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

Evidence Brief

Information for Families

Project Update

Evaluation Brief

Midpoint Evaluation

Midpoint Update for Families

?What's this?

Full Implementation

Individualized relationships between coaches and the eight site leads have continued over the past year. In pursuit of their professional development action goals, frontline staff have started seeing the impacts of the project. They’ve reported that the children in their care are calmer and more confident, and that they’ve built stronger relationships with the families they work with.

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

  • Conduct final project evaluation, including interviews with site leads and coaches, a focus group with the oversight committee members, and one final observation of frontline staff to assess how much their use of social-emotional strategies has improved over the past year.
  • Continue ongoing conversations with community partners to ensure the project’s sustainability and transition to a new coordinating body.

For more information, please contact:

Swelen Andari