Jacqueline Tisher has demonstrated dedication and patience in improving the lives of medically fragile children in Saskatchewan.

Working as a registered nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at a Regina hospital, Jacqueline was finding that, on very rare occasions, parents were either unwilling or unable to take their child home from the hospital, and if they did, they found it almost impossible to live. In many situations, one parent would have to quit their job to stay home to look after the child, with the extreme stress of trying circumstances leading to burnout. Jacque herself was the mother of a little girl with spinal bifida, and she knew first hand some of the challenges faced by parents whose children are born with difficult medical situations. Some of these little people spend days and months in incubators with no one coming to visit. 

Jacqueline came to love one little girl whose mother was unable to care for her. She fought with government agencies, trying to adopt the little girl and take her home from the hospital. Sadly, the little girl, Hope, died before this could happen. Jacque became more determined to fight for medically fragile children and their families. She opened a day care in her home, hired another nurse to help her, and started Hope’s Home (www.hopeshome.org). As more children came, they outgrew the space in her home, and she bought a bigger one. After several years, she was able to buy a building to offer care to more children.

Hope’s Home is the first integrated child care facility in all of Canada. Twelve children moved from the Tisher home into the new building. When it opened, it also had a few infant spaces. The present staff consists of nurses, early childhood educators, developmental workers, and rehabilitation therapists. The facility looks after typically developing children as well as those who are considered medically fragile. The focus of Hope’s Home is on inclusion, with a special emphasis on pedagogical principles from Reggio Emilia. A second centre opened a few years ago in Regina and then another in Prince Albert. Now plans are in the works to build a 4,000-square-foot building in Regina to house a 90-space childcare facility that also has the capacity to offer 24-hour respite care. 

At Hope’s Home, one might see children with wheelchairs, feeding tubes, severe cognitive delays, and various types of “special needs” playing alongside children who are developing more typically. All activities are inclusive, so every child participates and is given whatever support they need. Children help one another.

Jacqueline has worked nonstop for years to try to make children with medical needs and their families enjoy life like anyone else. She spends endless hours promoting her centres. She has been approached from all over Canada to help others create working models, including teams from Saskatoon and Winnipeg with interest in setting up similar centres. 

Jacqueline is a leader in Saskatchewan’s health care community. She understands the needs of children and their families and freely offers her time and energy to be a voice for children with complex medical needs. She was awarded the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award for 2013, as well as many other provincial awards.

In recognition of her commitment to children and her passion for their care, CAYC is very pleased to acknowledge Jacqueline Tisher with the Friends of Children Award.

Respectfully submitted by Peggie Olson, CAYC Saskatchewan