Kneehill County council hears family networks struggling to connect

ECA Review/File
Written by Stu Salkeld

Kneehill County councillors heard that changes made to the way certain children services are delivered may have been impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Councillors gleaned the information from a report at their Jan. 11 regular meeting.

Councillors received Kneehill Regional Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) Director Shelley Jackson-Berry to hear an update presentation on the organization.

Jackson-Berry began by stating the FCSS program is unique in Canada, with nothing else quite like it anywhere in the nation. The program is a partnership between the provincial government and municipalities, with an 80/20 per cent funding split.

FCSS is run on four key principles, she explained, nothing they include local decision making, community development, volunteerism and especially partnerships.

Jackson-Berry stated partnerships are very important for successful programs as FCSS can’t always be doing everything alone. 

“FCSS doesn’t come to the table with tons of money,” said Jackson-Berry.

While it covers many different arenas, FCSS funding also has some important limitations, she noted. 

Jackson-Berry stated FCSS funds can’t be used for primarily recreation or leisure-time pursuits of individuals, can’t be used to offer direct assistance such as money, food, clothing or shelter to sustain an individual or family, can’t be spent on programs that are primarily rehabilitative in nature and also can’t duplicate services that are ordinarily provided by government or a government agency.

This last limitation was highlighted by Jackson-Berry as she noted that some time ago the provincial government eliminated a program used at a school, and an application was subsequently made to get FCSS funds to continue the program. 

Jackson-Berry stated that’s not allowed because such programs are funded by other government departments.

Kneehill FCSS is involved in a number of programs and partnerships she noted, including information/referral, the community services directory, Community Volunteer Income Tax Program, Kneehill Interagency, the child and youth working group, family violence and bullying committee, volunteer appreciation initiatives, Volunteer Kneehill, discovery nights, showcase and Tools for School to name a few.

Family and marriage counselling is also available free of charge one day per week for 10 months of the year.

Jackson-Berry also pointed out the popularity and success of the family wellness worker program in partnership with Golden Hills School Division, a program that includes two workers providing social and emotional support to youth, families and other community members.

Coun. Faye McGhee stated that on occasion she’s heard that some confusion surrounds the family wellness workers, mostly surrounding the question of whether or not they’re school division employees.

Jackson-Berry answered they’re FCSS employees in partnership with the school division. 

She noted the program originally began with concerns about youth suicide and the fact FCSS provides this service is fairly unique in Alberta.

McGhee stated she likes the role those staff play because they address the needs of the community.

Coun. Debbie Penner asked if extended contracts removed in 2020 by the provincial government will return.

Jackson-Berry answered it doesn’t look that way. She reminded councillors the provincial government took back all funding in Alberta that was going to children and early intervention and instead created regional family resource networks, which did result in severing some partnerships.

“I would say they’re having a bit of a struggle connecting, and that’s the pandemic,” said Jackson-Berry.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.