Supporting vulnerable families

Supporting vulnerable families

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, children, families and carers who were already experiencing vulnerability may be under increased pressure.

For some families experiencing vulnerability, having their children continue to attend early childhood services will be the best way to support their continued learning and development.

Many service providers and local governments have continued to put in place proactive, innovative and flexible arrangements to support these children and families as circumstances have changed.

Supporting parents and children to attend early childhood education

With the move to Stage 4 restrictions for metropolitan Melbourne and Stage 3 restrictions in regional and rural Victoria, it continues to be important to reach out to families experiencing vulnerability and work with parents and carers to agree on the best way to keep in contact.

Continued onsite attendance

Vulnerable children can continue their attendance on-site, with some families and carers choosing for children to attend all or only some sessions.

From Thursday 6 August, early childhood and education care services (ECEC) in metropolitan Melbourne should only remain open to provide education and care for those children whose parents or carers are permitted workers and for vulnerable children.

A vulnerable child or young person in a childcare or early childhood service means a child or young person who:

  • resides in the care of the State or in out-of-home care; or
  • is deemed vulnerable by a government agency, funded family or family violence service, and is assessed as requiring education and care outside of family home; or
  • identified by a childcare or early childhood service as vulnerable, (including via a referral from a government agency, or funding family or family violence service, homeless or youth justice service or mental health or other health service).

Complex health situations

If there are health reasons that prevent or limit childrens' attendance at your service, reasonable efforts should be made to support learning from home arrangements.

Identifying barriers to attendance

If children do not attend as agreed, follow up with families and carers to identify any barriers to attendance or additional support that could be provided. If children have not attended for a week, consider reaching out to other support services that may be involved.

Out-of-home care

If a child is in out-of-home care, your local LOOKOUT Education Support Centre can support attendance and engage families and carers with learning from home opportunities.

Families from refugee backgrounds

For additional support for engaging with children and families from a refugee background contact Foundation House to seek tailored advice. Telephone support is available to educators and services from fka Children's Services to support engagement with multilingual families.

Children with additional needs

For children with additional needs, Preschool Field Officers (PSFOs) can be contacted to support access and participation.

You can also use your School Readiness Funding to support your outreach engagement with children and families experiencing vulnerability.

With family consent, you can also connect with other support services involved to discuss learning arrangements and coordination of support.

As restrictions during the pandemic have extended, families may experience new, additional pressures. Support for children and families may require review over time, with changing circumstances affecting the ways they are willing and able to engage in learning from home. 

Learning from home

Learning from home arrangements should be facilitated where children are not attending the service on-site.

Direct contact will be helpful, both in supporting communication but also, if possible, in observing and coaching families and carers to initiate and guide learning activities to build confidence.

Critical practices to consider

Making contact with families

Find out the best way to maintain contact with families. The form of contact should be negotiated with families and carers and should be secure, reliable and accessible. This may be a mix of telephone and online video such as Skype or FaceTime. 

Forming a partnership

It will be important to have a shared understanding between services and families about what learning from home means for their circumstances. Check in with families and carers to see if they need any additional assistance to support learning from home.

Planning your approach

Find out the range of resources families have available. Tailor the learning approaches and activities to children's individual circumstances considering their strengths, home environment and other factors such as language barriers. Plan to make contact on the days children would usually attend the service and continue to engage and interact directly with children. Where possible, plan the focus of each contact in advance with families. 

Adapting your existing program

You will have already planned a program and/or focus areas for Term 3 in line with the Victorian Early Learning and Development Framework. Think about how you can adapt your existing curriculum plan into a learning from home program, rather than starting all over again.

Tools for learning from home

The best tools for learning from home are those that engage and connect children, families and carers with your service on an ongoing basis.

Resources and activities may be a combination of online and printed materials. Consider providing hard-copy materials to families that may have limited or minimal access to the internet. 

The Department's Learning from Home website features resources for families and carers, with specific information for ECEC services. It provides a range of activities you can share with families to support the continuity of their child's learning.

The Australian Childhood Foundation has a number of resources for professionals to support working with children and families experiencing vulnerability.

Addressing safety concerns

If you become concerned for a child's safety or wellbeing at home, your obligations regarding reporting these issues remain. See PROTECT for information and guidance on identifying and responding to child abuse.

You may also consider consulting with other services that are involved with the family, or providing a referral to Child FIRST or The Orange Door in circumstances where families are experiencing stress but there is no immediate or significant risk of harm.

Resources and contacts

Family Violence

Safe Steps

Safe Steps is a state-wide 24-hour family violence crisis support for women and children, which can provide accommodation (refuge) options.

safesteps.org.au/

1800RESPECT

People experiencing family violence can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat.

www.1800respect.org.au

InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence         

A statewide service which provides services, programs and responses to issues of family violence in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.

Tel: 1800 755 988

www.intouch.org.au

English as an Additional Language

Language Loop

All early childhood education services are able to access funded telephone interpreters through VITS Language Loop.

languageloop.com.au

Foundation House

Educators and services are encouraged to contact Foundation House to seek tailored advice for children from a refugee background (via the Early Years Program).

foundationhouse.org.au

fka Children's Services

Telephone support and advice is available for kindergartens to support services in continuing to maintain strong connections and engagement with multilingual families.

Tel: 03 9428 4471

culturalinclusion@fka.org.au

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

DET Koorie Education Support Officer (KESO)

KESOs are area-based professionals who are members of the local Aboriginal community with an understanding of Aboriginal culture and the history of their community. KESOs provide advice about culturally inclusive learning environments, support engagement in education and improved outcomes for Koorie children and young people.

Koorie education coordinator contact details are available on through the Department.

VACCHO (Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc.)   

The peak body for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people living in Victoria, with member organisations located throughout Victoria.

Tel: 03 9411 9411

Email: enquiries@vaccho.org.au  

VAEAI (Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated)   

VAEAI supports and advises services that provide early childhood education for Koorie children.

Tel: 03 9481 0800

Email: vaeai@vaeai.org.au