childcare issues of their own to manage, so the program tries to be flexible in its approach.

“Although it is a full-time program commitment, our dedicated staff and instructors understand that our systems of community and care directly impact student success,” said McCarthy.

“We understand the impacts of not being able to access childcare due to the crisis of staffing shortages and that to grow more qualified ECE staff, there needs to be consideration to flexibility to accommodate their own childcare needs.”

The program, open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike, is fast-tracked with four consecutive semesters and no break. Students will have one placement per semester in different locations.

McCarthy added that a holistic approach and understanding of family, community, and social determinants of wellness creates opportunities to both “heal and teach.”

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