International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 271–298 | Cite as

Child Participation and Family Engagement with Early Childhood Education and Care Services in Disadvantaged Australian Communities

Original Article

Abstract

To support national policy initiatives in early childhood education and to determine reasons for low enrolment in services from families in disadvantaged areas, the authors investigated the views and practices of 101 families from disadvantaged communities. Families with a child aged 3–5 years were recruited from urban, rural and remote areas of NSW, Australia. Researchers interviewed primary carers in their home or other preferred location to explore barriers and facilitators to participate in early childhood education and care services. In addition to asking parents directly about barriers and facilitators, the interview included a questionnaire and investigated family engagement in and response to services using questions guided by Ecocultural theory. The relationships between service enrolment and family engagement with other family variables were investigated. Families emphasised quality above cost as the primary factor influencing participation in services. Child enrolment in an early childhood service and higher levels of family engagement with the service were significantly more likely when families perceived childcare to be safe, when there were high levels of family connectedness, and when families were involved in other professionals (e.g. social welfare). The findings highlight the importance of taking a community- and family-focused approach to understand more fully the barriers and facilitators to family involvement in early childhood services.

Keywords

Family engagement Early childhood education and care services Child participation Hard-to-reach families Disadvantaged communities Australia 

Résumé

Afin de soutenir les initiatives de la politique nationale en éducation préscolaire et de déterminer les raisons du faible degré d’inscription aux services des familles des zones défavorisées, les auteurs ont examiné les perspectives et les pratiques de 101 familles de communautés désavantagées. Des familles ayant un enfant âgé de 3 à 5 ans ont été recrutées dans des zones urbaines, rurales et éloignées de la Nouvelle Galles du Sud, Australie. Les chercheurs ont interviewé les personnes s’occupant principalement des enfants, à domicile ou dans un autre endroit préféré, pour explorer les obstacles et les facteurs de facilitation de la participation aux services d’éducation et de garde préscolaires. En plus de questions posées directement aux parents sur les obstacles et facteurs de facilitation, l’interview comprenait un questionnaire et examinait l’engagement et la réponse des familles aux services au moyen de questions guidées par la théorie éco culturelle. Les relations de l’inscription aux services et de l’engagement de la famille avec d’autres variables familiales ont été examinées. Les familles mettaient l’accent sur la qualité plutôt que sur le coût comme premier facteur d’influence à la participation aux services. L’inscription des enfants à un service préscolaire et les plus hauts niveaux d’engagement de la famille au service étaient nettement plus probables quand les familles considéraient que la garde des enfants était sûre, quand il y avait de hauts niveaux de connexion familiale, et quand les familles étaient impliquées avec d’autres professionnels (par ex. l’assistance sociale). Les résultats soulignent l’importance d’adopter une approche centrée sur la communauté et la famille pour mieux comprendre les obstacles et facteurs de facilitation de l’implication des familles dans les services préscolaires.

Resumen

Los autores investigaron las opiniones y prácticas de 101 familias de comunidades desfavorecidas con el objeto de prestar apoyo a las iniciativas de la política nacional en materia de educación en la primera infancia, y determinar los motivos de los bajos porcentajes de matrícula en los servicios de familias de areas desfavorecidas. Se reclutaron familias con un hijo de 3 a 5 años de edad provenientes de zonas urbanas, rurales remotas de Nueva Gales del Sur en Australia. Los investigadores entrevistaron a cuidadores primarios en su hogar o en otro sitio preferido para explorar los factores que obstaculizan y facilitan la participación en los servicios de educación y atención de la infancia temprana. Además de interrogar a los padres directamente sobre dichos factores, la entrevista incluyó un cuestionario y examinó la participación de la familia en los servicios y su respuesta a los mismos, usando preguntas basadas en la teoría Eco-cultural. Se estudiaron los vínculos entre la inscripción en los servicios y la participación familiar con otras variables relacionadas con la familia. Las familias subrayaban la calidad más que el costo como el factor primario que influenciaba su participación en los servicios. El número de matrículas en los servicios para la primera infancia, así como el nivel de participación familiar en el servicio eran mucho más probables cuando las familias percibían que el servicio de guardería era seguro, cuando había un mayor grado de conexión en la familia y cuando las familias trataban con otros profesionales (p.ej. bienestar social). Los hallazgos subrayan la importancia de adoptar un enfoque centrado en la comunidad y la familia para comprender más cabalmente los factores que obstaculizan y facilitan la participación de la familia en los servicios para la primera infancia.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Health Equity Training Research & Evaluation (CHETRE)Part of the University of NSW Centre for Primary Health Care & EquityLiverpool BCAustralia
  2. 2.Children and Families Research Centre, Institute of Early ChildhoodMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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