Chase Stevenson is not just a faceless statistic.
To his parents, he’s living proof of the value of early intervention for child development in B.C. Chase arrived six weeks early and was born with a cleft palate. He spent the first weeks of his life in care in Vernon and then made a number of trips to BC Children’s Hospital where he underwent corrective surgery.
Since then, Chase, now two, has been monitored by the infant development team, which is one of the services offered through the Shuswap Children’s Association, a family-based non-profit with a special focus on children with special needs.
But now both of Chase’s parents, Morgan and Tyler, along with the workers at the children’s association, are worried that services like this are being whittled away, as there has been no increase in funding since 2009.
Chase’s story will be the focus of an upcoming social media campaign designed to draw attention to the need for families to have access to these early intervention programs.
His early arrival left him with a number of developmental challenges. Premature babies often need extra help to reach developmental milestones such as sitting up, crawling or developing motor skills.
“If there isn’t funding, other kids are going to fall through the cracks and I would hate it if that had happened to Chase,” says Morgan. “Now that Chase has a ‘normal’ sibling, I can see how Chase needed the extra help to get things that his brother Cooper just does so naturally.”
June Stewart, executive director of the Shuswap Children’s Association, says their mission is giving children the best possible start in the critical early years.
“If you can work with families at the earliest opportunity, you make tremendous progress. It’s so much harder if you have to wait,” she said. Stewart says stable funding for core programs is critical. Since 2009, provincial funding to Child Development Centres has been frozen despite increases in operating costs. Chase is thriving, and his mother credits services Chase received with playing a vital role.
“Without services like the infant development program, many children’s lives would be so much different,” says Morgan.
For more about the initiative at www.bcacdi.org or how to support the Shuswap Children’s Association at www.shuswapchildrens.ca.