REGINA — Ten years ago Jacqueline Tisher took some time off from work in neonatal intensive care to help a family who had children with complex medical needs. She hadn’t planned on taking more than a year before returning to work. She is now head of Hope’s Homes — located in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert — with an $8 million budget that looks after children with complex medical needs.
Hope’s Homes is Canada’s first medically integrated daycare, according to Kelsey Stewart, Fund Development and Marketing manager. It moved into the former John Paul II Centre April 1. The organization leases the lower and main floors, not including what used to be the chapel. The upper floor remains empty, and the Nicor group, who purchased the building from the Archdiocese of Regina, has it open for lease.
The Prince Albert location has a 90-space day care and a four-bed supportive living home. Saskatoon has a five-bed supportive living space and will soon add five respite beds, but it has no daycare.
“We’ve grown very fast,” said Stewart, “because the need is so big. There is no other community support for those families who have children with complex medical needs.”
Tisher convinced governments and others that it saves taxpayers money when quality care for these children is provided at home. “At first they said I was crazy, but I’m persistent. I believe when you have a passion in your heart and you recognize the need, you can speak very clearly and advocate for the families that need that type of support.”
Eight children, wards of the state, were relocated from two rented homes to a building owned by Hope’s Homes in a supportive living environment. The rest of the Regina operation moved into JP II. It contains the provincial office and has an 80-space integrated daycare.
“Thirty per cent of our children have complex medical needs, and the other 70 per cent are typically developing children or have development or behaviour needs. It’s integrated so children with complex medical needs and their siblings can attend the same daycare,” said Stewart.
Nine staff work in the provincial office and 16 floor staff, including two nurses, are on duty full-time every day, plus a nurse who “floats around the rooms,” said Stewart.
The ministries of Social Services and Education as well as the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region provide about 90 per cent of the funding and the remainder, about $800,000, is raised through donations and fundraising projects each year. Tisher said Hope’s Homes was not affected by this year’s provincial budget cuts: “No, not at all. They fund for children. They care for children.”
Tisher lost an 18-year-old daughter who was born with spina bifida. “Being her mom and raising her gives me a personal connection with the parents here,” said Tisher.
Hope’s Homes is named after a foster daughter, also with spina bifida, who lived 10 months, entirely in hospital. “She’s the inspiration of why we started Hope’s Homes, recognizing that many families don’t have the support they need to raise a child with complex medical needs.”
Tisher said Hope’s Homes just grew. “We had eight children coming every day, including my own children, in my little house in the north end. This wasn’t my plan, it’s obviously God’s plan and it’s pretty big.”