Family Connections makes its mark
When early learning centre owner Karen Stackpole was offered the opportunity to be part of Goodstart Early Learning’s Family Connections program she jumped at the chance.
Ms Stackpole, who owns community-based Kids Corner Childcare Centre in Munster, Western Australia, attended the course last year, with help from the Woodside Development Fund.
When she was invited to take part again this year, to mentor four non-Goodstart centres which are participating, she realised the importance of being involved.
Centre leaders attend monthly workshops over the course of the year-long program.
Experts from a range of early learning disciplines such as speech pathology, occupational therapy, psychology and early childhood education contribute to the program and promote improved practices for early childhood development.
“I’ve been in childcare for about 25 years and have owned the centre here for about the past eight years,” Ms Stackpole said.
“I’ve seen the work that Goodstart Early Learning does as far as nurturing great partnerships with families and communities, and supporting improved outcomes in early childhood development, particularly for vulnerable children, and I wanted to assist others to get the most from the program. Mentoring allowed me to do this.”
Ms Stackpole’s involvement in Family Connections was thanks to the help of the $500,000 Woodside Development Fund which, this year, will enable 20 early learning centres, including 13 Goodstart centres, to take part.
Two community partner organisations (Connecting Community for Kids and Communicare/WA Inclusion Agency will also be involved.
The program aims to strengthen the quality of practice and relationships between early childhood educators, children, families and communities.
“The focus at our centre is very much on helping those children in the community who are developmentally vulnerable and ensuring they have access to high quality early learning,” Ms Stackpole said.
“By taking part in programs such as Family Connections, we are ensuring we’re focused on building great family relationships and linking them up to essential community services.”
Ms Stackpole said she was looking forward to mentoring Montessori Stepping Stones in Yangebup, two Treasured Tots centres and kindergarten classes at Yangebup Family Centre in what would be a natural progression in her journey as an early learning professional.
“A lot of what we covered at Family Connections was about initiatives we were already undertaking but to put a name to some of the things we do was helpful,” she said.
“There were many things we were doing but we didn’t really realise the value of them – such as having a welcome place for children when they first arrived in the mornings at the centre, and the separate play stations we set up throughout the day.
“After Family Connections we were able to increase the value of these initiatives and the quality of our communication with parents.”
At Kids Corner Childcare Centre, Ms Stackpole said her focus was on trying to make the outdoor environment as natural as possible and ensuring the centre was sustainable. They also run a scholarship program providing vulnerable children with access to early learning at least two days a week.
The Woodside Development Fund will invest more than $500,000 in early learning during the next three years. The Fund, and Goodstart Early Learning, are committed to supporting improved outcomes in early childhood development, and enabling early learning centres in WA to become valuable assets in their communities.