A blueprint to secure better professional care of young children has been developed at Flinders University.
The framework aims for a common inter-disciplinary language among everyone working with children in the critical developmental years from birth to five years of age.
Children need coordinated help from health and social professionals, says research project leader Associate Professor Julian Grant, from Flinders University’s Child and Family Health Nursing group at the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
The researchers have developed a national interdisciplinary learning and teaching framework to inform any curriculum in health, education or welfare for people studying to work with children from birth to five years and their families.
Already the Child and Family Health Service (CaFHS) in South Australia has introduced and embedded the framework into its statewide Learning and Development Operational Strategy.
Interim CaFHS Director Heather Baron said the framework has informed the enhanced Model of Care which places greater emphasis on the benefit of inter-professional teams.
“The framework has been fundamental to our learning and development operational strategy and has strengthened our focus on inter-professional practice,” Ms Baron says.
“This collaborative approach will also benefit our implementation of the Model of Care as inter-professional teams deliver care to support infants, children and families across South Australia.”
The article that outlines the framework and its benefits – “Educating professionals who will work with children in the early years: an evidence-informed interdisciplinary framework”, by Associate Professor Grant with Flinders University colleagues Dr Carolyn Gregoric, Dr Jessie Jovanovic and Dr Yvonne Parry, and Queensland University of Technology’s Professor Kerryann Walsh – was published in the July 2018 edition of international research journal Early Years.
“The first five years of a child’s life are irrefutably important, establishing life-long health, social and economic outcomes,” says Associate Professor Grant, who also is President of Maternal, Child and Family Health Nurses Australia.
“To optimise these outcomes, global policy is directing professionals from a range of disciplinary backgrounds to work more collaboratively than ever before with children in the early years – but such collaborations have proven problematic as individual disciplines and pre-service education requirements vary widely,” she says.
“The framework is particularly important at a time when meeting the needs of children is globally recognised as being a core aspect of growing a national economy. The UK is moving in this direction with non-disciplinary educational programs at entry level for those wishing to work with children.”
While highlighting the demands that currently exist for child health and care professionals, the educational framework for professionals signifies an important opportunity to begin a cultural change for interdisciplinary collaboration and participation across the early years.
The seven disciplines engaged in this project include medicine, nursing and midwifery, education, social work, psychology, health sciences, and community services.
The study, conducted over two years, found that educators and professionals from all of the disciplines who work with children have their own disciplinary language and are often challenged to conceptualise how their constructs could be reframed.
“There is a great need for the development of an inter-disciplinary language within a framework of shared outcomes for children during pre-service education – and there is a will and a desire among the participants to achieve this,” Associate Professor Grant says.