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The Phoenix Centre

About this guide

Growing Healthy Canadians: A Guide for Positive Child Development, was created to promote and illustrate a simple idea: that the healthy development of children and youth is a shared responsibility. There has been much debate about who should be doing what in order to grow healthy children. The truth is, everyone has important contributions to make in ensuring that young people grow up in the kinds of conditions they require to thrive. At the same time, no one type of contributor – not families, communities, workplaces, nor governments – can successfully raise the next generation on their own.

This guide offers not only a rich source of information, but also a unique perspective on how best to promote the well-being of young people. This perspective has six important features:

A focus on all children

The guide focuses upon what we know about the factors that promote the healthy development of all children and youth. This emphasis suggests that the interests of young people who are at risk or who have special needs are best served when the conditions are in place that all children need to thrive. It also acknowledges that if the primary needs of all children are not met, the likelihood of special services and supports being able to make up for their absence is extremely limited.

A focus on successful developmental transitions

The concept of developmental transitions suggests that the process of growing up requires a young person to successfully adapt to a series of ever more complex social environments, beginning with the family, then the school, the neighbourhood and community, and eventually society as a whole. This concept provides a clear and manageable focus for collective effort. Most people would agree that it is important to get children off to a good start in life, to make sure that they adapt well to school, to help them make a successful transition into adolescence, and to support them in becoming healthy, competent, contributing adults.

The content of the guide is organized around these four developmental transitions: transition to the first year, transition to school, transition to adolescence and transition to adulthood. The optimum outcomes for each transition, the factors that influence these outcomes, and the strategies that different contributors can use to successfully promote them, are clearly described.

A focus on positive outcomes

An emphasis on positive outcomes is closely linked to the focus on all young people and their successful developmental transitions. It reflects the view that we need to focus more on what we want to achieve for all, rather than upon the negative outcomes we would like to avoid for a few. For each of the developmental transitions, the guide identifies a number of positive outcomes that tell us that a young person is doing well. These outcomes are like landmarks that indicate the child or youth is on the right developmental path.

A focus on important influences

For each positive outcome, the guide identifies a number of factors that can play an important role in influencing the extent to which the outcome is achieved. The guide does not attempt to identify all possible influences; only those that experts have agreed are most important. These influences rarely act in a simple fashion. Rather they act in complex ways, often in combination with other factors.

A focus on multiple contributors

The emphasis on multiple contributors is at the heart of this guide. The term "contributor" was chosen to signal that there are different groups and individuals that have a role to play. The guide identifies five major contributors to the healthy development of young people: families, schools, communities, workplaces (including management and labour) and governments. By presenting effective strategies for each of these five contributor groups, the guide reinforces the message that improving the life chances of our youngest citizens requires the broadest collective effort possible.

A focus on effective strategies

The term "strategy" is used to suggest a wide range of possible contributions to promoting the well-being of young people. These include the natural and informal supports provided by families, their social networks and their communities, as well as the more formal assistance provided by professionals, agencies and governments. The accent is on "effective," since the examples contained in the guide have all been reviewed by experts to ensure that there is evidence that they actually work.

These six features combine to form the perspective promoted and illustrated in this guide.

We hope you find the guide informative and useful. For further information about the guide or the perspective it promotes please see the "Reach Us" page.

Craig Shields