Individual needs, interests and strengths are considered, as well as the strong level of cultural diversity in the centre. And while all other Goodstart centres follow this ethos, Ms Penny has taken it a step further.
As a result of attending the Family Connections program in 2016, Ms Penny approached the Department of Child Protection and the WA Inclusion Agency to ensure she was fully across the individual needs and requirements of each child she cares for.
“As a regional centre, we are in a vulnerable community and have interactions with many families who may need extra help,” Ms Penny said.
“Since meeting with these organisations, we have become the preferred provider of early learning care in the area.
“We have relationships with case workers and are sharing information (within confidentiality requirements) about the children we’re looking after. This means we are better equipped to deal with trauma and behavioural issues and know what to expect,” Ms Penny said.
“We’ve also become more proactive in the community by focusing on building relationships with the chamber of commerce so we know if businesses are closing or opening in the area.
“We’ve seen 28 businesses close their doors in the area in the past six months and that has a big impact on our centre.”
Ms Penny has now been invited to take part in the Family Connections program again this year as a mentor to Goodstart Early Learning Thornlie and Huntingdale.
Centre leaders attend monthly workshops over the course of the year-long program where experts from a range of early learning disciplines, such as speech pathology, contribute and promote improved practices for early childhood development.
Ms Penny’s involvement in the Family Connections program is thanks to the help of the $500,000 Woodside Development Fund which, this year, will enable 20 WA early learning centres, including 13 Goodstart centres to take part.
“I have already been out to visit the centres and observed and offered them some guidance while I was there,” she said.
“We’ve gone back to basics at both centres because they’ve experienced a lot of change over the last few months so our focus is on working with families on the circle of security. This is moving along very well and we’re starting to have those crucial conversations that are needed.”
Ms Penny said that as a not-for-profit organisation, Goodstart was uniquely positioned in the community to make a real difference in children’s lives.
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.