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SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – The Infant-Child Development Program (ICDP) of Algoma Public Health (APH) provides service and support to over 500 children and their families annually. The Ministry of Children and Youth Services has announced to APH that it may not be possible to fund shortfalls. APH will initiate the withdrawal of ICDP services from approximately 300 children starting November 26, 2008. Six of eight ICDP child development professionals, who provide early intervention to children experiencing developmental delays in Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District, have received lay-off notices. By the end of April 2009, 25 per cent of this team will permanently lose their positions, due to chronic year-over-year funding shortfalls. These workers are Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1528 members.

The first Infant Child Development Programs in Ontario were established in 1974. The program is a critical segment in the continuum of prevention and early intervention services. It is designed to support families with infants and young children from birth to 6 years of age who have a developmental delay or are at risk of a developmental delay. These children may be developing more slowly than expected, or their development is at risk because of birth or medical problems, genetic disorders, pre-maturity, hearing and/or visual impairment, limited parenting experience or for reasons unknown.

For Rochella Robson, president of CUPE Local 1528, this announcement will have serious consequences for the most vulnerable children in our community: “The impact on over 500 children supported by this program is devastating,” says Robson. “In a year proclaimed as the ‘Year of Youth’ by Sault Ste. Marie Mayor John Rowswell, having vulnerable children told that the services they rely on will be cut is appalling.”

The ICDP workers cite evidence-based research in pointing out that chronically under-funding the ICDP is irresponsible – for every dollar invested in early year’s intervention, society saves more than 17 dollars by the time the child reaches the age of 18 years (Perry Pre-School Project, Ypsilanti Michigan).

These workers are asking the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, to make the right decision and support the children and families of Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma District by adequately funding this indispensable program so that it can continue to deliver services to our children at current levels.

For information:

Rochella Robson, President, CUPE Local 1528:  705-256-1166
Luc Tittley, CUPE Communications:  416-910-2389