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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015
GOWRIE AUSTRALIA PUBLICATION • SPRING 2015 • ISSUE 60 GOWRIE AUSTRALIA PUBLICATION • SPRING 2015 • ISSUE 60 GOWRIE AUSTRALIA PUBLICATION • SPRING 2015 • ISSUE 60 11 REFLECTIONS • GOWRIE AUSTRALIA • SPRING 2015 - ISSUE 60 The context The Early Years Education Program (EYEP) is an ECEC program provided for children who experience significant family stress and social disadvantage, and who are currently engaged with family services or child protection services. It is operated by the Children’s Protection Society (an independent, not-for-profit child welfare organisation) in a purpose-built children’s centre located in a low socio-economic, high-need area of North-East Melbourne. In this community almost a quarter of children (23%) enter school developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC 2014), a figure that is more than twice the national average (11%). It would seem there is an urgent need to support the development and wellbeing of the young children who live in one of Australia’s most disadvantaged communities. The children attending the EYEP receive 25 hours of high quality education and care every week for 50 weeks of the year for 3 years. A key aim of this program is for these children to enter school developmentally equal to their non-disadvantaged peers. An in-depth, longitudinal, qualitative study is evaluating this program. The main purpose of the research is to share the findings with the universal ECEC sector in order to increase the capacity of other children’s services to support the participation of and engagement with vulnerable children and families. There are two key strands to the program: The education model is child-centred and pedagogically driven, and is informed by Belonging, Being and Becoming, The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF; DEEWR 2009). The children’s skills, interests and experiences are supported and extended through the five learning outcomes of the EYLF. The care model is an attachment-focused, trauma-informed, primary care model. Every child is allocated an educator who is that child’s primary carer. The aim of the primary care model is “to encourage the fostering of significant attachments for children who are likely to be experiencing disrupted or compromised attachment relationship in their home environments” (Jordan et al. 2014, p. 968). while there is evidence to suggest that universal early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are trying to engage with vulnerable children and their families (Skattebol et al. 2014), the literature also indicates that some of the most at-risk children and families do not or cannot avail themselves of universal ECEC services (winkworth, et al. 2010). It has been suggested that ECEC programs that specifically focus on vulnerable families may provide two useful solutions to this problem (Lord, Southcott & Sharp 2011). Firstly, targeted services may ensure that some of the most vulnerable children and families will be connected to services that are designed to support them. Secondly, they may also be able to assist the universal ECEC sector by sharing how they successfully sustain the engagement of vulnerable families with their services. It is the latter point that this article seeks to address, by sharing how one ECEC program that is targeted to vulnerable children and families develops meaningful partnerships with parents around their children’s education and care.
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
Reflections Issue 61, 2015