2017 Best Start Resource Centre Annual Conference - Main Conference

Overview | February 8 (Pre-Conference) | February 9-10 (Main Conference) | Speakers

Opening Keynote

K1 – Application of the Baby-Friendly Initiative in Canada and What's Next? (1.5 L-CERPs, 1.5 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Linda Young, MScN, EdD, Director, Maternal Newborn Child Mental Health, Interprofessional Practice and Organizational Learning

This keynote presentation provided an overview of the application of the Baby-Friendly Initiative in Canada and next steps.


  1. Identified the social determinants of health that impact breastfeeding outcomes in Ontario/Canada;
  2. Explored the critical points of impact where supportive practices can affect breastfeeding outcomes;
  3. Examined key practical strategies to optimize breastfeeding outcomes;
  4. Learned the impact of BFI in Canada and considered what is next.

Concurrent Sessions A (1-6)

A1 – Outdoor Play in Natural Settings

Pierre Harrison, M.Sc, B.Ed, OCT/EAO, PLAYLearnThink

Through play, children experience awe for the world around them and joy in the freedom of their play. This leads to strong connections to the natural world and the development of a positive sense of self within this world. This workshop explored different aspects of free, spontaneous play with a focus on the importance of outdoor play in a natural environment. Participants played with a multitude of loose parts and thus plunged into the wonderful world of self-directed play.

Outcomes were many and varied for each participant:

  • Participants deepened their understanding of play and its role in child development.
  • Participants acquired knowledge to help them develop their outdoor space to help support children's unstructured, spontaneous play.
  • Participants added to their understanding of the need to document their observations of children at play in order to nurture the child's learning and to evolve the participant's work (co-constructing with children).

A2 – FASD Prevention - Are We Using Our Resources Effectively in Ontario? (1.5 CAPPA Contact Hours)
Mary Mueller, FASD ONE Prevention Action Group
Jody Kroeplin, FASD ONE Prevention Action Group

Most people agree that we need to work on the Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in Ontario. However, are you aware of the most effective strategies to prevent or reduce alcohol use in pregnancy? Do we know what work is occurring across the province? Are we able to work in a more coordinated fashion to increase our provincial efforts to prevent FASD?

In this workshop the evidence on the most effective strategies to prevent or reduce the impact of alcohol use in pregnancy was reviewed. The speakers discussed a sample of provincial actions and developed strategies to build on our efforts and take advantage of collective impact. The workshop also discussed the efforts of FASD ONE (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Ontario Network of Expertise) to prevent FASD. Participants engaged in discussions to inform action on the prevention of FASD in Ontario.

A3 – Welcoming Newcomers: Meeting the Needs of Immigrant and Refugee Children and Families (1.5 R-CERPs, 1.5 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Dr. Judith A. Colbert, author, Welcoming Newcomer Children and Child Health Across Cultures

Young newcomers, especially young refugees, have distinctive needs arising from their settlement experience. This session provided a framework for addressing the complexity of their needs by providing baseline understandings of settlement and culture, and moving on to consider specific differences between newcomers and “mainstream” children related to cultural practices, mental and physical health, family settlement, and coping and social awareness. It suggested strategies for supporting newcomer children and parents in ways that remove barriers to successful settlement. Overall goals for the session included to provide participants with an increased ability to identify settlement issues, and recognize, understand and respond to the needs of newcomer children and their families. Participants had opportunities to raise issues from their own practice and benefit from discussion with others. Based on the issues raised, particular attention was paid to the needs of recently arrived refugee children.

A4 – Successful Partnerships with Families: Exploring the Stages of Family Readiness and Grief

Devon Physick, BA, RECE, Canadian Mothercraft Society; Acting Manager, CityKids

Research shows that Early Identification and Early Intervention leads to improved developmental outcomes for children. However, parents and caregivers must be ready to access supports and services if an intervention is to be successful. As practitioners, it is a privilege to walk with families as they first enter the special needs service sector and the first steps we take together have a lasting impression on both the family and the child. Honing our skills to be effective partners who support families “readiness” journey is a crucial part of Early Intervention services.

In this workshop professionals explored:

  • The stages of grief (Kubler-Ross model) and parent readiness
  • Strategies for sharing sensitive information with families to support with Warm referrals for children to special needs services
  • Techniques for creating and sustaining professional relationships with families

A5 – Helping Caregivers to Tune In to Their Child: Strengthening Relationships and Decreasing Conflict through Temperament Awareness

Greg Lubimiv, Executive Director, Phoenix Centre for Children and Families

We are all born with a set of temperament traits which form a part our overall personality and, for the most part, remain with us for our lifetime. These temperament traits are unique and influence how we relate to the world, and how the world relates to us. Differences in temperament and personality are one of the reasons that we see such great differences between children who are born in the same family, (for example: Sally is so outgoing, but Billy, her brother, is so shy). When we are in tune with our children’s temperament and able to respond in a way which incorporates their unique set of temperaments it is called “Goodness of Fit” (Thomas and Chess). However, it is not uncommon for the temperament trait of a parent and a child to come into conflict and cause a disconnection or disruption.

This presentation focused on helping participants to understand temperament and how it comes into play in our relationships with our children as well as with others in settings such as home, day care or school. Participants learned how to chart the temperament differences between themselves and their child and were provided with strategies to improve the “goodness of fit” which leads towards more healthy, positive relationships and better long term outcomes for children. The charting as well as other strategies can be adopted by key figures in the child’s life to decrease stress and conflict for all. At the end of the session participants were able to: understand what temperament and personality means and what it is not; identify the main temperament traits and what each trait means; utilize the temperament scale to evaluate goodness of fit; identify realistic goals in helping to improve the parent/child relationship; and create effective strategies to foster goodness of fit between parent and child; teacher and child, etc.

A6 – Understanding Informed Decision-Making in a Baby-Friendly Context

Linda Young, MScN, EdD, Director, Maternal Newborn Child Mental Health, Interprofessional Practice and Organizational Learning
Catharine Lowes, Public Health Nurse, Niagara Region Public Health
Kristina Niedra, MA, Project Manager, BFI Strategy for Ontario and Manager, Organizational Learning, Change and Library Services

Informed decision making includes a complex mix of factors including individual beliefs and values, personal and family circumstances, life experiences and adult development. The process for supporting decision-making involves assisting the individual to understand her values and beliefs and to determine what the most appropriate decision is for her in her personal and family situation. As health professionals our job is to assist the woman to navigate a process of learning new information and weighing this in relation to her life situation, to support her through a successful transition to mothering. In this session, participants received an overview of informed decision-making in the context of the Baby-Friendly Initiative, were introduced to a new provincial tool to support infant feeding informed decision-making and had the opportunity to practice carrying out an informed decision-making discussion.

Afternoon Keynote

K2 – Comprehensive Care of Pregnant Women with Cannabis Use Disorders (1.0 CAPPA Contact Hour)

Dr. Alice Ordean, Medical Director, Toronto Centre for Substance Use in Pregnancy (T-CUP), St. Joseph’s Health Centre; Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy with a 2-5% self-reported prevalence rate among pregnant women. Women with cannabis use encounter many challenges especially during pregnancy. This presentation reviewed recommendations to identify and to manage cannabis use during pregnancy. Short- and long-term consequences of substance exposure in utero were also reviewed. An evidence-based, practice-informed approach to cannabis use during pregnancy was discussed.

Concurrent Sessions B (1-5)

B1 – Elders Paving the Way Forward: The Centre of Family and Community Strength (1.5 R-CERPs)

Ann Batisse, Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group

Participants attending this presentation gained an understanding and appreciation for the role and value of Elder involvement in decision-making and in program planning and design of services intended to support Indigenous communities. The presentation was experiential in nature, offered testimonials and provided concrete tools for assessing and achieving organizational cultural competency.

Indigenous Elders pave the way toward change that strengthens family and community resiliency and sustainability. The District of Temiskaming Indigenous Cultural-Linguistic Framework recognizes the traditional role of Elders as leaders and guides in cultural competency. Knowledge sharing with Elders is not a linear, but reciprocal process. Elders integrate new learnings with traditional knowledge and disseminate an enhanced perspective to their families and communities. The role of Elders as Knowledge Keepers, life interpreters and guides are innately valued and respected in Indigenous communities. However, expediency and westernized systems have interfered, interrupted and diminished the traditional role of Elders as leaders. Young people feel empowered and strengthened by the guidance of the Elders and are validated by their cultural knowledge. They provide direction and support to create a pathway going forward.

B2 – Supporting Multiple Births Families through their Prenatal and Postnatal Experiences (1.5 R-CERPS, 1.5 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Carolyn Leighton-Hilborn, Director of Communications, Multiple Births Canada

Participants left this workshop with new ideas and tools to better support multiple births families. Topics included:

  • Common questions and concerns expectant parents of multiples have
  • Handling difficult conversations and supporting parents through a challenging pregnancy or delivery
  • Setting up families for success
  • Follow up - What do I need to do as a professional to ensure my patients/clients have received the support they need?

B3 – Breastfeeding and Mental Health: Lessons Learned (1.5 L-CERPs, 1.5 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis, Professor, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto; Canada Research Chair, Perinatal Community Health; Women’s Health Research Chair, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital

This session provided an up-to-date overview of mental health concerns in pregnancy and postpartum. Recent research was used to highlight the interconnection of breastfeeding and maternal mental health and what practitioners can do to support affected families.

This session addressed the following:

  • What are mental health concerns during pregnancy and postpartum? (Definitions, incidence and symptoms)
  • How do maternal mental health and breastfeeding intersect? How do they affect one another?
  • What can be done to support affected mothers and their families to stay well or improve their wellness through pregnancy and the postpartum year specifically in relationship to breastfeeding?

Examples of programs or treatments that support both mental health and breastfeeding were discussed.

B4 – The Truth About Picky Eating

Sandy Maxwell, BASc, RD, School Health Team, Niagara Region Public Health
Jennifer Moodie, BSc (Hons), MAN, RD, Family Health Division, Niagara Region Public Health
Erin Colburn, MHSc, RD, Program Coordinator, Nutrition Resource Centre
Candace Aqui, MPH, RD, Program Consultant, Nutrition Resource Centre

Children don't need to eat vegetables to be healthy...or do they? Based on the number of mealtime struggles parents and caregivers report around the all-important vegetable...it would seem that the answer is yes. We know that vegetables and other wholesome foods are important for healthy child development. The problem is that we often take the wrong approach. Participants who attended this workshop learned the truth about picky eating. They learned what children need from adults so they’ll actually eat what they're served...including the vegetables!

B5 – The Adverse Childhood Experiences – What does it tell us? Now what? 

Dr. Jean M. Clinton, BMus MD FRCP(C), Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University

The adverse childhood experience studies strengthened the concerns we have about the experiences in children’s’ lives. Can we use this information to change our approach to children’s well-being and how can we support families and communities to do this?

Indigenous Networking Session

Janet Fox, Life Skills Coach and Trainer

This networking event provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and resources. The evening event featured an Indigenous teaching and participants were invited to participate in a craft.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Concurrent Sessions C (1-6)

C1 – Traditional Family Parenting – When Our Water is Calm (3.0 R-CERPs, 3.0 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Janet Fox, Life Skills Coach and Trainer

In this workshop Janet Fox introduced the concept of the 4 life cycle (child, youth, adult and elder) with the teachings in each stage using the 15 teepee pole teachings (each pole represents a virtue). Other topics presented included: womb teachings, first 7 years of a child’s life, bonding, moss bag teachings, belly button, soft spot, placenta, and water teachings. Generations of tender and conscious parenting produced nations of children who were grounded, mindful and confident by how our Ancestors parented. Janet has presented to many different cultures and language groups and has found that Indigenous people all over the world have similar teachings.

The workshop participants were introduced to the importance of the water in the womb. When we understand all of these teachings it is prevention in the areas of: behavioral problems, FASD, ADHD and trauma in the womb. When we have strong maternal health programs the teachings become the prevention. The goal is to enhance the health of wellbeing for the mother and child.

C2 – Emerging Communications Technology and Health Promotion: What Service Providers Need to Know

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Pediatrician and Medical Officer of Health, Eastern Ontario Health Unit

As Medical Officer of Health of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis has created and oversees a full in-house communications team and studio. This unique setup provides public health communications programs for local, provincial and national use. During this interactive workshop featuring practical and didactic examples of current programs, technologies and theories, he shared his unique experiences with the following focus:

  • Historical perspective: integration of communications into health practice
  • Technologic aspects/media evolution
  • Audience characteristics and persuasion theories
  • Social marketing approaches
  • Practical aspects
  • “M.A.D.E. Approach- a practical guide on how to create, disseminate and evaluate health educational programs...no matter the size and scope"

In summary, the workshop highlighted and demonstrated the need to consider audience characteristics and the use of persuasive communication theories when applying the ever-evolving technologies into everyday health practice. These approaches can be applied to any discipline and the aim of this workshop was to inspire participants to embrace the use of the emerging communication and digital media platforms that are in fact, changing the way we practice and deliver programs and services.

C3 – Workshop for Prenatal Educators: Stomp Out Boring! (3.0 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Liz Lull, CD(DONA), LCCE, BDT(DONA), IBCLC, Founder, Enlightened Mama

Today's childbirth educators face several challenges in addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting families. This includes the easy access to on-line information and videos and the pervasive feeling that “I can google what I need to know.” Additionally, adult learners have shorter and shorter attention spans and desire to have immediate "what I need to know" delivered in a fun methodology. While lecturing and presenting hours of information on PowerPoint slides may be comfortable methodologies for many educators, brain science does not support these techniques as being evidence based. A sprinkling of mini-lectures works but to increase retention, today's childbirth educator must be equipped with many interactive teaching strategies to weave together an effective educational program. This session was hands on while modelling many ways to involve learners and increase their retention. Tools ranged from unique visual aids, stations, card activities, adapted competitive games and more.

This session:

  1. Described and evaluated interactive teaching strategies for adult learners.
  2. Determined the influences on information retention.
  3. Compared dependent, independent and interdependent methodologies and their outcomes.
  4. Listed the steps in the experiential education cycle.
  5. Created a plan to increase the interactive methods in their childbirth program.

C4 – Improving Sleep for Children

Dr. Robyn Stremler, RN, PhD, Associate Professor and Director, PhD Program, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto

This workshop addressed common sleep issues from infancy through adolescence. Implementation of assessment strategies and behavioural sleep interventions was discussed, guided by case examples with a focus on typically developing children and their parents. At the end of this session participants were able to: understand the physiological and psychological processes of sleep; implement sleep assessment strategies; and advise parents on techniques that can be easily implemented to improve sleep for infants, toddlers, and adolescents.

C5 – Engaging Pregnant and Parenting Teens through a Strength Based Service Delivery Model (3.0 R-CERPs, 3.0 CAPPA Contact Hours)

Maritza Sanchez, Executive Director, Jessie’s Centre

This session focused on learning strategies to engage, and sustain pregnant teens and young parents in services. The following topics were covered:

  • Adolescent parents – who are they?
  • The social construction of the teen parent
  • Moving from a deficit based social service model to a strength based model by applying a social determinants of health framework

C6 – How Community Health and Family Support Practitioners Can Work Together to Address the Complexity of Early Child Development and Family Health

Malini Dave MD FAAP FRCP(C), Hospital for Sick Children, Black Creek CHC
Devon Physick, Acting Manager, Mothercraft
Maple Cardona, Health Promotion Specialist, City of Toronto Child Health and Development Directorate
Maureen McDonald, Manager, Health Nexus

Early childhood is a critical time period for establishing the solid foundations essential for children’s long term health, wellbeing, and academic success. Child health screening has many benefits. It provides families with opportunities to learn about child health and development, as well as information on and access to programs and services. It also promotes early identification of potential and ongoing health concerns, enabling planned interventions and strategies, which include referrals to appropriate professionals. A specific new integrated partnership model of child and family health and supports to comprehensive infant, early years and family health was discussed. Needs and opportunities around the specific components of community health care access and immunization, child development, support for communication and literacy, nutrition, sleep needs, dental care, vision assessment with a focus on access to financial resources and benefits were discussed.

This session:

1. Demonstrated the intersection of

  • experience-based brain development
  • social determinants of health
  • health and early learning frameworks

2. Described a comprehensive community child health screening model

  • including partnership across sectors, screening and follow-up intervention

3. Provided specific examples of new education and practice opportunities

  • to community and family support access and immunization, child development, support for communication and literacy, nutrition, sleep needs, dental care, vision assessment with a focus on how to promote access to financial resources and benefits

Closing Keynote

K3 – Supporting Early Child Development: A Life-Course Perspective on Health, Wellness and Success

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Pediatrician and Medical Officer of Health, Eastern Ontario Health Unit

This session discussed the new science about the development of very important traits such as vision, stress hormone control, cognitive function, and self-control that occur mostly during the first few years of life. During this period of rapid brain growth and wiring, external factors such as stress and neglect can adversely affect this development. Conversely, TLC, constant stimulation and responsiveness to babies can enhance these processes favorably. We now know that adverse events during this period do not only lead to behavioral problems, but indeed can lead to physical disease decades later. In this context, supporting the first few years of a child’s development and the social/family environment is a new paradigm for mental illness and chronic disease prevention as well as for optimizing one’s potential over the life course.