FREDERICTON (CNB) - Five early childhood development centre demonstration sites are being developed as part of a three-year pilot project to provide integrated services and support for young children and their parents. Social Development Minister Kelly Lamrock made the announcement today.

The sites in Centreville, Keswick, Millville, Perth-Andover and Richibucto are receiving start-up grants from the Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation. They are in addition to the four government-funded demonstration sites announced last year in Bath, Moncton, Robertville and Saint John.

These sites will help determine if early childhood centres are a way to better integrate existing early childhood services and support.

"We expect to achieve seamless programming for children and parents through effective integration of kindergarten, early learning and child care programs, parenting support services and community resources," said Lamrock. "This investment in early learning and child care will help build a strong foundation for children to be able to learn and develop, which has a powerful impact on the extent to which they succeed."

The Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation is providing a $500,000 grant. The Health and Education Research Group (HERG), based at the University of New Brunswick and l'Université de Moncton, will be evaluating the pilot project.

Community networks in each of the five sites are working toward having a team of staff delivering core programming to parents and children. Depending upon the location, the sites will eventually offer additional programming based on local community needs. Services offered may include toy and resource lending libraries, healthy lifestyle programs, community kitchens as well as immunization and clinics for children who are three-and-one-half-years old.

"The Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation is proud to invest in high quality early learning and child care as we all must work together to ensure the best possible supports and services are easily available to children and parents," said Carol Loughrey, board member of the foundation.

The goal is to have the five demonstration sites located within the schools of each community since they are often the hub of the community and are known to parents and caregivers. It would also facilitate the transition to school for children attending these demonstration sites.

"Early learning opportunities are as important as K-12 learning," said Lamrock. "The provincial government recognizes this, and that is why the action plan for Be Ready for Success: A 10 year early childhood strategy for New Brunswick includes more affordable spaces, in early learning facilities with a strong curriculum and educators who are trained and treated as professionals."

Establishing the additional demonstration sites is part of Overcoming Poverty Together: The New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan.