Linking local families together for 10 years, the Lacombe Parent Link Centre is celebrating their milestone of serving the community.
“We are celebrating across the province that Parent Link has been supporting families since 2005,” said Donnie Tafts, Lacombe and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) family service coordinator.
The Lacombe Parent Link Centre is part of a network called the Central Parkland Parent Link, comprised of four centres, including Lacombe, Ponoka, Rimbey and Wetaskiwin.
“We are funded fully by the Ministry of Human Services through a partnership with the regional child and family services organization (FCSS),” said Tafts. “We are here to support families with young children — newborn to six years — and we provide lots of fun and learning at our centres.”
Parent Link offers playgroups, learning through play, parent education and support, family support and developmental screening to identify children who may not be meeting developmental milestones.
“It’s a huge resource to families with young children,” said Tafts. “We know that raising young children can be very challenging and people need connection, they need social support, they need a place to come and play with their children.”
Taft explained there are over 180 separate Parent Link Centres across the Alberta, which help families connect when they move to a new town or city.
“People who are moving for work can go and find a Parent Link Centre and know what kinds of programs they can expect for their family,” she said. “That’s the beauty of having them all across the province. Families can come to the Parent Link Centre and they can find friends and support.”
The Lacombe Parent Link Centre started out in September of 2005 in a school setting, solely relying on word of mouth to get the message out about the programs and opportunities for young families.
“We offered things that would potentially attract families like infant massage, parent education classes plus playgroups,” said Cora Hoekstra, Lacombe Parent Link Centre coordinator.
Since the beginning, Parent Link has been running the Wednesday morning playgroup, a program for families to attend.
Eventually, Parent Link moved to their current location at the Lacombe Memorial Centre (LMC), which has increased the awareness of programs, by being directly partnered with Lacombe FCSS.
“It really is the ideal place because it’s a community building,” Hoekstra explained of the significance of the LMC.
Lacombe Parent Link Centre serves around 300 families each year.
The success of the centre is mainly gauged by the popularity of the programs and smiles on the families’ faces. “It’s very well attended,” said Hoekstra. “We are always full and we are operating at capacity. We know we are meeting their needs and they (the families) enjoy being here.”
Hoekstra noted the ultimate goal of the centre is not just offering programs and scheduled playtimes to young families.
“Yes, we offer playgroups and education, but we are linking families together and they can meet their friends,” she said. “We have groups of moms who met when they were in a baby group and now their children may be in Grade 1 or 2 and they always stayed together as friends because of Parent Link. It’s a pretty cool phenomenon.”
Hoekstra added she is also grateful to the Alberta Government to have the vision to start Parent Link Centres throughout the province. “We are 100 per cent government funded so it’s really a good testament to how investing in the early years will pay off for our society down the road,” she said.
The Ponoka Parent Link Centre was started in May 2005, with the Rimbey centre starting up the following fall. The Wetaskiwin centre was established in 2008.