7 Reasons to Explore our New Website

By Beth Williams, Our Kids Network Communications Manager

Earlier this month we quietly flicked the switch on our new Our Kids Network website. We’ve been using the last few weeks to gather some feedback, continue to smooth out glitches, and work on the finishing touches.

We plan to feature and celebrate the new website on a regular basis by introducing you to the vast resources and information found in every section. And of course we’ll do our best to act on your feedback and suggestions.

Below are 7 elements we’re particularly proud of, but they’re really just a taste of what this new site offers. Over the coming year, we’ll be mining the site’s content and using this blog to introduce new features and explore resources and tools that can help you in your work with children and families.

1.  The redesign began as a process to update the technology, design, and content of our five-year-old website, but it became much more than that. Team members brought perspectives and knowledge from administration, research, education, children’s services, children’s mental health, child protection, communications, and the community. The diverse views and opinions of this group were key to creating the best online environment to showcase our work and content, and appeal to our audience of Halton professionals who work with children, youth, and families. Here’s the team.

2. A window on our work. The scope and depth of Our Kids Network’s committees and their work, challenges, and accomplishments is evident in every section. Every OKN committee is connected in some way to the website, whether it’s the OKN timeline in the Learn About Us resources, the Data Portal in the Research section, or the Early Years Developmental Relationships video.

3. More visual impact and less text. Visual elements define major topic areas and simplify and guide navigation. We used colour blocks, strong graphics, and minimal text to get you quickly to the information you’re looking for and make it easier to browse.

4.  Simple navigation. Your feedback on the old website told us that easy navigation was key. Our new website organizes information so that it is easy to find, understand, and use. With less scrolling and clicking, you’ll quickly land on what you need.

    

5. Accessible without clicking the accessibility button. It’s important to us that everyone can explore and use the OKN website with ease. Our new site meets AODA accessibility standards when it comes to font size, appropriate use of colour and space, and suitability for screen readers, all without clicking the accessibility icon. (Clicking the button further enhances pages when needed.)

6. Visualizing data and information. We developed infographics to make it easier to understand some of the more complex aspects of OKN. For example, The Halton 7 population results, one of the cornerstones of our work and our common agenda, are something that everyone in Halton should know about and understand. Our infographic boils down complex research language and practices to 10 easy pieces.

7. What’s on the menu? Over the past two decades, OKN has produced a huge number of valuable tools and resources by using data collection cycles that now span a generation of children. These resources range from comprehensive toolkits, to videos, to technology and data reports. The website team worked hard to find a way to make it easy for you to both browse these resources and find them easily when you know what you want and are in a hurry. We call these our “resource tables” – simple, quick, and easy to use listings of resources, organized under topics and navigated with drop down menus. You’ll find OKN-produced resources, as well as numerous links, videos, and PDFs from other sources that can be used in our work.

Our website is a work in progress and we hope you’ll join in. Your feedback is one of the drivers of the website because we need continuous communication to grow. Look for page polls, email buttons, and surveys to make it easy for you to tell us what you think.

We encourage you to take the time to explore and get to know the website, and we hope you discover a wealth of information and resources to help you in your work with children and families. We’re looking forward to hearing from you on what you like and where we can improve. Watch for more information on website features in upcoming blogs!

 

Being Intentional

Using the power of research, relationships, and knowledge to help children, youth and families thrive now and in the future

The first year of our three-year Our Kids Network (OKN) development plan has come to an end and we’re seeing steady progress on our four priorities: Engagement, Knowledge Mobilization, System Navigation and Research. It’s clear in our initiatives and activities over the last year, that the network is more cohesive and more engaged. Committees and groups are evolving as needs are identified or change. We are becoming more intentional when putting knowledge into practice.

Research
This is an exciting moment in our long history of collecting and sharing data. This year marks the first generation of children that have completed the OKN data cycle, over a twelve-year period. (Surveys are conducted every three years.) In total, 75,000 children, youth and families have participated in five OKN data cycles. This is invaluable to our mandate of evidence-based planning for children and families. There will be more exciting news on this milestone in 2017 as the community begins conversations on how to interpret and use the latest data to support children, youth and families in Halton.

Relationships
This year in particular, the power of our relationships emerged as a driving force in how we meet challenges, solve problems and achieve success. We see this in Acton with the Early Years Project and local partners reacting to data that showed that a high number of children were starting school with vulnerabilities. It’s their strong relationships that empower the Acton Early Years team to continue to address these concerns on numerous levels with tangible benefits for children and families. We now have funding to expand this initiative into six additional neigbourhoods in Halton. This is a perfect example of the critical role relationships play in our success and growth.

Knowledge
From local groups planning family fairs to meetings with our elected officials, OKN knowledge is being shared and discussed across Halton. We see the Early Years Project team using data maps to stimulate discussion. @OurKidsNetwork is an important channel for knowledge transfer and engagement with stakeholders. Our partners at Halton Public Health ensure that each year the parents of Kindergarten students and students starting high school receive information packages to help with the transition. And these are only a few examples of how we’re intentionally making knowledge accessible, understandable and useful for professionals and families.

The OKN Collective Impact Report 2016 provides a snapshot of our collective action as we continue our focus on the Halton 7 (seven population outcomes) that are our common agenda. In the second year of our OKN network development plan, we will continue to identify needs and gaps, build on the activities of 2016, and will embark on some exciting new ones. It is you – our network of people – who advance this work, and I hope you will continue to stay involved and engaged in 2017.

On behalf of Our Kids Network, I wish you and your families the very best in the coming year!

Elena DiBattista,
Director, Our Kids Network

A focus on relationships can make it the best summer ever!

By Mary Tabak, Our Kids Network Developmental Assets Manager

Some of the best family memories are made during the summer months. With a little bit of planning and a little bit of luck, the summer of 2016 can be one those summers that you talk about all year long.

So, what’s the magic recipe? There is no such thing. Every family has unique characters, special circumstances and interesting challenges and strengths. However, the summer of 2013, our best so far, did have a few guiding principles that helped us find our way.

First, we re-visited some old traditions. You know, those things that you did when the kids were young….but haven’t done in a long time. We used to visit our local farms regularly until the kids became “too cool” for that. Going to Springridge Farm for lunch and spending an afternoon, brought back old memories and stories, and a flicker of childhood past. We also pulled out some of our favourite children’s stories and opened the pool with an underwear swim. What started out as eyes rolling backwards, turned into a lot of good, affordable fun.  Continue reading

What makes a father?

Father’s Day June 19, 2016

When it comes to the diversity of families today, there are many definitions of “father”. Let’s celebrate them all this Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19! In the stories that follow, we see that it’s supportive, caring relationships that help children and youth thrive as they experience the ups and downs of life.

“We went out for dinner with Kyle on Friday night and he moved in on Monday morning.” Bruce Callan and his wife Kathie tell the story of how their 17-year-old foster son, Kyle, joined their family. Watch the video.

“We took a risk, and moved from a supportive larger community with families that looked like us to a smaller community where we were not sure how they were going to accept us.” The Logan-Powell family, Marcus, Wayne and their two sons, sought a smaller community when thinking about starting a family. Watch the video.

“Sometimes you have to wait for something big.” Kevin is an eleventh grade student with a passion for science, math and comic books. In 2009, his mom, Tina, reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Read more

Learn more about building strong resilient family relationships:

Relationships don’t just happen. Learn more about strengthening yours at  www.Parentfurther.com

A New Kind of Parenting: Raising Kids 10 to 16 year-old We know that brain growth and development can greatly affect behavior at this stage. In this video series Dr. Clinton offers practical advice on how parents can adjust their parenting styles to help their children cope with stress and emotions during the pre-teen and teen years. Watch the videos.

Family Relationships Matter: The First Six Years Family Relationships Matter: The First Six Years, focuses on five essential actions central to positive child development: Express Care; Challenge Growth; Provide Support; Share Power and Expand Possibilities. In the video, seven families show these strategies in their own unique ways.

Recognizing the strength, bravery and resilience of children and youth in and from care

By Halton Children’s Aid Society, Our Kids Network Protocol Partner

May 14, 2016 is Children and Youth in Care Day in Ontario.

In late March 2014, the Honourable David Onley, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, granted royal assent to Bill 53, an Act to Proclaim Children and Youth in Care Day. This Act recognizes May 14th of each year as Children and Youth in Care Day, acknowledging the enormous contributions current and former Crown and Society wards make, as well as the strength, bravery and resilience they show in the face of adversity. Continue reading