If you ask Jacqueline Tisher to describe what she does, she might tell you that she’s the founder of Hope’s Home, the first medically inclusive childcare centre in Canada, or she might tell you about her background in pediatrics as a Registered Nurse, but likely not before telling you about her number one role and pride and joy – being a mom to her children.
When Jacqueline’s oldest daughter Acacia was born with spina bifida, she was introduced to the world of caring for children with complex medical needs. Throughout Acacia’s 18 years of life, she underwent many surgeries, and was in and out of the hospital frequently.
During this time, Jacqueline started working in the pediatric ICU, which is where she was introduced to Hope. “Hope was our foster daughter. She lived for ten months, and almost all of that time was spent in the hospital,” Jacqueline recalls. Hope wasn’t the only child in this situation – there were many children Jacqueline saw whose medical needs prevented them from living at home. “The community just wasn’t ready to take care of these children and support their families so that children could actually go home.”
Jacqueline’s personal experience as a mom and a nurse inspired her to start Hope’s Home in Regina – aptly named in honour of her daughter, Hope. “At the very beginning when Hope’s Home started, I started it in my house,” laughs Jacqueline. “I giggle because it was a thousand square foot house! It was literally in my little home where we were raising our kids.”
“When I started at Hope’s Home, we were a couple of nurses in Jacque’s kitchen,” recalls Amanda Montgomery, Senior Manager of Supportive Living at Hope’s Home. Amanda was working as a nurse in the health region when she heard about what Jacqueline was building, and she was immediately intrigued. “I just recognized that this was something that was new and very needed in our province and I wanted to help her grow and develop it, to help as many kids and families as we could.”
Today, Hope’s Home operates across Saskatchewan, providing care for children in Regina, Prince Albert, Warman, and Saskatoon. Hope’s Home operates Early Learning and Childcare Centres, Supportive Living Homes, and offers a Before and After School program.
25% of the childcare spaces at Hope’s Home’s Early Learning and Childcare centres are designated for children with complex medical needs. Other spaces are available for siblings and the broader community. “Our goal is to take care of the whole family so that the child with medical needs can come along with their brother and their sister, and then also meet peers within the community,” says Jacqueline.
Being the only medically inclusive daycare in Canada is just one of the many ways that Hope’s Home Early Learning Centres are unique. “We’re raising generations of children that don’t see differences because this is how they’re brought up,” explains Jacqueline. “Their buddy in a wheelchair that might have a tracheostomy or a tube feed, or has seizures or has respiratory issues or may need medical intervention throughout the day, it becomes normal. Because that is their normal.”
While the concept of supportive living is not exclusive to Hope’s Home, the environment they strive to create in their Supportive Living Homes is unlike what might come to mind when you think of a care facility. While children’s rooms may contain specialized medical equipment, they also contain personal touches, like murals on the wall, photos of loved ones, sensory lights and toys. “We really just strive to make this a home environment for our children, whatever that might look like, for those individual kids,” says Amanda.
The friendly touches to the physical environment play a role in creating the feeling of home, but the culture of family they’ve built is what really makes Hope’s Home special. “Family is a really important part of Hope’s Home in a lot of different ways,” Amanda says. “For our children, we strive to be an extended family. The children call us auntie and uncle, which is really what we become for them.”
The belief in a family-first work environment is a core value at Hope’s Home, not only for the children they care for, but also for how they care for each other. “You encourage balance, you encourage employees to take care of themselves and take care of their own family,” says Jacqueline. “We want to create a workplace where you’re healthy, you’re strong, you are taking care of yourself so that you’re able to put your best efforts forward to our kids, because our kids deserve it.”
Empowering their employees to look after their health and wellness proactively by offering a Saskatchewan Blue Cross group benefits plan is one way that Hope’s Home ensures that their staff feel taken care of. “Our benefits plan is really important, so that our caregivers are caring for themselves – so that they can show up to deliver the best care possible for our kids,” says Amanda. “Whether that’s taking advantage of massage for your aching muscles after spending a day in the gym with the kids, or taking advantage of therapy sessions when we’ve experienced a loss in one of our programs, we really rely heavily on our benefits to ensure that we’re taking care of ourselves as caregivers.”
What’s next for Hope’s Home? The sky’s the limit. The team has big dreams to expand their services and provide care for more children. In 2024, Hope’s Home will open a new Early Learning Centre in Saskatoon. Earlier this year, they kicked off their “There’s No Place Like Hope” capital campaign to bring medically inclusive childcare to Saskatoon. “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about Saskatoon,” says Jacqueline with a grin. “There’s a large number of families that have moved to Saskatoon because of the Children’s hospital, and to access the services that they require.”
Want more information? Check out the video of our interview with Hope’s Home here.