Standard 6.1 Supportive relationships with families – Case study 2
Respectful relationships with families are developed and maintained and families are supported in their parenting role.
This family day care service is situated in a regional agricultural town where the main crops grown in the surrounding area are wheat, barley and canola. The town is home to children and families from a range of diverse cultural backgrounds, including Aboriginal families who are descendants of the Traditional Custodians of the local land and Anglo-Australian families, who have lived in the community for many years. The town’s residents also include families who are new to the community, having immigrated to Australia and moved to the town to seek work.
Family day care is one of several services delivered by a not-for-profit community service provider available to the local community. Other services include family support services, a maternal and child health nurse, Aboriginal outreach services and a migrant and refugee support service. The family day care coordination unit engages two coordinators who support 18 educators.
The family day care coordinators and educators have strong connections with local Aboriginal Elders, child and family services, other children’s education and care services, local schools and community partners. These connections have been realised following years of ongoing and open conversations aimed at building and sustaining respectful relationships and collaborative partnerships. The work is inspired by the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, which is integral to the service’s approach that a few years ago it was included in their service philosophy. It also aligns with the approved learning frameworks’ focus on the importance of promoting a sense of belonging for all children and families.
This strong commitment to developing respectful relationships with families has underpinned the service’s approach in many ways. For example, the team engaged in reflection and conversations about how they could better engage with and support all families in the local community. They were aware that some Aboriginal families and newly arrived immigrant families were not accessing family day care despite needing education and care for their children. As a result, they decided to open their weekly play sessions to all families in the community as well as to all the educators in the service and their children. While the take up was slow initially, over time word spread within the community that the play sessions were not only fun and engaging for children, but also welcoming and inclusive for all families.
Another strategy used by the service to share information about the play sessions was to ask families who had been attending with their children if they would be willing to be filmed at the end of the year. They were encouraged to talk informally about the play sessions and to share what they felt that their children and family had gained from attending the play sessions during the year. With permission from the families, these videos were then shared more broadly as a way for the community to hear directly from other community members about the play sessions. It also provided an opportunity to showcase how the family day care service supports children and families within the wider community.
Over time, the coordinators and educators have reviewed and discussed the principles and practices of the approved learning frameworks. These conversations have assisted them to critically reflect on their practices and the extent to which these were respectful of and responsive to the cultures, beliefs and child-rearing practices of all families in the community. An important part of these conversations involved coordinators and educators becoming more aware of how their own cultures, beliefs and values have shaped their attitudes, perceptions and behaviours and how this may impact on their work with others who may have different backgrounds and beliefs.
The service’s connections with staff from the Aboriginal outreach service as well as the migrant and refugee support service has also enabled them to get a deeper sense of the priorities and needs of families from cultural backgrounds and life experiences different to their own. It has helped coordinators and educators to consider what they could do differently to better understand and meet these priorities and needs including examining how they can ensure their service is more accessible to all families in the community. They also reviewed the appropriateness of the strategies used to communicate with families and whether families might prefer other communication methods.
One outcome of these conversations was that the service made a major change to their enrolment interviews, which were previously conducted in the office at the coordination unit. Through conversations with their colleagues in the Aboriginal outreach service and migrant and refugee support service, as well as feedback from families, they learned that coming into the office might be intimidating for some families, especially those looking into using an education and care service for the first time. They also realised the potential barriers for some families in physically getting to the office if they do not have their own transport or live out of town. Consequently, they began to offer a range of enrolment options to families seeking family day care. These included offering home visits or conducting interviews at play sessions or other locations suggested by the family, such as at a local park or the school playground.
As another outcome of these reflective conversations, the service has begun the task of revising their current approach to sharing information with families, to ensure it is inclusive and accessible and supports families in their parenting role. For example, the service had offered parent information sessions and workshops in the past, but these had typically not been well attended. Their parent library was also not being used. The service was curious to find out why this might be the case and what they might need to do differently to engage with families. It was also important to them to actively involve families in decision making about what information, resources and support would be most helpful to them in their parenting role.
As a first step educators spoke to families about their preferences for accessing information on parenting and other relevant issues. At the same time, coordinators had conversations with their professional colleagues and community partners to learn about strategies that work well for them.
Reflecting on this feedback, the service team decided to undertake a more flexible approach using a range of different strategies to accommodate family preferences. For example, the service began inviting people from various community services to attend the play sessions to connect with families and engage in informal discussions on topics of interest. The maternal and health nurse became a frequent visitor throughout the year as did the teacher who would receive the children at school, as well as the principal. These visits strengthened the educators’ knowledge on a range of topics, including available community resources and how to access them and transition to school, which they then shared in informal discussions with families who were unable to attend the play sessions.
Through the success of these strategies the service team also came to realise the importance of the social and emotional support they offered families and the extent to which this was valued by them. The coordinators were keen to extend their knowledge, skills and confidence in this role as part of their ongoing professional learning and development. They also committed to supporting educators’ capabilities to better support families in their parenting role. Consequently, one coordinator attended a series of online training sessions on family wellbeing while another attended a session on strengths-based practice to ensure their approach to supporting families remained focused on helping them to recognise and utilise their own strengths and available resources.
The service continues to trial different ways to nurture relationships with families and strengthen connections within the community in response to current and emerging needs. Some of the most successful initiatives have been social events introduced following feedback from families. For example, one family suggested that the service host a family breakfast at the local park during harvest time. They explained that this can be a challenging time for them as often family members might be away for an extended time which can be unsettling for the children. They felt that a family breakfast might be a fun way for the families to connect with other families who were also impacted at this time. They also suggested the service use the community bus to ensure families without transport could attend. This suggestion was implemented and as a result family breakfasts are now a regular feature on the service’s social calendar, especially during harvest time.
Building on this, the service continues to engage in ongoing reflection and discussions, both within the service and with their community partners, on how they can continue to provide a service that is welcoming and inclusive for all families and that continues to be responsive to their strengths, priorities and aspirations.
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