Having access to appropriate services for children, ages 0 to 6, in need of support is a common concern raised by service providers and families. When worries arise about a child’s early development, it can be very difficult to find the right services and/or there are lengthy waitlists. Families are left feeling concerned and frustrated, and children are left without the proper interventions and supports. Nurturing the Seed (NTS) addresses this issue and uses the science of infant and early mental health together with developmental tools and resources to support a child’s development as soon as a concern is raised.
Nurturing the Seed is a tool specifically designed to promote infant and early mental health, to mitigate vulnerabilities and/or to prevent further risks for Indigenous children under 6 years of age in a culturally meaningful way. It does so by allowing service providers to build a Developmental Support Plan (DSP) tailored to young children and their families, that supports parents/caregivers in including simple activities in their daily routine which will 1) reinforce the parent/caregiver-child relationship, and 2) support the child’s development in the five domains.
Programs and services using NTS, in association with the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQs), increase their capacity to support children and families. The time spent waiting for more intensive services can be optimized through NTS by providing timely, accessible, and meaningful supports to families. NTS guides service providers and families through a process that focuses on the child, their strengths and holistic development as well as the caregiving relationship. It is written in the voice of the child, acknowledging where the child currently is, and supporting next steps in their development.
The NTS Tool is at the heart of the Nurturing the Seed service model created for Indigenous infants, toddlers and young children and their parents/caregivers. The model is designed to guide and support service providers in their work with children, from birth to age 6, and their families. Indigenous Elders, service providers and content experts worked on the model with IEMHP, keeping Indigenous culture, traditions, and ways of being and knowing front-and-center in the planning and design.
Use of the NTS model has demonstrated the strongest results when leaders and service providers across organizations and sectors are trained and supported in using the tools. NTS was also developed to support communities and agencies in working collaboratively, and is guided by and tailored to communities’ unique needs. The NTS model includes training, coaching, resources, technology, and ongoing support for implementing and sustaining the model widely in communities.
Over the past several years, Nurturing the Seed has also evolved into a pan-Canadian project. This NTS work measures the effectiveness of the NTS model - in particular, the use of the tools with families of Indigenous children, from birth to age 6. It evaluates the improvement of:
- infant and early mental health service delivery,
- Indigenous children's developmental outcomes, and
- Indigenous families’ wellbeing and empowerment.
There are currently 10 active NTS project sites across Canada. Sites are from different geographic locations in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
The NTS project team is led by Dr. James Reynolds & team, Queen’s University; Dr. Jennifer Zwicker & team, University of Calgary; and IEMHP.
The project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The Nurturing the Seed App was funded by Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and developed by IEMHP. The app was created to assist service providers and simplify the process of creating DSPs. The app provides built-in, step-by-step instructions and prompts that assist practitioners in creating DSPs specific to each child’s strengths and developmental needs. The NTS app allows practitioners increased flexibility to create DSPs in a variety of settings (home, childcare, office), using a computer, tablet or mobile device. Currently, the app is available exclusively to NTS-trained practitioners.