Welcome to the first post to our Stories section. This is the place where we will showcase achievements, industry tips, educational moments, and so much more. It will be a place to ask questions, share your thoughts, and learn a little more about Hope’s Home and what we do here. If you’re new to Hope’s Home, make sure to check out the rest of our website to see how we aim to improve the lives of children every day.
This first post will be apart of our Philosophy Series. This will focus on the concepts that frame our entire organization by guiding our actions in both our Childcare Centres and our Supportive Living Homes. Topic one is inclusion. Inclusion is what sparked the idea for the creation of Hope’s Home: Children with complex medical or developmental needs have the right to play and learn in the same environment as any other typically developing child. Fourteen years later, we have four Early Learning & Childcare centres to bring life to that fundamental idea. For more insight into what an inclusive environment means at Hope’s Home, we interviewed Nicole Shepherd and Jena Baldrey, two Nurse Supervisors at our Prince Albert location.
Nicole and Jena have both been advocates for Hope’s Home over the years. They’ve helped bring awareness to our organization and fought for the rights of families and children who utilize our services. Their dedication to Hope’s Home and desire to get each kid exactly what they deserve is inspiring to all of us. Thank you so much, Nicole and Jena, for everything you do. Our kids are so lucky to have you.
For more information on how Nicole has advocated for our kids, you can watch this video here.
“I witness inclusion happening every day at Hope’s Home, and every day I am overwhelmed by what I see. The staff and children are so creative in how they make an environment inclusive and I am so grateful and proud to be a part of Hope’s Home.”
– Nicole Shepherd.
1. What does the word “inclusion” mean at Hope’s Home? How is this philosophy implemented in day-to-day life?
Nicole: Inclusion at Hope’s Home means that every child is included in all aspects of programming, education, and everyday activities. Every child is treated equally despite varying skills and abilities and no child is ever left out or left behind. Inclusion is practiced every day at Hope’s Home and is an influencing factor when determining, developing, and implementing programming.
Jena: Inclusion is the foundation of our care. It means that the children, regardless of their developmental level or needs are part of the family environment created each day. It extends to the team of staff and caregivers and regardless of role, everyone is a mentor and a teacher.
2. What is the benefit of typically developing children experiencing an inclusive environment such as Hope’s Home?
Nicole: Typical children at Hope’s Home are not afraid, scared, or intimidated by a child in a wheelchair or a standing frame, or who may have tube feed meals or oxygen, as they see these things each day. Typical children are educated on developmental and medical equipment and procedures and are always wanting to help with all aspects of program and care delivery. They learn how to communicate in many different ways and languages and are always celebrating each others successes, no matter how big or small. I am confident that the typical children at Hope’s Home are going to be the first ones to offer assistance to someone in need in the future, as they demonstrate how to be loving, caring, and accepting of everyone in the inclusive environment at Hope’s Home every day.
Jena: I have seen first hand the profound learning that comes from an inclusive environment. My own children that attend the programs have developed into kind, generous, understanding individuals that believe above all else, everyone is special in their own way. They learn to embrace change and differences and acknowledge the resilience of their amazing friends that overcome challenges and succeed in their own special way.
“Although there has been much improvement, there is still a lot of stigma around special needs and judgments passed on parents who care for them and their struggles. I feel that we are a safe place for these families.”
– Jena Baldrey.
3. How does an inclusive childcare environment change the quality of life for children with complex medical or developmental needs?
Nicole: An inclusive environment provides an opportunity for them to interact, socialize, and learn within their peer groups. The love, belonging and acceptance I see these children receive and give to the staff and typical children each day is amazing. Children learn from their peers and they make great strides developmentally through observation and by the therapies that are provided to them in an inclusive environment. The continuity of nursing staff at Hope’s Home improves the overall health and safety of the child with complex medical needs. I have also seen the inclusive environment at Hope’s Home improve the mental health of children with complex medical needs as it provides them the opportunity to be a child during times they do not have to be isolated at home or in the hospital due to illness.
Jena: Although there has been much improvement, there is still a lot of stigma around special needs and judgments passed on parents and families who care for them and their struggles. I feel that we are a safe place for these families. A place where the children can just be kids and their families can get a well deserved break and the understanding and support they need.
4. Describe a moment where you witnessed inclusion happening? Why was this moment special to you?
Nicole: I witness inclusion happening every day at Hope’s Home and every day I am overwhelmed by what I see. The staff and children are so creative in how they make an environment inclusive and I am so grateful and proud to be a part of Hope’s Home. The moments that stand out for me as being special are the ones where the children with complex medical needs are not in the Early Learning and Childcare center or at home due to illness. The other children and staff always inquire about them and make cards and crafts to send to them that wish them well and lift their spirits. There were a few times where children went to the hospital with staff to read or play cards with their friend who was not able to be with them. The inclusive environment is not limited to centers or homes, it is outreaching to wherever the children of Hope’s Home may be. That is special.
Jena: I have seen so many. One very memorable moment was when one of our SL children began attending daycare. Everyday that she came in, initially with her walker, every child in the room rushed to be her helper and all were always so encouraging and excited for every milestone she met and all her hard work. I was able to witness this multiple times in a day.
5. What is the biggest challenge of offering an inclusive environment?
Nicole: The biggest challenge is finding and adapting different ways of doing things to meet the needs of Hope’s Home staff and children. I witness staff being creative and thinking outside of the box every day, which is both challenging but can also be rewarding. There is an added challenge in creating an inclusive environment when there are limited or inappropriate community resources available to provide support. I have been a part of advocating for and have witnessed the positive change over the years regarding community resources and hope to see more changes soon.
Jena: Ensuring that the funds are in place to allow for extra staffing and resources to ensure all children get the time and support they require to continue to develop and grow to their full potential.
Jena: I have always been someone who was a very firm believer in inclusion and equal opportunity; however, I don’t believe I even understood the full meaning until I started at Hope’s Home. I have learned so much, not only from my mentors and managers but from the amazing, passionate, selfless individuals that care for our children every day and celebrate all the victories no matter how small. I am forever in awe of the amazing work that everyone in this organization does.
And that’s why there’s no place like Hope. ♥️