The team at Goodstart Pooraka were recognised in the South Australian 'Goodie' Awards for Making a Difference in their local community. Here is their story.
Molly* is a child living with cerebral palsy. The Goodstart Pooraka team, led by Lisa Bartlett, had been asked by Molly’s social worker for a place for Molly’s big sister. When Lisa asked if Molly needed a place as well the social worker explained that Molly had already been refused enrolment by several non-Goodstart centres due to her additional needs.
While Molly’s big sister was able to start at Pooraka straight away, Lisa went about finding out what Molly’s additional needs were and how the centre might be able to meet them.
Molly had high mobility needs with very limited lower limb function. She needed help to be able to sit on the floor and, while she was able to crawl using her upper body to drag herself to where she needed to be, in a busy toddler room this was a safety risk to her. Molly’s NDIS plan had also lapsed so she was missing appointments.
Molly’s physiotherapist agreed to continue working with Molly free of charge until her NDIS plan was able to be re-instated. Lisa, Molly’s physiotherapist and her foster family were then able to work together to work out what Molly would need from Goodstart to begin attending the centre.
Molly needed specialist equipment to help her stand sit and walk short distance. She needed someone to be trained to be able to help her to move, use her equipment and engage in her learning environment.
However, when Lisa received a copy of Molly’s NDIS plan it recommended a hydraulic lift to facilitate nappy changes. Lisa went to a huge amount of effort to investigate the feasibility of installing one, researching options and gaining conditional approval to buy one. When it was discovered that even the smallest specialist change table was unable to be accommodated without a complete refit of the toddler and kindy bathroom space, Lisa was defeated.
“Telling Molly’s foster family that we were not going to be able to include her at the centre after all because we didn’t have a suitable change table to use was far more frightening to me than any of the other challenges we had worked through,” she says.
It was time for a different approach.
Lisa organised a case conference with the Goodstart social inclusion team and Molly’s physiotherapist to come up with another plan for Molly to attend the centre which included organising training for centre staff to be able to support Molly.
When Molly’s foster family agreed to bring her in to take part in the training it suddenly became clear to Lisa and the team what brave really looked like,
“Everything shifted when Molly came through that front door,’ Lisa says, ‘there she was in her specialised stroller absolutely beaming from ear to ear. At that moment we knew that everything we had been doing was absolutely nothing compared to everything Molly had dealt with.”
Lisa and the team were more committed than ever to make Molly’s experience at Goodstart Pooraka joyful and fulfilling.
At the training session Molly was able to show the centre team how she could stand with support to use her walker,
“She looked around the room grinning and proudly told us ‘I stand up!’”, Lisa says she will never forget that moment.
The team completed another training session with Molly and her foster family, and had a practice run on the bus to make sure Molly was able to move on and off the bus safely. “She was just so excited to get in and sit on that bus – even through it wasn’t going anywhere!” said Lisa.
After 5 intensive months of work Molly was ready to start her early learning journey.
Molly embraced every aspect of the Early Learning Environment and soaked up the attention of her peers! Her therapists commented over and over on how far she had come in her sessions now that were conducted at the service. She was so much more willing to do more than they had ever been able to motivate her to do when her sessions were conducted at home.
"Watching Molly engage in the childcare setting was the absolute of embodiment of seeing a child thrive – she was doing 'ok' at home, but seeing how much more she could do and enjoy, watching her truly thrive, is exactly the reason for providing this environment to all children and seeing that on full display was a reward beyond measure!" said Lisa.
The Pooraka team had many daily challenges to make sure Molly’s was able to access the learning and development she needed, but the biggest challenge came as Molly was ready to transition to the Kindy room – her foster family’s rental home had been sold and they were forced to move a long distance from the centre – too far away for the Pooraka team to be able to provide transport.
The team was devastated. However, they again stepped up to the occasion and worked intensively with a Goodstart centre close to Molly’s new house to provide a smooth transition for her.
Lisa and the Pooraka team were able to support the team at Molly’s new centre and Lisa found a staff member with the right skills to be able to provide the additional support needed when Molly was attending the centre.
The Pooraka team’s support and commitment was further cemented when Covid isolation requirements impacted Molly’s new centre – Pooraka educators actually went and worked at Molly’s new centre so that she could be supported to continue to attend as normal.
Congratulations to the team at Goodstart Pooraka and Molly’s new centre for making a difference.