The CDC was first conceived in 1967 in response to the need for services to children, youth, adults with special needs and their families residing in the Central Interior of British Columbia.
Anne Martin served as the first Executive Director and Ann Callander as President. Monica Williams became the first physiotherapist. It was family physician, Dr. Carolyn McGhee, who first identified the need for these services. They began with three children with special needs. The society was formally incorporated in 1968 as the Cerebral Palsy Association of Prince George.
The Society’s first facility was set up in a portable classroom building, loaned by School District #57, located at the corner of Winnipeg Street and Ninth Avenue. Initial funding was $11,000 from the B.C. Cerebral Palsy Association.
Under the leadership of the second President, Horst Sander, the Centre moved in 1973 to a larger building on Strathcona Avenue.
By 1987, the Centre was assisting hundreds of children. These children benefitted from timely medical assessments, as well as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology services. The three to six year olds could also attend preschool and daycare services.
With increased demand for services, better funding allowed for expanding the staff to include one occupational therapist and one speech therapist, a preschool teacher and a social worker. One indication of the level of caring in the Prince George community was the response to meeting the Centre’s transportation needs. Parents unable to transport their children for treatment were helped out by volunteer drivers. The roster of volunteers swelled quickly to more than 70 people. Currently, a bus service operated by the Carefree Society fills that need.
When the new wing was built in 1984, the expansion resulted in an 11,000 square foot building. From 2006 to 2007, a major $1.2 million dollar renovation boosted it up to 17,000 square feet with the completion of the lower level. Finishing the lower level was accomplished with support from the City of Prince George, the Variety Fund, Rotary and the Province of British Columbia.
A happy event helped mark the CDC’s 40th anniversary in the fall of 2007 when an attractive new outdoor playground was opened and named for the founding Executive Director, Anne Martin, to honour her dedication and long years of service.
From our humble beginnings, serving a handful of children in the initial year, the Child Development Centre now annually assists approximately 1200 children and their families. Outreach services are provided to children in Mackenzie, McBride and Valemount. Reflecting its expanding mandate, the society changed its official name to the Child Development Centre of Prince George and District Association in 2009. And in 2017, the Centre celebrated 50 years of service.
Our vision for the future includes implementing of the Province’s first service network for children with special needs. This network would provide tremendous benefits to the region’s children and their parents, including the added benefit of simplified pathways to service; parents could access the services of several providers through a single referral. We envision this network offering service from a number of locations throughout the City, including the Hart, College Heights, and at least one additional location in Prince George. Although this is a daunting project, it holds the promise of substantial service enhancements. At least three service networks have been implemented to great effect in other regions of Canada, including the following two networks in Ontario:
Beyond Prince George, the CDC provides outreach services to Mackenzie, Valemount, and McBride — locations where we have also developed excellent working relationships with local agencies. We are currently working toward developing an enhanced, outreach video conferencing initiative in cooperation with the Northern Health Authority. The proposed program will include distance mentoring for developmental professionals, as well as enhancing our outreach services with additional distance services for children with developmental challenges and their parents.