Trust, empathy and time: Relationship building with families experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage in early childhood education and care services

Dr Wendy Roberts
Monash University

This article identifies some key enablers and barriers in early childhood education and care (ECEC) environments in Australia encountered by early childhood educators and professionals (ECEPs) and by the children and their families experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. Improving educational outcomes can change the cycle of disadvantage for children and their families. This research asks both the providers and users of services concurrently about what they think is important and effective. This qualitative case study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to analyse semi-structured interview data gathered from 30 families and their children and 33 qualified ECEPs. The research focused on the enablers and barriers around social inclusion, access, participation and engagement at the different levels of system, service, children and their families, and ECEPs. The study found that the participant groups shared an understanding that empathy, trust and time proved key to relationship building as a starting point in addressing some of the key barriers. Social inclusion, access, participation and engagement are key to early learning success in early childhood—a time integral to overall health, wellbeing and future role in society. This study has led to the development of a new model for engagement and relationship building.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 42 Number 4 December 2017.

Don’t forget, the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals.