2016 marks the completion of the 25th anniversary of Children’s Integration Support Services (CISS). We were not given a road map when our journey for a seamless system of supported inclusion began. As we travelled down the inclusion road, we learnt that change is inevitable and it is up to each of us to grow with each lesson learned. We also understood that it was alright to ask for directions. Our story began with a road trip to the Region of Durham to seek information and ideas from others who had already started their inclusion journey. Believe it or not, “Google Maps” had not yet been invented so it became a leap of faith, knowing that we all believed in and were committed to a path where full inclusion was possible by working towards supporting the needs of each child, their parents and the early childhood educators and providers. The inclusion pioneers who had bravely gone before us shared all of their lessons learned on how they achieved their success as well as sharing what roads for us not to go down. We had a strong belief in a vision where ALL children belong. We knew our journey was going to be positive and possible.
When parents first find out that they are expecting a baby they imagine what it will be like once the baby arrives. They begin to prepare for the birth and the change this will bring to their lives. This is only the beginning of their parental journey. The joys and challenges from infancy through toddlerhood, childhood, middle years, and eventually adolescence provide continuous learning. CISS, like expectant parents, has also experienced a developmental journey, as its program model was being defined it grew from an embryotic state to a mature and responsive system for inclusive child care.
Over the last 25 years, the landscape of children’s services has changed significantly to address systems gaps which CISS has been nimble to respond to. We have dared to go off the road well-travelled to test pilot projects to enhance our service delivery model. The Positive Outcomes Program (POP) was one such pilot. Developments in technology have also influenced our ability to connect with others more readily and to provide information to parents/guardians and community partners to support their inclusive journey. Examples include our electronic newsletter Access Integration (https://cissnewsletter.ca/), electronic registration for workshops and our Guide for Inclusive Collaboration: access to electronic forms and policies to support licensed childcare programs. By actively engaging with parents/guardians and teaching teams, a responsive system to support inclusion developed.
CISS has mapped out a unique inclusion map for Ottawa. At first glance, you notice all the highways and major arteries and then you identify the smaller communities with their streets, avenues, round-a-bouts and intersections.
The major highway is defined by the supportive and responsive relationship with each child’s parents. The parents direct the route that will be taken when they choose the child care program for their child to attend. The major artery is the intake process where each child that meets the CISS mandate is assigned a Resource Consultant. Then the various intersections and roundabouts that lead to individual support plans, identified training and resource support for the teaching team of each child care program. Further intersections that help keep everyone on a positive inclusion journey, while focusing on developmental strengths and needs, includes the collaborative partnerships with community partners. Inclusion is an organic process of responding to change.
Looking back over the last 25 years, it is with great pride that I celebrate our journey of inclusion with the passionate and dedicated CISS team, parents/guardians and our early years and child care community partners. Looking to the future, I ask each of you to take a moment, think about where you have been, what you have achieved, where you want to go and what you need to do to make it happen. Reaffirm your belief that all children belong. Let’s continue to dream and work together to make full inclusion our community’s reality.
Moira D’Aoust, Manager
Children’s Integration Support Services