A daycare under construction in Victoria is the first of its kind in Canada.
The trauma-informed Little Phoenix Daycare in Victoria’s North Park neighbourhood will provide safety, belonging and informed care for children under the age of five who have experienced high levels of stress and trauma, including immigrant and refugee children.
The facility, planned by the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) in partnership with Family Services of Greater Victoria (FSGV), was designed entirely through a lens of trauma-informed childcare – from lighting and colours to textures and sounds.
Parents, guardians and families will participate in the daycare program, explains Jane Taylor Lee, FSGV executive director.
“We know from a clinical perspective and a research perspective that we really need to work with as many family members as we can in order to create healing … recovery and lasting change,” she said. “And the overall benefit is not just to the individual child, their parents and immediate family … but also eventually to the broader community.”
Along with care for children who have experienced trauma like family violence, sexual, psychological, physical and emotional abuse, the daycare will also provide care for children who haven’t experienced trauma.
“Each child will be unique and bring with them a unique set of circumstances,” Lee says. “We want to be able to combine the children into an environment where they learn from one another.”
In a media release, United Way Greater Victoria (UWGV) – which teamed up with FSGV and VIRCS to fundraise for the the project – says the facility will be staffed with trauma counsellors, art therapists and other childhood experts, all geared to supporting children in a peaceful, therapeutic setting. Families will also be connected to resources.
Early intervention is key, Lee notes.
“We know that children who don’t get an intervention, according to research, are much more likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol, have incidents of depression and anxiety, have difficulty with peer relationships, intimate relationships, those kinds of things,” she says.
“Exposure to trauma changes brain chemistry. The earlier you can intervene, the better the chance the child has to learn how to adapt, how to thrive, how to cope, how to regulate.”
The concept and design of the daycare is informed by a research project with the University of Victoria that not only mines existing evidence, but will generate new knowledge on trauma-informed childcare – research geared to inform future daycares of the same kind. The facility will also become a practicum site for UVic education students specializing in early years.
Families will need to be eligible for the Affordable Child Care Benefit in order to enrol their children.
UWGV, along with FSGV and the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Society, is raising funds to complete the daycare, including construction, furniture and supplies such as books and decor. Donations can be made online at uwgv.ca.