What is the system challenge?

Infants and toddlers in Etobicoke, an area just west of Toronto’s downtown core, stand out as a vulnerable population when specific indicators of need are considered. Higher levels of risk are associated with key determinants of health including:

  • low income;
  • single mothers;
  • racialized populations;
  • recent immigrants;
  • young maternal age; and
  • low birth weight.

Families experiencing these vulnerabilities require a system that intentionally invests in care that meets their needs. Science shows that investing in healthy early social-emotional development, which refers to a child’s ability to express their emotions and form positive relationships, can have a significant positive impact in the mental health outcomes of children throughout their lives.

Etobicoke has a strong network of services committed to serving infants from birth to age three and their families. However, they have expressed that they are not using an intentional systematic approach to promoting social-emotional development and that this is a challenge.

What are we doing about it?

The goal of First Steps to Success in Etobicoke is to strengthen the capacity of the system to intervene early and prevent the development of mental health challenges in vulnerable infants. Enhancing the skills of service providers in a variety of settings, including child care centres and community-based family services, will help to build a workforce that more effectively provides social and emotional support for infants and reduces their risk of future mental health challenges.

Project partners chose the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children as the intervention needed to meet these goals. This model is evidence-based and designed to systematically enhance services across levels, including universal supports, prevention approaches for infants and toddlers who are more at risk, and intensive interventions for those who need the most support.

Benefits of implementing the Pyramid Model include:

  • increases in child social skills;
  • reductions in challenging behavior;
  • improved family satisfaction;
  • higher retention of children in programs; and
  • an increase in staff confidence levels.

Project Brief: The Pyramid Model for Supporting Social Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children

Evidence Brief: First Steps to Success in Etobicoke

Information for Families

Project Update

Evaluation Brief

?What's this?

Initial Implementation

The first weekend in February marked a significant milestone for First Steps to Success in Etobicoke, as more than 50 project members came together to participate in our first training series. A range of staff from each of our eight implementing sites joined their new coaches to learn about the importance of nurturing relationships, targeted social-emotional strategies, and building high-quality supportive environments.

Thanks to Toronto Public Health and Toronto Children’s Services, public health nurses and Special Needs Resource Consultants will be playing the role of coaches for the duration of this project. These coaches have received two days of practice-based coaching training in order to best support implementing staff to achieve their skill development goals.

Throughout the trainings, participants enjoyed getting to connect with their colleagues in the field and share their experiences with each other. Coaches and implementing staff formally began the partnership that will carry them through the rest of the project.

Who is involved?

  • Toronto Public Health
  • Toronto Children's Services
  • Albion Early Learning and Child Care Centre
  • Delta Family Resource Centre
  • Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter
  • Humber College Child Development Centre
  • The Jean Tweed Centre
  • Kipling Early Learning and Child Care Centre
  • Rexdale Women’s Centre
  • Rowntree Early Learning and Child Care Centre

Next Steps


  • Continue individualized relationships between coaches and implementing staff to help them meet their development goals
  • Ensure Agency Implementation Teams at the organizational level are meeting to develop a plan for how to maximize family engagement in the project
  • For ongoing quality improvement and evaluation of the initiative, interview site leads about their experiences implementing the Pyramid Model
  • Complete midpoint evaluation of staff progress using standardized assessment tool in order to determine effectiveness of the intervention so far

For more information, please contact:

Swelen Andari