OKN’s Indigenous Reconciliation initiative considers Truth and Reconciliation as two distinct entities, as illustrated above. Learn more about this graphic in our Indigenous Reconciliation Strategy.

Children spend a great deal of their first 8 years learning in schools, thus, how schools connect to their community is important. Progress in this area will show good connections between schools, parents, community resources and the local neighbourhood.

  • Parental involvement in schools
  • Youth as resources
  • Volunteerism
  • Community use of schools
Children thrive in neighbourhoods that are safe and connected. Neighbourhoods that can meet all of our needs are valued.

  • Neighbourhood safety
  • Neighbourhood cohesion
  • Walkability
  • Caring for the community
Safe environments benefit children by providing a sense of personal security that allows them to take maximum advantage of learning, playing and making new friendships.

  • Child care capacity
  • Quality child care
  • Parenting capacity
  • Parental monitoring
  • Quality time at home with family
Safe environments benefit children by providing a sense of personal security that allows them to take maximum advantage of learning, playing and making new friendships.

  • Serious injury
  • At-risk behaviours
  • Safety from harm
All children need positive connections to their parents/caregivers, peers, school and community.

  • Supportive and caring environments
  • Boundaries and expectations
  • Commitment to learning
  • Positive values
  • Social competencies

Learning is one of the cornerstones for success in life and starts at birth. Community progress for this result will show that children are learning both in their preschool and school years.

  • Preschool learning opportunities
  • Student achievement (EQAO)
  • Healthy body weight
  • School engagement

Good health is a prerequisite for positive outcomes for children and youth. Both physical and emotional health are valued in this result. In addition, given the critical brain development that takes place in the first 12 months of life, infant health is closely monitored.

  • At-risk births
  • Healthy eating
  • Healthy body weight
  • Physical activity
  • Mental health

Early Years Screening and Community Model of Care

Screening and Assessment

The early years provide the foundation for mental health. Significant mental health concerns can and do occur in young children. In some cases, these concerns can have serious consequences for early learning, social competence and lifelong health. (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2008/2012).

Universal screening of the mental health of infants/young children and their caregivers can:

  • Raise awareness of the factors that contribute to mental well-being
  • Identify those who may be at risk for compromised social-emotional development
  • Identify those who would benefit from additional services and support
  • Facilitate access to timely services and supports
  • Provide a means for monitoring and evaluating services and interventions
  • Provide local data regarding the needs of families with infants/young children which can be used to advocate for increased services and supports

Providing Timely Service and Support


Learn how the 8 areas of focus for social-emotional development impact infant/young children's well-being.

Icon of a Brain

Brain & the Environment

Nurturing environments help to shape the developing brain.
The foundation for healthy brain development starts prenatally and is influenced by genes, experiences and the child's environment. Positive caring relationships and healthy, stimulating environments help to shape the developing brain and influence gene expression with positive outcomes seen through to adulthood.

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Stress & the Brain

Toxic stress interferes with healthy brain development.
Stress is a normal part of healthy development. However toxic stress in childhood has the potential to interfere with healthy brain development. Supportive and caring relationships help to buffer the effects of stress for children.

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Executive Function

Executive function and self-regulation are a child’s 'air traffic' control systems.
Executive function and self-regulation helps children to manage emotions, control impulses, plan and prioritize, stay on task, problem solve and master new skills such as numeracy and literary skills. A child's capacity to develop these 'systems' is dependent upon caregivers who can model these skills within safe and supportive environments.

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A child's 'temperament' can change over time.
A child's emerging dispositions such as their activity level, emotional expression, attention and self-regulation are the result of complex interactions between genes, biology and environmental factors. It is important for caregivers to understand their child's natural strengths and adopt caregiving strategies that build on those strengths so they can thrive in different environments.

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Resilience in infants/young children is fostered through healthy relationships, supportive communities and the prevention of adversity.
Resilience is not a 'fixed trait'; it can be promoted, strengthened and compromised throughout the lifespan. A person’s ability to remain resilient in the face of adversity is dependent upon the presence of protective factors within themselves, their relationships and the society in which they live.

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Positive Relationships

Positive, caring relationships in the early years are the 'building blocks' for a child's social-emotional development.
In the early years, responsive adult relationships affect brain architecture through reciprocal serve and return interactions. Warm and responsive caregivers lead to greater social competence, fewer behavioural problems and enhanced thinking and reasoning.

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Consistent and responsive caregiving fosters secure attachment in infants/young children and sets the stage for healthy child development.
An infant/child who is securely attached to their caregiver(s) feels safe, secure, and confident, promoting their exploration of the environment and ability to take on new challenges and experiences necessary for healthy development.

Icon of children playing


Play is the work of children. Learning happens through play.
Play positively supports children's social/emotional, fine motor, gross motor, cognitive, language and literacy skills. Play has an essential role in building children's resilience across adaptive systems; pleasure, emotion regulation, stress response systems, peer and place attachments, learning and creativity. Integrating play into everyday moments fosters critical skills for learning.

To learn more about the areas of focus that impact healthy social emotional development refer to Social Emotional Development in the Early Years: A Common Message Paper (2nd Ed.).

Connect, Observe, and Inquire

Apply the F-Words framework to assess how an infant/young child experiences their world.


Family represents the essential environment of all children. It is the most intimate context for nurturing and protection as they develop their personalities and mature physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally. A child needs a caregiver to be available, warm and responsive, reliable, and able to set appropriate rules and boundaries so they feel cared for and safe. Families equip children with the skills and resources to succeed as adults while also passing on basic cultural values.


Children need to be active every day and engage in a variety of activities indoors and outdoors that move their bodies. Physical activity in childhood is essential for a healthy brain and body and promotes: early brain development, self-esteem, heart, lung, muscle and bone strength, physical coordination, flexibility, balance, sleep and eating habits and their mental well-being


Social development is a fundamental part of growing up. Children learn fundamental skills through interactions with other children. Encouraging, empowering and enhancing opportunities to develop and nurture meaningful peer connections is essential.


Children show a wide variety of emotions and will have regular moments of observable joy and happiness especially during play. They enjoy a variety of activities and different types of toys and display shared enjoyment when engaging with friends and caregivers.


Function refers to what people do; their role, job, or task. For children, their job is to learn by exploring and playing in their environment. How children first do things is not important as each child will learn to do things in their own way and their skills will develop over time. Through play and daily routines children will become more independent and effective at interacting with people and their surroundings.


All children want to grow up to be healthy and happy. Their future is now. What happens tomorrow depends on what they do today. Children need their family to dream of a future that is possible for them, to find ways of helping them realize their full potential, participate and be included in their community. The future is what life is all about.

Based on Rosenbaum, P. & Gorter, J.W (2012), The ‘F-words’ in Childhood Disability: I swear this is how we should think! Child: Care, Health and Development, (38) 4. Visit CanChild for more resources. CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research: www.canchild.ca

Screen and Assess

Screen and assess infants/young children and their families for their social-emotional well-being.

Implement multiple strategies to screen for infants/young children's social-emotional well-being.

Many eyes

Engage multiple assessors such as healthcare providers, parents, child care providers.

Many interactions

Observe the infant/young child with different people in different contexts, inclusive of the parent-child relationship.

Many times

Development is dynamic in nature therefore screening and assessments should be repeated throughout early childhood.

Many domains

Include screening of cognition, fine/gross motor, communication as well as social-emotional development as they are interrelated and interdependent processes. Apply the F-words framework to assess how an infant/young child experiences their world.

Many measures

Use a variety of validated, reliable screening and assessment instruments with a strong social-emotional component for infants/young children and/or their caregivers, i.e. NCAST, ASQ: SE-2™, Looksee checklist® (formerly NDDS), Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and/or any other validated, reliable screening tool.

Link and Refer

Link and refer infants/young children and their families to the right people, who provide the right services, at the right time.

Principles of Halton Early Years Mental Health Community Model of Care.

  • Adopts an ecological approach to support family-centered care.
  • Provides a coordinated, collaborative, complementary, and flexible system of care.
  • Includes the full continuum of mental health services and supports from promotion to treatment/intensive.

Halton Early Years Mental Health Community Model of Care

Community Model of Care infographic

Call 311 for assistance in finding the appropriate level of service to help families access the right people, who can provide the right services at the right time. Click here to view interactive Community Model of Care infographic.

OKN organization graphic