Leading in Family Day Care

This month we hear from Cathy Bavage, Manager of Wynnum Family Day Care (FDC) and board member for FDC Australia, as she discusses leading in family day care services. Cathy has an extensive career in the early education sector, beginning in 1985 with Lady Gowrie and then commencing with her work at Community Childcare Inc in 1987. After a year, the service was divided into two, leading to Wynnum FDC being developed with 125 fulltime places being offered.

As a leader, Cathy is passionate about the profound impact that her role has on the lives of children and their families. The philosophy and basis of FDC is a secure, home-based setting, where all children are given the opportunity to experience stable and reliable relationships. This philosophy aligned with Cathy’s beliefs of early education, as well as connecting with her principles of holding high expectations for children and equitable access to high quality care. 
Throughout her 38 years in the sector Cathy has celebrated many achievements. Of note, is Cathy’s advocacy for FDC on a national level, including lobbying to the Government to have greater awareness and support of FDC. She notes that her proudest moments are the continuous opportunities she has had to offer value and positive impact to children, families and educators. Cathy is a strong believer in empowering women to re-enter the workforce and recognizes FDC as a highly valuable service. FDC provides the platform for educators to provide quality educator and care that supports families to build confidence and trust.

Leadership in FDC

Leadership in any context can be complex, and reflecting on FDC, this is no different. Cathy acknowledges that there are often barriers to leadership which includes demanding timeframes, accuracy of information distributed to large and diverse teams, and understanding the unique context and practice of each individual FDC educator. As an advocate for leadership in FDC, it is important to be consistently committed to exploring new options to challenging obstacles by being innovative and flexible. 

As the manager of Wynnum FDC, Cathy has the responsibility to ensure the management and delivery of changes, and the development of strategies to reduce the impact of top-down changes. At every level of an FDC context, Cathy is an advocate and demonstrates clear lines of communication and meaningful support of her educators and wider team. As theorised in the ACECQA Educational Leadership Addendum for FDC, professional communication and respectful relationships are key to being an effective leader.

A distributed leadership model

A key to positive leadership at Wynnum FDC is the distributed leadership approach implemented across the teams. Extensive research has been undertaken on the distributed leadership model, showing the value of this approach to the overall success, morale and empowerment of teams in the education sector (Rodd, 2013). 

Cathy believes in every person is a leader in their role as a subject expert. She notes that this approach reduces co-dependance, supports innovative practice and encourages educators to take pride and responsibility for their programs and practices. Through distributed leadership, each educator uses their unique skillset as a strength to build programs that are meaningful and relevant and mentors others to grow their skills and knowledge.

Quality leadership practice

Strong governance and leadership are the foundations for driving quality practice. Quality will look different for every participant. As FDC demonstrates diverse and unique contexts in terms of children, families, educators and community, it is evident that quality is a journey that will have varying representations dependent on these factors. 

Cathy recognises that a key component of quality is the interactions between educators, parents, children and the wider community. Through these connections, quality is developed and further avenues for extending practice are presented. This reflects a relationship-based model, which Cathy uses at Wynnum FDC, to ensure all voices are heard, valued and respected.  

A relationship-based model refers to an approach to practice that establishes strong connections with others that are based on trust, respect and honesty. This model also recognises that individuals work best when supported through respectful relationships that highlight strengths and celebrate achievements (Rodd, 2013) and compliment the distributed leadership approach.

Leading Wynnum FDC to Excellence

In 2016, Wynnum FDC was re-awarded the Excellent rating for the second time, with the first being in 2013. Cathy notes that the journey to Excellent began in 2003 when they made the collective decision to move away from a co-dependent model of operation to an approach where quality standards underlined the focus on children, teamwork and partnerships. 

Cathy notes that the ultimate goal of this process was never to be awarded the Excellent rating, but more so to have high expectations for the delivery of quality education and care at all times and to operate effectively as an extended team. As each educator is a small business owner, Cathy believes that her role as a leader is to empower, advocate for and support the autonomy of the educators all while embracing the changing nature of FDC.

Further reading/links

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