A decade of supporting children and families facing vulnerability
Working in a not-for-profit organisation with a strong social purpose was an important factor for Penny Markham. Since joining Goodstart 10 years ago she has been instrumental in leading key initiatives that support vulnerable children and families.
When I first joined Goodstart, I was looking for a role where I had the opportunity to make a difference, and I really wanted to work for a not-for-profit with a strong purpose for supporting children and families. When I heard the Goodstart story, I was blown away by what the founding partners were trying to do – they had an incredible, aspirational vision. So I jumped at the chance to be a part of something that could potentially be amazing for children, families and early learning professionals.
Ten years on, I continue to be motivated by the support, aspirations and drive of the Board, our senior leadership and through the work of our centre teams. We are a purpose-driven organisation, and have never taken our eye off the ball. I see it every day with our centre teams across the country, who are going above and beyond to support children and families, to give them the best possible start in life.
There are a couple of initiatives I’m particularly proud of, one being the Early Learning Fund (ELF). The ELF provides two days of subsidised care to families whose children otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in early learning, and now supports up to 1,000 children each year. The other initiative is our Intensive Individual Support Plans (IISPs), which help ensure very vulnerable children – who are often excluded from other centres – are welcomed and supported at Goodstart. I remember a little boy who was very traumatised with challenging behaviours. We put an IISP in place, and provided wrap-around support for him and it worked – he was able to keep participating in learning at our centre, and successfully transitioned to school. We now deliver around 90 of these plans every year.
We’ve achieved so much in the last decade for children and families facing vulnerability, like our Family Connections program, and our Enhancing Children’s Outcomes (EChO) program for centres in communities where vulnerability is common. The services in EChO centres are unique to each community, and our team members participate in extra professional development and coaching to give them the tools and knowledge to support children’s individual development. The centres also offer additional services like extra teachers, child and family practitioners, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and social inclusion coordinators. EChO centres provide incredible opportunities for educators and teachers who are passionate about supporting learning, development and wellbeing outcomes for vulnerable children and want to extend their practice to develop unique, sought-after skills.
There’s always more to do, always more to achieve, but what other organisation in this country has this type of opportunity to support children, backed up by evidence, and with the support of senior leadership? The level of investment from Goodstart in inclusion, the confidence to test, try and learn, and the chance to be innovative and creative in providing better outcomes for children is something you don’t see anywhere else.
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