Reaching out to children and families...
Getting right down to business!
Executive Vice President
Government Affairs & Business Development
RBC Financial Group
Haldimand-Norfolk R.E.A.C.H. 24th Annual
Jarvis Community Centre
Thursday, June 2, 2005
Her Worship Mayor Marie Trainer, ladies and gentlemen:
Thanks very much Lillian
what a treat to be introduced
by a R.E.A.C.H. board member and someone associated with the
Norfolk Nuclear Medicine Service. I've heard marvelous things
about the medical technology there - the high quality diagnostic
testing that's available - not to mention the great work that
you and your colleagues continue to do.
It's a pleasure to visit Jarvis and join you on the occasion
of your 24th annual general meeting. I see some familiar faces
in the room - faces like Deb Young, Shelley Chatterson, Michelle
Connor, Karen Dickhout, Laurie Giancola, Lisa Hill, Theresa
Ransome and of course Wendy Carron - faces that remind me
of my visit to Renton last October for the Kids Matter
Charter to Action conference. And given her strong community
leadership and support of children and families, I'm not surprised
to see Mayor Trainer again.
I must tell you that I love the word REACH (in your case
referring to Resource, Education And
Counselling Help), as the word itself and the
phrase "reaching out" (a phrase you use for your
newsletter), have such a positive, inclusive and caring undertone.
I even used the word and phrase for the title of my presentation
this evening - "Reaching out to children and families
- getting right down to business."
When I think about the importance of children and families,
a couple of quotes come to mind. Novelist Edward Phillips
once said: "Nobody brings out your shortcomings more
quickly than a member of your family." How true is that?
At the same time, it says so much about deep family ties and
connections. And then there's one of the Famous 5, Nellie
McClung's observation: "It's not so much a woman's duty
to bring children into the world as it is to see what sort
she is bringing them into." R.E.A.C.H.
is certainly helping to make the world a better place for
children and families.
As you're aware, the future economic well-being and growth
of our country rests in very small hands - Canada's kids.
Our kids will be the keepers of the key for Canada
in 2020 and beyond
that's why they deserve the very best
start in life right now. An investment in children and families
strengthens the very fabric of our workplaces and our country.
We must make smart investments in children and families -
in early learning and child care - to ensure a competitive
workforce and economy. Advocating sound policy and establishing
innovative strategies for children and families will contribute
to Canada's path to prosperity - Ontario's path to prosperity
- Haldimand-Norfolk's path to prosperity.
Strong, diverse public sector, community and business leadership
needs to be at the same table when it comes to policy direction
and issues about children, families and early learning and
child care. History has proven time and time again that shifts
or changes in public policy don't usually take off until the
business community rallies behind them. You may remember what
John Kenneth Galbraith said nearly 25 years ago: "The
views of one articulate and affluent banker, businessman,
lawyer, or acolyte economist are the equal of several thousand
welfare mothers in the corridors of political power"
(Toronto Star, February 21, 2005).
It's clear that business has a vested interest in supporting
and influencing the development of sound public policy; as
business has a stake in children and families, along with
early learning and child care outcomes, i.e., education, employment,
health, safety and community engagement. The link between
economic development and reaching out to children and families
may be an uncommon one - but it's time for corporate Canada
to "get comfortable with the uncomfortable"! The
time is now to convince corporate Canada to take a more active
interest and leadership role in supporting initiatives like
R.E.A.C.H. It's time for business to be better represented
at AGMs like this one.
Business should know that Haldimand-Norfolk R.E.A.C.H. "helps
children and youth who are experiencing emotional difficulties,
who are in trouble with the law or who are over 16 years of
age with no safe place to live." Business should know
that R.E.A.C.H. "assists families who have children with
developmental or physical challenges, as well as parents with
a variety of child care needs." And business should know
that R.E.A.C.H. offers counseling to adults with personal
or relationship difficulties and contracts with businesses
to provide Employee Assistant Program
(E.A.P.) services to employees. It's time we get right down
Business should know that over the years, R.E.A.C.H. has
grown to include developmental services for children and adults,
child care services, early years/CAPC/ family services and
a residential program for youth. Business should know about
R.E.A.C.H.'s Family Early Intervention Program, the licensed
home child care program, initiatives connected with Child
Clinical Services and the Partner Assault Response Program
(PAR), starting this month - and that the organization is
also a single point of contact for children's and developmental
services funded by the Ontario Ministry. It's time we get
right down to business.
Business should also know that last year (August 2004), R.E.A.C.H.
submitted its first Community Service Plan for Children's
and Developmental Services to the Ministry of Children and
Youth Services and the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
This is the kind of blueprint that will go a long way in engaging
community partners and pushing the envelope on community leadership
priorities. It's time we get right down to business.
And business should know that the children and youth of Haldimand
and Norfolk Counties have led the way with the development
of their own Charter of Rights - "that a responsibility
statement was developed by adults regarding the community's
accountability to uphold the rights and that the goal is for
the Charter to be adopted by schools, businesses and social
service agencies." I was delighted to see the Charter
of Rights pamphlet - and the, oh so amazing quilt. As a side
bar, I want you to know that your work with children's rights
won't go unnoticed by the National Advisory Council for the
Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a museum that will be built
in Winnipeg. As chair, I'll ensure the Haldimand-Norfolk voice
of children is heard.
Why am I involved, you might ask? Supporting children and
families is an economic issue that requires more federal,
provincial and municipal government action. Supporting children
and families is an economic issue that needs corporate/business
action. And supporting children and families is an economic
issue that requires more community action - kids are everybody's
business. As a business executive, children's advocate and
parent, the only way to make a difference is to get involved
and get others involved.
This is why I accepted the role as Chair of the Council for
Early Child Development in Ontario last year. The Council
"promotes the application of knowledge about human development
to create a system of early child development and parenting
programs for all children." This initiative involves
school boards, as well as public health, municipal government
and community groups. Dr. Fraser Mustard, who established
the Council, recently received the Lawson Foundation Lifetime
Achievement award that recognizes his contribution to early
child development (ECD). Fraser has directed his $100,000
grant to the Council, particularly to the revision of the
Early Years Study and the incubation of a national network
on ECD evaluation.
More business leaders need to step up to the plate when it
comes to investing in children and families. And they need
to hear and discuss research findings - evidence. Here's some
research at work that shows why investing in children and
families is good economics and good business:
- "For every $1 spent on child care there is a $2 economic
benefit. The benefit comes back through increased tax revenues,
and decreased social, education and health costs."
- "If the first few years of life include support for
growth in cognition, language, motor skills, adaptive skills
and social-emotional functioning, the child is more likely
to succeed in school and later in society."
- High-quality early childhood education produces "long-term
positive outcomes and cost-savings that include improved
school performance, reduced special education placement,
lower school dropout rates, and increased lifelong earning
potential. Employers increasingly find that the availability
of good early childhood programs is critical to the recruitment
and retention of parent employees."
Facts, figures, and return on investment, is language that
business gets. It also needs to get the message about what's
at stake: current and future customers, employees and stakeholders,
a healthier workplace (work/life initiatives), increased productivity,
more attractive returns and corporate responsibility. The
message is simple: we all bear a burden for failing to provide
the "right start" to our children (and families).
We need more business leaders to view supporting children
and families as an economic investment, as well as a health,
education and social investment. It's an important economic
investment because early learning and care enables parents
to work, learn and train while helping to prepare children
for a brighter future. It's a wise investment in 2005 to ensure
a competitive workforce and economy in 2015.
As such, why wouldn't business consider workplaces that employ
on-site/near-site child care centres, child care subsidies,
after-school programs, parental networks, information and
referral services, job sharing, flexible hours or extended
parental leave/family care leaves? Why wouldn't business encourage
investments in targeted children's initiatives, such as R.E.A.C.H.,
and representation on children's advocacy boards? And why
wouldn't business support investments in children and family
partnerships with governments and communities - and the sharing
of promising practices? These are all elements of a sound
business strategy that develops human capital, promotes a
healthier workplace and sustains a competitive advantage.
May was a good month for reaching out to children and families.
On May 6 (in Hamilton), Prime Minister Paul Martin, Social
Development Minister Ken Dryden and Dr. Marie Bountrogianni,
Ontario's Minister of Children and Youth Services, "announced
an historic Agreement in Principle that further supports the
development of quality early learning and child care for children
and families in Ontario." The Prime Minister said: "For
years, Canadian parents, child care organizations and governments
have been working together to strengthen child care in Canada.
This Agreement in Principle between Canada and Ontario
upon those efforts and moves our country significantly closer
to fulfilling a shared vision for early learning and child
care." It's time we get right down to business.
On May 19, "ideas, energy and the enthusiasm of diverse
sectors came together at the first meeting of the Ministry
of Children and Youth Services' Leadership Council. This Council
will work closely with the Partnership Strategies Office to
promote and develop quality cross-sector partnerships in support
of healthy and active children and youth." The Council
chaired by Minister Bountrogianni, "brings together key
business and community leaders to assist the Ministry in ensuring
all children and youth have the best opportunity to succeed."
It's time we get right down to business."
On May 26, Minister Bountrogianni, also spoke to the Ombudsman
Ontario Special Needs report, "Between a Rock and a Hard
Place." She said in part: "The report
us understand how government-funded services have helped families
-- and where there are gaps. New investments totaling more
than $100 million -- more than a 15 per cent increase -- are
already at work providing more services through children's
treatment centres, children's mental health and autism programs.
The Ombudsman has signaled that more needs to be done, and
this government agrees. It's time we made special needs services
for children friendlier and more sensible for families."
It's time we get right down to business.
And the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) supports government action. On May 28, CanWest News
Service reporter Eric Beauchesne stated in his Canada needs
child care piece: "One in three Canadian sole parents
are without work and face an increased risk of poverty,"
according to the OECD report - Babies and Bosses -
released last month. "Although employment among single
parents in Canada has increased in recent years, more can
be done to reduce the risks of children growing up in poverty."
The report also "recommends that governments here increase
their support for child care, including out-of-school-hours
care services, to ensure that a broader group of families
have access to affordable good-quality child care." It's
time we get right down to business.
RBC Financial Group must continue to support children and
families too. We take pride in our After-School Grants Program
and other children/family-focused initiatives. "As part
of our ongoing commitment to create work/life options that
support employees in meeting their diverse needs, we piloted
(in 2004) an Emergency Back-up Child Care program for staff
in the downtown Toronto area. Designed to respond to the needs
of employees whose regular child care provider is ill/not
available, whose usual child care site is closed, or whose
child's school is closed due to bad weather, RBC sponsored
free coverage for up to 5 days of a licensed child care provider
close to the office. Based on the positive response from employees,
we plan to continue offering some version of this program
It's clear this room is filled with people who demonstrate
the value of leadership in action and collaboration
when it comes to reaching out to children and families - to
partnership building in the community. Your President Kathryn
Sloat, who's turning over the chair of the board this year
(and remaining on as past president), has demonstrated remarkable
strength, foresight and leadership for R.E.A.C.H. Then there's
Don Stewart (who I also recall from the conference in Renton)
and his tremendous work with the Children's Charter of Rights.
And let's not forget Kelly Loro's impressive work with the
Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) group. I'm also gratified
to see Marion Kuiper-Lampman here with her husband and daughters
Sara and Samantha. Your father and grandfather, Evert Kuiper,
was a REACH volunteer driver who will be remembered, always.
If only there was time to name all of you out loud
In any event, it's an honour to be among champions - champions
who appreciate the importance of investing in children and
I want to thank your outstanding executive director Leo Massi
and the marvelous Carol Grant for inviting me to speak this
evening and for helping to coordinate my involvement in this
event. Leo, I understand you and your motorcycle made a special
trip to the office last Saturday that had something to do
with this presentation. And another thank you to everyone
here - to the board - to the staff - to community leaders
- to government and business representatives - to parents
- to all volunteers - for what you do for children, families
and for your neighbourhoods - and for what you'll continue
to do in the months and years ahead. And thank you Sara and
Samantha for being bright stars in our midst tonight.
In closing, children and family investments thrive on collaboration
in order to work and work effectively. They also require leadership
at all levels and business leadership at a high level. As
the saying goes, "it takes a village to raise a child"
when igniting the reaching out to children and families
flame, please remember that influencing a child's future and
our community's future - is one of the most important choices
we'll ever make! It's time we get right down to business.
Thanks very much