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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015
12 Practices that support the development of meaningful partnerships with vulnerable families In this centre relational pedagogy underpins all interactions between educators and children, between educators and parents and between educators and educators. Relational pedagogy acknowledges the importance of educators being intentional about their work with children and recognising the centrality of relationships for learning (Papatheodorou & Moyles 2009). In addition to the child-centred practices that are the program's primary focus, there is a strong emphasis on sustaining parental engagement. A child's primary carer develops and maintains trusting relationships with the child's parents or carers. Two of the centre's practices that appear pivotal in building successful, ongoing partnerships with vulnerable families are: • A gradual process of child and family orientation into the centre; • Education and care plans which see educators and parents collaboratively reviewing children's progress every 12 weeks, and setting new goals. Gradual orientation to the centre What is it? Each child and family has an orientation and participation plan that is developed between the child's primary carer and the child's parent(s). The purpose of the plan is to ensure that the child's transition into the centre is in their best interests, is thoughtful and occurs gradually over a period of weeks and months. For children under 12 months, the process may take up to 12 weeks, and for children over 12 months it may take up to eight weeks. Educators and parents review the plan together at the end of each week. An infant mental health professional also supports the planning and processes involved in a child and family's orientation into the centre. How does it work? The child's primary carer and the child's parent(s) arrange a suitable time for the child's first visit to the centre. The child and parent(s) come and stay for a couple of hours and are introduced to educators, parents and children and get to know the centre. Typically, the child and parent leave before the other children in their room have lunch, and they can repeat this for several days. When the child and parent/s are feeling more comfortable they might stay for lunch and eventually the child stays for a sleep or rest, with the parent settling them down and staying beside them so that the child feels safe. Then the parent might leave the child to sleep by themselves but will still be available in the building, until both educator and parent(s) agree that the child is fully oriented into the program and ready to stay for a full day. How does this process help to develop meaningful partnership with parents? There is no rush to move a child and family through the orientation process and so the slow transition into the centre supports children and their parents to gradually build trust with educators and settle into the new setting. Educators have time to listen to parents' concerns and hear their stories, and they can also observe how the child and parent interact, answer questions, provide information and model positive practices in a warm, gentle, consistent manner. Even when their children are fully oriented into the program the parents are welcome to stay in the centre each day for as long as they like. They can stay for meals, participate in play activities with their children or use the parent resource room. This gradual process of orientation is much easier when parents are not working. Education and care plans What are they? Once a child has completed their orientation into the centre and both child and parent(s) are settled, the child's primary carer (educator) arranges a meeting with the parent(s) and together they develop an Education and Care Plan. Family caseworkers may also attend this meeting but it is the parent(s) and educator who develop the child's education and care goals. Children's plans are reviewed every 3 months to ensure the relevancy of the education and care goals. How do they work? Each meeting is held at the children's centre and commences with a review of the child's progress, as well as a discussion of their skills, achievements, interests, and any significant changes that may have occurred or are occurring in the children's and families' lives. Educators also use this time to share the child's portfolio with the parent(s). The progress of previous goals is discussed and then new goals are identified, clearly linked to the EYLF learning outcomes, along with activities and actions that will be taken to achieve the planned goals. Parents are encouraged to identify their goals for their children. After the meeting, the outcomes are typed up as the new Education and Care Plan and all parties participating in the review sign it, before copies of the plan are given to those present. Subsequently educators write up each goal in detail on an Individual Learning Development Record, which clearly identifies the strategies, experiences and materials that will be employed to meet every goal.
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
Reflections Issue 61, 2015