Local woman joins provincial 'HELP' organization -- provides voice for children

Shara JJ Cooper
By Shara JJ Cooper
May 11th, 2015

Laranna Androsoff is a Boundary women who wears many hats.

In the past two years she has carried several titles including being the Aboriginal Family Support Worker, and now being the Aboriginal Early Years Cultural Outreach worker as well as the Supported Child Development Consultant for the Boundary.

Now she has added another hat to her collection as she takes on a new role with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) on their Aboriginal Steering Committee (ASC).

HELP is a research networked based at the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. IT promotes “lifelong health and well-being” in children through knowledge and research. HELP has built many partnerships, which helps connect researchers and practitioners throughout the province, country and beyond. From within the organization, the ASC helps provide a voice for Aboriginal families and children in BC and conducts research specific to their communities.

Androsoff applied for the volunteer position last year after being recommended by a University of British Columbia (UBC) professor, but had just missed the deadline and thought nothing more of it. However, in October they called her and started a dialogue to see if she was the right fit for the committee.

On April 20th, she went to Vancouver for two days to interview with them and find out if she would become the seventh committee member. She came back, thrilled to announce she was on the committee and ready to embrace her new role.

“I’m starting right away,” she said, adding that it’s an easy transition because her other jobs already have her embedded in the Aboriginal community and working with children.

She doesn’t have a minimum amount of required volunteer hours for the position and says she will be learning about her duties as she goes. Part of the role will be attending a minimum of two working meetings per year with the committee in Vancouver and ongoing consultation as necessary.

Androsoff is the first representative in this region and will cover the East and West Kootenays as well as the Boundary. It will be the first time the Aboriginal community has a direct connection to HELP and the ASC since it was formed in 2003. The organization has been slowly growing and currently has representation in the Okanagan, on Vancouver Island, on the West Coast and in Northern BC.

Part of her role will be as a liaison – a link – in the community and to help create a “big scope” picture of the needs of local Aboriginal children and families. She will also engage with the community and expects to converse with children via gatherings like talking circles – something she is happy to organize.

Androsoff says that the Boundary Aboriginal elders are “super excited” for her and her new role and that they weren’t surprised that she got the job.

For Androsoff, being on this committee is like coming full circle.

“I was the first youth to sit on the Aboriginal Education Advisory Council (AEAC),” she said. Now, she will be connecting with them again with the ASC. “It will be fun to re-engage with that table. It will be nice to work with them in a professional capacity again, being that I was the first youth to sit on that council.”

HELP’s focus is on making BC families thrive and according to their website they have three goals:

  1. To promote equity in children’s developmental and educational outcomes, and ultimately in their lifelong health and well-being;
  2. To communicate the importance of quality environments for all children: those that support families and provide for healthy child development;
  3. To contribute to social change that improves the health and well-being of children and families.

The research is broken up into different categories. The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is an evaluation done by kindergarten teachers and the Middle Development Instrument (MDI) is a self-report done by students in grades four and seven. Androsoff says they are also working on a Toddler Development Instrument (TDI). They also have a the Early Childhood Screening Research and Evaluation Unit and CHeq the Childhood Experiences Questionnaire.

According to Androsoff, HELP honours the OCAP (ownership, control, access and possession) principles, which allows Aboriginal people to control the data collection process. The information collected for the ASC is also accessible but not released because they don’t want Aboriginal children to be compared to the mainstream data.  The data is presented back into the communities at Aboriginal Education Council meetings, gatherings and via other reports and media.

For more information visit HELP’s website.

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