Families as First Teachers, NT (FaFT) - Indigenous Parenting Support Services Program
Knowledge Circle Practice Profiles

Overview

Practice focus

FaFT's approach to collaborating with local communities in identifying specific family and community needs is a feature of this program. In combination with the provision of culturally appropriate activities, services and resources, and the provision of trained and committed staff, FaFT has delivered positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.

Delivered by

Office of Children and Families, Northern Territory Government

http://www.det.nt.gov.au/parents-community/early-childhood-services/families-as-first-teachers-program

The information provided for this Promising Practice Profile was supplied by the Senior Director, Remote Early Childhood Integrated Services, Early Childhood Policy and Regulations at the Office of Children and Families

Service type

This early learning program is delivered exclusively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families with children from birth to school age. Adult capacity-building is also provided through family support and by linking services within local communities.

School readiness is addressed through the FaFT - Indigenous Parenting Support Services Program in early learning groups with a focus on literacy and numeracy foundations, orientation to school programs and, as part of a dual generational approach, parent engagement initiatives.

Location(s)

Remote Indigenous communities in the NT

Description

FaFT Kuranda was the starting point for the NT FaFT Program, which has now been rolled out across 21 local communities. The program was adjusted to suit the NT remote community context and developed in consultation with community members and staff at each site.

The program objectives are to:

  • provide quality early childhood programs with a focus on early literacy and numeracy foundations for young Indigenous children (0-3 years of age) and their families;
  • prepare children and their families for successful transitions to preschool;
  • build the capacity of families and community members to support the healthy development of young children;
  • develop community-based resources and increase the availability of resources for learning and parenting programs;
  • up-skill an Indigenous workforce in knowledge of early learning and family support;
  • increase collaboration with partner agencies in service delivery; and,
  • build the capacity of communities to deliver early childhood services.

The need for the program was emphasised through the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) that indicated NT remote Indigenous chldren arrive at schools with higher levels of disadvantage in almost all indicators. The National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) results further support this. NT remote Indigenous families in communities experience chronic health issues, high rates of abuse and neglect, substance abuse, overcrowded housing and highly compromised educational outcomes.

Resourcing

The program is funded by the NT Government and the Australian Government through the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) until June 2014.

Practice

MOST promising aspect

FaFT is an example of a high quality and holistic early childhood program that is culturally competent, involves families and the local community and provides a highly effective avenue for changing the circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Other promising aspects

Other promising aspects include:

  • flexible delivery of services which has been beneficial for groups and for individual families;
  • trainiwhich has been effective in enhancing their work with families; and,
  • learning games and conversational reading which are two elements of the Abedcedarian approach that have been effective.
Evidence base and opportunities

The program appears to be sufficiently funded to facilitate good support from the local community at each site. This was achieved by investing in the development of cooperative partnerships with agencies and other local services, including local Aboriginal community representatives and families, to help identify the specific needs of each community and to respond with the provision of activities that are matched with the interests of participants. These collaborative efforts are known to contribute to the effectiveness of programs in responding to multiple issues confronting a particular population, such as remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Through consultations that involved the wider community, healthy relationships and trust have been built in each local Indigenous community, which are also recognised as key ingredients in delivering effective programs.

Training staff in culturally appropriate practices also reflects an effective way to retain program participants and to achieve program objectives. This is reflected in FaFT's approach through the provision of professional development opportunities and ongoing feedback and follow-up.

The structure of the FaFT program embeds an element of flexibility so that each site can respond to the specific needs of each community. This presents an opportunity for other services to adopt a similar approach.

Cultural relevance

Involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Extensive consultation at each program site was undertaken prior to program establishment and local teams employ Indigenous Family Liasion Officers to develop and deliver a range of culturally appropriate and place-based programs. FaFT established the Indigenous Early Childhood Parent Reference Group (IECPRG) that consists of Indigenous representatives from across the NT. This group meets quarterly and advises on program practice to ensure Indigenous views are central to program delivery and that Indigenous aspirations are reflected in program directions. The focus of Indigenous views and aspirations are about early childhood and parenting that are specifically relevant to the remote NT context.

Aboriginal parents and FaFT staff work together to identify place-based areas of interest and activities for program development. Cultural awareness training is delivered locally by the schools in each community for non-Indigenous staff who join the program. All new staff attend a FaFT orientation and the resource "You're in New Country Now" is provided for early childhood competence information. Follow-up is provided by local Indigenous staff and regional advisory staff to ensure their training has been effective in enhancing their work to support Indigenous children and families.

Cultural practices and materials

FaFT provides early learning programs, home visits, family workshops and individual consultations to Indigenous families to strengthen their knowledge of child development. Health, hygiene and nutrition are major contributing factors to developmental outcomes for young Indigenous children. The program takes a strengths-based approach to parenting in the belief that all families want the best start in life for their children.

The FaFT - Indigenous Parenting Support Services Program models health promotion messages in early learning programs, engages parents in health and nutrition activities, holds parent workshops, partners with clinics and health promotion officers to co-deliver the Healthy Kids under 5's program and works with other agencies to support families in need of specific information and skills. Resources have been developed to support the interactions with Indigenous families around the topics of healthy bodies, healthy foods, healthy homes and safe homes.

The program works to strengthen positive relationships in families, promotes positive behaviour in children and builds confidence in parenting. This is done through: modelling behaviour management; encouraging families in their interactions with children, staff and the community; group discussions; parenting workshops; home visits; and, individual consultations.

Evaluation

Evaluation status

The program has been subject to an external/independent process that studied the establishment of the program through site visits and included interviews with schools, program staff, local community staff and families.

Effectiveness

Demonstrated outcomes

The program has been well established across 21 growth towns in the NT. Demonstrated outcomes include:

  • a need to refine the program documentation;
  • sufficient funding was provided to program enablers for appropriate funding allocation;
  • staff were committed and capable;
  • the use of a community development approach was appropriate for each site;
  • there was sufficient funding to employ qualified staff and to provide professional development opportunities;
  • there were strong program structures for remote and on-site support;
  • advisory staff demonstrated good pedagogical leadership; and,
  • the program provided appropriate school and community support.

Inhibitors to effective program delivery included:

  • a lack of housing availability;
  • venues for program delivery were insufficient;
  • data management and reporting requirements were inhibitive; and
  • managing the broad scope of the program work at the community level was challenging.
Other evidence

Program data show an increase in the number of children and parents attending the program which reflect the efficacy of the program in engaging local families.

School teachers' perceptions are that there has been an increasing number of children enrolling in preschool, higher attendance at preschool and enhanced readiness for children to attend preschool.

Unexpected outcomes as perceived by program staff include the strength of collaborative partnerships with other agencies who work with children, families and local communities, and the employment opportunities that were created for participating parents.

Replicability

The FaFT program has demonstrated a capacity to be replicated across various local communities, as evidenced by the uptake in 21 growth towns across the NT. This has been achieved by consulting with local communities at each site so that the program can be adapted to suit the specific needs of families living within those communities.

 

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