Mapping tool connects kids to local programs

Finding the right supports for children can be a challenge; location, time and programming focus all act as important factors.

With funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), REACH created an interactive map detailing the wide range of child and youth programs available across the city, as a tool for service providers and families. 

“IRCC asked us to make this map to get a better understanding of child and youth programs across Edmonton,” said Lisa Kardosh, Project Manager for REACH Edmonton. “It’s a way for newcomer children and youth to access programs that are close to them. We know that transportation is a big barrier for all vulnerable children, youth and families, but it’s especially true for newcomers.”

The map was completed with participation from partners and service providers across the city 

“We sent requests to more than 200 organizations asking if they had information they wanted included,” said Kardosh. “We were able to map 109 programs across 24 organizations. We’ll be updating this information three times a year: in summer, fall, and winter.” 

Two maps were made, one for internal use and one for external use. The internal map is more detailed and is for partner use.  

“The external map, for public use,” said Kardosh. “It’s more concise, more selective in information and visually easier to navigate.”

One of the challenges ahead will be maintaining the data so the map remains up-to-date. 

“We’re having conversations with 211 and Maps Alberta. We’re working to improve alignments and lessen the information burden on organizations so we’re not asking them for the same info over and over.”

The map will have real-world effects on families in Edmonton and the organizations that serve them. 

“The idea is fantastic,” says Kerry Woodland, Director of Service Delivery at Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton. “The logistics can be worrisome, but I feel like REACH has created a good system to update it. That to me is key and it’s been built in at this point so that’s great.”

“Like any data system, if you don’t do maintenance the data becomes irrelevant, and it doesn’t take long. If no one updated this in a year it would lose accuracy,” says Woodland. 

The map will serve both families and the organizations who serve them. 

“I really see 2 audiences, one being families directly. There isn’t a central spot on the internet where they can look at opps for programming so this brings it all together in terms of seeing a full picture. All the right parameters are embedded in this, type, days of week, typography, etc.,” says Woodland. “I think the second audience is staff. We’re often supporting families by referrals and linking them and this way as a front line staff can also go on here to find support and chat with family about options and mitigate any barriers that might exist around language, tech, literacy, and of those barriers that might exist. 

It’s good for staff to know what’s going on in the community.”

“I hope that we’ll help families know what kind of programs are out there for children and youth and, similarly, partners and service providers will be able to get lots of use out of it in referring clients to programs,” said Woodland.  “If they have a client in their office and a kid could benefit from a homework club, the provider can look at the map and see what’s close to where they live.”

“So much of the time I hear that families and providers just don’t know what’s available so I hope this map will help fill that gap,” she says.

“I hope we can use it to refine service delivery. If there are five homework clubs or rec programs in a small area, we can look at that together and say are they all at full capacity? Do we need five there? Can one move to the west end or where it’s needed. This way we can distribute programs across the city according to need.”

With access to this information, collaboration and coordination across organizations that work with youth and families will hopefully be streamlined. 

“I think what exists in our sector is fragmented coordination,” says Woodland. “The barrier is not knowing where to go. You now have one place to go look. I do think it’ll help with coordination. If you were starting a program you might want to see what exists in the community. I just see this coordination improving among agencies.”

“I think as a partner, recipient, we’re just so thankful to see it come together for its first iteration and for a first iteration it’s really well done,” she says. “Now we just have to do the knowledge mobilization so people know it’s here.”

To view the Child and Youth Services Map, click here.



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