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Last week I had the pleasure to interview the Honourable Deb Matthews, Ontario’s new Minister of Children and Youth Services (CYS). I remember her when she was a student at A B Lucas Secondary School in London. Before a football game the principal would call her to the office for her to get her horses off the football field. She boasts that she even cleaned up after the horses.

Dalton Mc Guinty has given her the challenging task of not one but three ministries for her to administer; besides CYS she is also responsible for Women’s Issues and chairing the poverty reduction committee in Ontario.

Here are her priorities. She is dedicated to helping those in need move away from the perpetual cycle of poverty. Lack of affordable housing can be alleviated. Hostels are very expensive. London’s pilot project, Hostels to Homes is a success story where 130 people have found affordable housing.

There is a great need for better social services before meaningful change can take place. Early intervention is key to keeping youngsters from getting into trouble. Every dollar spent on prevention leads to three in savings to society.

An Early Learning Advisor will be appointed to research full day pre-schooling. Questions have to be resolved who will deliver the program: Community College Early Childhood instructors or University College graduates.

Full day JK , SK will allow working parents to acquire full time employment -no need to pick up their children at lunch to take them to day care. Hopefully this allow single/working parents to break the cycle of poverty and dependence on welfare/food banks.

Deb would like to see students at risk to be able to enrol in the ‘Pathways to Education Program’ that has been successful in Regent Park, a public housing project in Toronto. “The program tries to ensure that young people from at- risk and or economically disadvantage homes can achieve their potential by staying in high school-graduating to post-secondary programs”.After school tutoring four nights per week, mentoring and advocacy are intricate parts of the program. 95% of students in the area opt to take part in the program; the student drop out rate has gone from 56% to less then twenty since 2001. Up to four thousand dollars in bursaries are awarded to successful students upon completion of high school for post secondary education. Students can opt to use the funds for university, college or apprenticeship.

United Way, Government, Business/Industry and private citizens fund the program.

Deb realizes that-“ government can not go it alone. She needs everyone’s help to try and make a difference. We all have a role to play.”

I was impressed with the interview with Deb.. Remember the axiom: you can pay me now or pay me later but later is oh so expensive. As a life long educator I believe that we can have early intervention with early childhood education programs to help keep at risk students in school. OR, we can have high numbers of youngsters dropping out of school/society to face the criminal justice/welfare system.
A year to incarcerate (warehouse) a person at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Exeter Road costs the taxpayers $62,000.

Early intervention in the life of a youngster is the recipe for success.

Deb’s e-mail is dmatthews.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org You can access Pathways web site: www.pathwaystoeducation.ca

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com