Welcome to my blog about my experiences working in early childhood. I have called it Nurturing Forests because I believe that raising children is not a isolated activity but takes a whole community.

As early childhood professionals, we are actively involved in this process but we also need to work closely with the children, parents, community as a whole and other allied professionals.

I hope you enjoy my site. I also have a facebook site of the same name where I provide links to useful sites for teachers, parents and others interested in the early childhood: www.facebook.com/nurturingforests

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Social Inclusion: The role of early childhood education and care

The recent Australian Institute of Family studies - Communities and families clearinghouse Australia (CAFCA) - practice sheet raises the important issue of social inclusion ( and its counter social exclusion) and asks child and family services to think about their role. The full practice sheet can be accessed here: http://www.aifs.gov.au/cafca/pubs/sheets/ps/ps7.html (while you are there have a look around it is a useful site).

The article raises the four domains of social inclusion, the opportunity to:
1) participate in society through employment and access to services;
2) connect with family, friends and the local community;
3) deal with personal crises; and
4) be heard.

Traditionally, long day care and preschools have been closely intertwined with the community and providing a supportive role to their families and the surrounding community. It is a role most of us try to supply on a daily basis.

The article suggests we have a key role by:
- providing space for parents and children to meet one another and develop friendships and informal support networks
- providing opportunities for parents to take up leadership roles within the program,
- encouraging parents and children to contribute to decision making processes in the local community

You may note the link with the Early Years Learning Framework concept of 'belonging' and the article specifically uses the word.

The practice sheet also discusses the importance of giving children the chance to 'be heard' and their rights as a citizen now (not just a future citizen).

Practices that are family centered, partnership based and strengthens based are designed to enable family and children's voices to be heard. Working with families is not just about providing advice but about:
"hearing the whole story, seeing the full picture, knowing the main worries, learning their strengths, and taking all these into account in enabling them to find ways of managing the problems that confront them and their children" (p.11).

The importance and value of including and ALL families in our daily practice cannot be underestimated and is a vital part of our role that while challenging can be very rewarding for all.

Some suggestions for your practice include:
- is it viable for your centre to offer voluntary or paid employment opportunities to parents using your centre?
- can you provide parents with easily accessible information to increase their sense of inclusion? ( think about ways of reaching families who may feel marginalized e.g. Single parents, young mothers, parents with mental illness)
- can you provide parents with a leadership role within the centre (e.g. Committee?)
- what opportunities are you providing for parents to socialize with one another? Is there a dedicated space? Do you organize regular social activities for your families ( and at a variety of times?)
- do your families realize the importance of social interactions and friendships for their children?
- what opportunities are provided to parents and children to provide feedback on the program? Are these taken up? Do you know why or why not? How can they be encouraged?

What do you do at your centre?
For my parent readers, how does your centre help you feel socially included in your local community?

Posted by Wendy

"the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" -Martin Luther King

1 comment:

  1. Wendy,
    this is a very good topic to think about. Thanks for these questions. I also feel it's important to find ways to help all families feel apart of a community. Unfortunately, when my son was little and in daycare (28 years ago), I was quite shy, and didn't socialize with other parents, especially "2 parent" families, who I perceived as being more socially experienced and polished than me. I think my son would have had more fun, and benefited more if I'd interacted more with his play mate's families.As it was, he grew up just great, but I think it would have been fun to be more involved.

    And now in my work, I have a certain sensitivity for the parents who could use help, by way of friendly conversation, and being helped to feel that the center is their's.

    I absolutely love this quote, Thanks for providing it!