8 who're focused on helping needy kids

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin interacting with pre-schoolers at Mr First Skool in Boon Lay Drive yesterday. With him are Ms Nicole Kin (left) and Ms Celia Teo, principal of the pre-school.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin interacting with pre-schoolers at Mr First Skool in Boon Lay Drive yesterday. With him are Ms Nicole Kin (left) and Ms Celia Teo, principal of the pre-school.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Child-enabling execs monitor kids' development, school attendance

She enrolled her younger son in infant care when he was seven months old, but did not send him to the pre-school regularly.

The 34-year-old mother of two boys, who wanted to be known only as Madam Liang, suffers from depression and was sometimes rough with her sons, which caused difficulties with her husband, who runs a fibreglass business.

The family of four survive on an unstable income of about $2,000 a month, with Madam Liang sometimes taking on odd jobs such as working as a bus attendant.

Her younger boy spent most of his time at home until Ms Nicole Kin approached Madam Liang last July, to persuade her to send him to infant care.

Madam Liang said she was worried about leaving her son in childcare because her older son, who is now nine and in primary school, had been bullied at another pre-school.

Ms Kin, 26, assured her she can drop in at the pre-school at any time to observe how they treat her son. She also arranged for the family to be given aid in the form of necessities like diapers and milk powder. Now, the boy goes to school every day and Madam Liang is at ease enough to go back to work.

Madam Liang said in Mandarin: "Nicole told me not to worry, and that I can always drop in to check on him. I realise the teachers are very patient; they have taught him to walk, talk and sing."

CONTACT PERSON

They see me as a resourceful person because I work with community partners, so they feel I'm a contact point they can rely on for help with finances and family issues.

MS NICOLE KIN, a child-enabling executive.

Ms Kin is one of eight child- enabling executives trained in social work or early childhood currently based at 10 pre-schools, to monitor the development and attendance of children from low-income families.

In total, the eight executives support 250 such children aged 18 months to six years.

This enhanced support for preschools is part of the KidSTART programme - a three-year pilot started last July to make sure young children from low-income families are not disadvantaged in their education and development.

Touring My First Skool in Boon Lay Drive, one of the pre-schools in the programme, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said executives such as Ms Kin play an important role.

"Now you've a dedicated person reaching out to the families, getting to know them and building up the relationship," he said yesterday.

At the Boon Lay Drive pre-school, 25 of its 93 children are from low-income families.

Ms Kin is the child-enabling executive at the Boon Lay Drive pre-school and monitors these 25 children, whose attendance has gone up from 60 to 80 per cent.

Previously an educational therapist for children with special needs, Ms Kin attributes her rapport with the parents to her being able to link them up with government aid agencies such as the social service offices.

"They see me as a resourceful person because I work with community partners, so they feel I'm a contact point they can rely on for help with finances and family issues," she said.

Enhanced support in the form of a dedicated person to help children from needy families will be rolled out to nine more pre-schools this year. This part of the programme complements two other KidSTART components: home visits for those under a year old, and supported playgroups for those aged one to three.

Over three years, KidSTART will support 1,000 children from low-income families living in Kreta Ayer, Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong, Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline '8 who're focused on helping needy kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe