Parental Support in Early Years
Each of CDI’s programmes has a parental component, as we recognise the central role that parents and carers play in children’s lives and development. CDI supports nine early years’ services through the provision of a dedicated Parent/Carer Facilitator (PCF), whose sole responsibility is to work with the parents of the children in the service by identifying needs, offering support to address any issues and promote the achievement of children’s developmental milestones. In addition the PCF facilitates a formal parenting programme called Parents Plus, which is an evidence-based, Irish parenting programme.
The ultimate aim of this role is to reduce parental stress, improve relationships between parents and their children and support a positive home learning environment. The PCF is employed by the individual service and receives quality assurance support from both CDI and South Dublin County Childcare Committee (SDCCC). SDCCC values the important role this service plays and they support services to strive to make parental engagement a meaningful, integral part of Early Years service delivery.
Findings from the evaluation showed that the more sessions of a parenting course that parents attended the more beneficial the home learning environment was (HLE), indicating a positive effect of the formal parenting course on the quality of the HLE. Parents valued having a person whom they could go to, to discuss issues and worries. In addition, practitioners were made more aware of the importance of parental engagement and became skilled in enabling this. The evaluation strongly recommended delivering parent training as part of an integrated Early Years programme, which highlights the importance of parent training programmes which are evidence-based and strongly supported by a well-trained and accessible mentor.
Early Years Service 2007-2013
The Early Years Service was a two year service for preschool children, with integrated health care, wrap-around supports and professional development elements. The programme sought to strengthen children’s positive dispositions to learning through enjoyable, challenging and enriching opportunities within the family, education and care facilities and community to enhance their well-being, identity and participation. Specifically, it sought to make pre-school children more ready for the transition to school by achieving moderate improvements in relation to the following:
• The child – all domains of the child’s development, including physical well-being, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, language development and emergent literacy;
• The child’s family – parent psychological health, as well as the quality of parents’ relationships with the child and their parenting skills; and
• The child’s environment – social relations in the home, school and community, improving outcomes for the child, through a focus on the child’s family and environment.
While positive trends were identified in the evaluation, funding for this highly resourced service ceased in 2013. However, given the statistically significant findings of the parental supports, this element continues to be funded.