New tie-up to boost skills of those helping children from needy homes

Multi-disciplinary training by Nanyang Poly and SUSS for KidStart scheme practitioners

A scheme to help young children from low-income homes is getting a boost with a new tie-up among several partners to provide training across different fields for practitioners.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and Temasek Foundation (TF), in partnership with Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), launched a training programme yesterday for those who work with children from less well-off families.

In a joint media statement, ECDA and TF said the programme, which is the first of its kind here, aims to better support KidStart practitioners in the areas of child development, health and social work, which are necessary for early childhood intervention.

KidStart is a government initiative that helps children up to six from low-income families.

The new Multi-Disciplinary Programme for Enhancing Child Development announced yesterday comprises two parts: a foundational training programme conducted by NYP, and an in-service training programme by SUSS.

TF has committed $1.15 million to support the training of 300 practitioners over three years.

The foundational training conducted by NYP in collaboration with KK Women's and Children's Hospital and National Institute of Early Childhood Development, provides practitioners with limited or no prior work experience with young children from low-income families, with a better understanding of the challenges they face.

Basic concepts and theories around child development, health and nutrition and social work domains are also covered.

Experienced practitioners may go a step further by taking one or more of seven continuing education and training modules conducted by SUSS. Topics range from how children learn to their health, growth and well-being as well as skills needed for interviews, home visits and tackling family issues.

Those who complete all seven modules will receive a Certificate in Child and Family Intervention. Other social service or early childhood practitioners working with needy young children may also sign up for the programme.

KidStart, which began in 2016, plans to scale up its reach to 5,000 more children in the next three years. Minister of State for Education and Social and Family Development Sun Xueling said in the statement: "The early years of a child are very important in setting a strong foundation for their later years. A child's development is contingent on many factors such as health and nutrition, family support and opportunities for learning.

"As we expand KidStart to help more low-income families, we will have to ensure that those working with young children have the right knowledge and skills to support KidStart children and their families holistically."

Ms Jasmine Low, a medical social worker from the National University Hospital who took part in the foundational training, said she now understands better how the KidStart model works with multiple community partners, and how NUH can contribute through health and nutrition support for vulnerable families via home visits.

Ms Cindy Loh, assistant director of KidStart's home visitation programme, said the SUSS modules she took help practitioners carry out their roles more effectively. Citing the module on the Abecedarian Approach, which emphasises language development and quality one-to-one adult-child interactions, as an example, she said the strategies helped parents to bond more meaningfully with their children while helping them to learn at the same time.

"With the multiple needs and different situations our families are in, modules such as child health, growth and well-being were helpful in providing additional insights to what practitioners should look out for," she added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2020, with the headline New tie-up to boost skills of those helping children from needy homes. Subscribe