Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve - Backgrounder

November 2010

Health Canada recognizes that strategic investments in a child's early years lead to greatly improved long-term health outcomes. We are working with First Nations partners and other stakeholders to build on the positive impact this program is having in First Nations communities, particularly on children's readiness to learn and First Nations language development.

Health Canada provides $59 million annually to support over 9,000 children in over 300 Aboriginal Head Start programs in First Nations communities on reserve. In Budget 2010, the Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve Program received $25 million in additional support to the program over five years (2010-2015).

Children in the Aboriginal Head Start Program gain opportunities to develop self-confidence, a greater desire for learning, and an excellent start in their journey towards becoming successful people.

Parents, guardians and other family members are the most important teachers in a child's life. The Aboriginal Head Start Program knows this and provides support. It helps parents and other caregivers learn and improve skills that contribute to healthy child development. It also works with families to help strengthen family relationships.

The Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve Program encourages parents, families and community members to play a key role in running the Program. It also builds relationships with other community programs and services so that children get the best care.

Through songs, stories and games in their First Nations language, children connect with their culture. Drummers, traditional dancers, story tellers and Elders from the community often share their knowledge and teachings with children.

Children learn how to make healthy food choices through snack programs or they go on field trips with staff, parents and other family members. Some programs hold Family Days or other special events like community feasts, gatherings and open houses and invite families and community groups to participate.

The Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve Program also offers various workshops for parents, as well as outreach services and home visits, to encourage parents and families to be involved in the program regularly.

The Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve (AHSOR) Program:

  • Was launched in 1998 as a result of commitments made in Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan and the 1997 Speech from the Throne.
  • Funds early intervention strategies that support the developmental needs of First Nations children ages zero to six and their families living on-reserve. The Program's goal is to support programming that is designed and delivered by First Nations communities in an effort to meet their unique needs.
  • AHSOR Programming is centered around six components: education; health promotion; culture and language; nutrition; social support; and parental/family involvement.
  • Programming can be centre-based (a stand alone or co-located facility), delivered through outreach services/home visits, or a combination of the two.
  • Funding provided in Budget 2010 will continue to support outreach services focused on the delivery of the six program components by a trained community outreach worker in a home setting.
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