Professional involvement with families with young children

Our Book of the Week is Early Years Policy and Practice – A Critical Alliance by Pat Tomlinson. This is the second extract from it.

Professionals involved with young children and their families need to be informed and sensitive to the context of childcare and practice in the family home and community. For young children continuity of care is important to support well-being and development. As shown in De Gioia’s study, the most basic needs of the child – food and rest – require careful handling to avoid detrimental effects and development delay. Professional practitioners may have a wealth of learning and experience to hand in terms of early childhood education and care but if by implementation it ignores the wishes of the family and the expectations of the child it could have a negative effect. It is essential that professionals working with children ensure their safety and well-being but they must also listen to and address the cultural values of parents and family and unless there is a danger to the child, take account of them. Providers of early education and childcare and school services for young children should ensure that staff reflect the diversity of children’s cultures in the provision and beyond.


Cath and Veronica’s story
Cath and Veronica were enthusiastic entrants to one of the fi rst childcare courses run in their area. They were keen to learn and committed to work as volunteers in their locality. They had set up a pre-school playgroup which was well attended and in demand by the young families in the community. Each week they eagerly took new ideas and ways of working back to the
playgroup to share and try. So the tutor was thrown by Cath and Veronica’s response to the session on diversity and cultural sensitivity of We don’t need to do that . When asked for more explanation they said that there were only White children and families in their neighbourhood so issues of cultural awareness and ethnic diversity were not relevant. It took extensive debate and many examples for Cath and Veronica to begin to see that complexion was not the only potential indicator of cultural diversity and that within a diverse ethnic society such as the UK awareness and appreciation of diversity was benefi cial to the young children and families with whom they worked. Staff attitudes are signifi cant determinants
of continuity of cultural practice between home and early childhood education and care settings or school. The presence of staff from representative cultures can build the link, providing insight for the setting and empathy with the family.

Critical question

  • Understanding demographic and cultural situations within and beyond communities is essential knowledge for Professionals working with children and families. How might  you ensure knowledge and cultural awareness of the communities within which you exist and work? What impact would this have?

Good quality communication between professionals and families is essential to avoid misunderstandings and facilitate negotiated practice in the best interests of the child. Staff must make efforts at drop-off and collection times to talk with family members, sharing knowledge and seeking advice or opinion. Providers ought to offer opportunities for family members to air and share their views and discuss the ethos of the setting: in essence to build a partnership of care for the child. This is true for all professionals working with young children be it in health, education, care or protection.

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