Bringing people together into an ‘early child & family support workforce’
We are slowly moving through an international evolution in which we started by supporting babies and infants who have significant challenges to their development and learning (in some parts of some countries) and then began considering also the needs of families who are bringing up these children. It is essential now that there is an evolutionary third phase in which we consider the training and support needs of the professionals around these children and families.
The landmark Portugal 25 Conference is still some way off so there is time for people like me to dream about what might be in the programme. In the second of my Portugal 25 dreams I hoped the international conference (North and South Hemispheres?) would set an international ball rolling towards the development of unified local early child and family support workforces.
Of course, there is a challenge here because:
- Professionals around each child are from different agencies.
- They have different training and qualifications.
- Some will work in hospitals, others in community services.
- They will have different ambitions, priorities and targets in the support they offer.
- For some professionals, early child and family support is only a part of their workload.
But this should not stop us trying to establish local unified workforces because the advantages to children, families and professionals are great. They include:
- Parents would know more about what to expect from the first professionals they meet because those professionals would share a basic philosophy and approach to families and their new child.
- Professionals would be properly equipped to offer initial practical and emotional support to siblings, parents and grandparents in addition to their work with the child.
- Professionals would get emotional and practical support from being in a recognised workforce.
- Bringing professionals into a supportive local workforce would promote collaborative teamwork.
Being recognised as a member of the local early child and family support workforce would almost certainly depend on some shared training in addition to each person’s professional training in education, health, social work, psychology, etc. Unified local workforces and early support training might already be developing in some parts of the world. Also, I feel sure there are effective models to learn from in other fields of work.
Portugal 25 could be the ideal forum for developing these ideas
Peter Limbrick, November 2023
(The UK Keyworker model for supporting child and family can be seen here.)