QUALITY CHILDREN’S SERVICES

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QUALITY CHILDREN’S SERVICES

Quality means different things to different people but every one looks forward to quality provision of care services for their children. It all breaks down to a safe environment with staff that is qualified, good communication and a safe and secure building where our children will learn quality education. In Australia, the National Child Care Accreditation Council is responsible for setting quality assurance standards for all services offering child care. This essay is going to cover how the society and economy affects quality of the children’s service and also how the legislation defines quality in accordance with NSW Children’s service Regulation 2004. Finally, a conclusion on quality and how it is influenced by legislation, social and economic factors will be given.

Child care services are increasing on demand due to the changing economic conditions which have made it impossible for many families to live on one income and have led to women seeking employment. Many women nowadays have attained higher level of education which is seen by the higher increasing number of women holding important corporate positions, (Hutchins, Frances, & Saggers, 2009).  The welfare reforms have ensured strict guidelines for those offering these services which have boosted the confidence of many parents about the quality of services their children are going to receive, increasing the number of children going to child care services, (Barnet, &Frede, 2010). The state and Federal governments have thus been faced with the challenge of ensuring quality standards in this industry because of the importance of children in the society. This rising demand has also created the need for assurance that the children are developing properly and are being introduced to good quality education which will be of benefit in the future. Supervisors are required to maintain the quality through doing regular check ups on these centres for child care to ensure that proper regulations are being adhered to and quality services are being provided to the children, (Stein, 2009).

Quality in child care services depend on structural aspects like staff child ratio and higher number of qualified staff and processes which include communication and relationship. Many researchers have concluded that a lower staff child ratio in addition to qualified staff and small groups of children, lays the ground for establishment of relationship and communications between staff, parents and children. There are different methods used to calculate the ratio of child to the staff and mostly researchers have used the total number of children and staff observed in a certain area over a specific time frame. Lower ratios of child to staff comparison results to higher quality standards, better child outcomes while higher ratios is associated with low process quality, (Policy Brief, 2006). However, research on the same area is contradicted by others who say there is no relationship between child-staff ratio. Most studies focus on child care of children between three to five years while in toddler and infant child care has been neglected though it is assumed that the ratio should be a very strong predictor as to how many toddlers and infants should be under one adult to give higher levels of quality. In accordance with NSW Children’s  Services Regulation (2004) the adult child ratio should be 1:4 for children under two years, 1:8 for those between two and three years and 1:10 for children between three and six years.

Group size also plays a very important role as children are comfortable while in smaller groups. In the regulations, the maximum number of children who are under a group are limited depending on age where smaller children the group size should be smaller. Small group sizes are associated with higher process quality and larger group sizes have lower quality process, (NCAC regulatory impact statement (RIS) response) The provisions in the regulations do not look at how the group size should be for mixed ages which is seen in most home-based care or family child care. Indications however show that in these settings, a caregiver with three to six children gave more quality care that those with below three children. However group size should be combined with child-adult ratio to give higher processes quality.

Qualifications of staff are also placed among the top structural factors that determine quality. The staff participating in chid care vary in types of education where others have received only formal education like high school, college and university, some are specialised in early child hood while others are on training as they take care of the children. The quality education of care giver is a very strong indicator of the quality in child service. This applies to both home-based care and centre-based care, (Huntsman, 2008). The staff that is highly qualified in formal education and specialization in child care are less likely to be hold the traditional beliefs of child care and are more safe and clean. These care givers are also more conversant with current research as most centres still train their staff on the latest research technology to take care of recent generation of children and in the current economic situation, (Submission to the National Quality Framework for Early Education and Care: a discussion

paper, 2008). Staff that has majored in child care is contributes to quality especially in toddler and infant child care because they are more likely to provide a more stimulating environment for babies. Teaching staff who should be in attendance at any given time should be one if there are 30 to 40 children, 2 if the children are between 40 and 60, 3 for children above 60 but less that 80 and 4 if the children are more than 80. At least one enrolled nurse with TAFE or a registered nurse should be in contact with children below two years. Other staff qualifications include bachelor degree or diploma in early childhood education, other qualifications that are approved and also has other training that is approved, (NSW Children’s Services Regulation 2004).

Another structural factor determining quality is the staff stability, turnover and wages. Stability in child care services is associated with positive outcome in development of children because children create a bond between themselves and the staff making it easier to relate and communicate, (Blewitt, 2009). High staff turnover results to poor quality outcomes. Children who are under care of a few centres usually develops better that those with high number of care arrangement. It is thus important to give children a stable environment instead of keeping in changing from one care giver to another. Australia has a very high staff turnover which is related to the low wages paid on this kind of services. This can be attributed to the quality of education that was offered in the 1990s thus there was no need to pay staff that was poorly qualified. Low staff wages are related to quality of child care services while the wages relies on the qualification of staff, (Bigras et al, 2010). Due to this factor of education, many centres are offering extra training for their staff so that they can remain competent in this field and minimise the turnover to offer a more stable environment for a child to develop properly. It is difficult to say that one structural factor can be determined independently as the others have to be provided for that factor to be determined because all these factors contribute a share in the quality of children’s services.

Those wishing to provide child care services are required by the NSW Children’s Services Regulation 2004 to apply for licence which can be denied or approved. The grounds for refusal to grant the license may be due to lack of proper education like when that staff has not finished the necessary courses for child care. The applicant must also have the ability to take care and supervise the children and have at least a year’s experience in child care services. This is aimed at providing qualified staff to centres for child service so as to properly handle the current challenges presented by the technology world of today. Child care facilities should also have enough space where there can be an office, a place for staff and where children sleep. Play space should be provided both indoor and outdoor where any obstruction to staff or children should be removed. Children’s services should have laundry arrangements, sanitary facility and a food preparation facility (Azzi-Lessing, 2008).

Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model gives four kinds of environments that influence the development of a child. The first is the microsystem which is the environment close to the child and the child has direct contact with it. The structures in this environment include family, neighborhood, school or childcare. How the child affects the environment structures and how the environment structures affect that child brings about bi-directional influences. The mesosystem provides the link between the structures of the child’s microsystem. Like the relationship between parents and teachers or that between the neighborhood and the church. The exosystem comprise the larger social environment which does not involve direct contact with the child like the workplace of the parents. The structures in this environment affect the microsystem of the child thus indirectly affecting the child. Macrosystem is the outermost environment of a child encompassing customs, laws and cultural norms. The structures in this environment affect the other environments. For example, if in the culture the parents are supposed to take care of their children, the culture will not provide resources to help the parent which affects how the child will be raised depending on the ability of the parent. Chronosystem refers to time elements affecting the child like psychological changes during child development. As the children develop, they react differently to environments, (Paquette, &Ryan 2001).

Provisions for quality children’s services are provided by the legislation which offers information as to how factors affecting quality can be measured. The current status of economy is setting room for growth of child care services as people move away from the traditional house mother to a working mother. It is thus important that the important role played by a child in society is protected through proper and quality children’s services. This will ensure that parents are confident that their children will receive utmost care and attention to help them develop intellectually.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Azzi-Lessing, L. (2008) Quality support infrastructure in early childhood: Still (mostly)

missing, 1-7. Retrieved March 29, 2011, from, http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v11/azzi.html

 

 

Barnet, S. and Frede, E. (2010).The promise of preschool: Why we need education for all.

American Educator, 21-29.

 

 

Bigras, N., Bouchard, C., Cantin, G.,  Brunson, L., Coutu, S.,  Lemay, L., Tremblay, M.,

Japel, C and  Charron, A. (2010). A comparative study of structural and process quality in centre-based and family-based child care services.  Child & Youth Care Forum, 39(3),129-150,  DOI: 10.1007/s10566-009-9088-4

 

 

Blewitt, J. (2009) Promoting quality in children’s services. Community Care, 1787, 24-25.

Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace, (2010) Educators Guide to the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia,1-58

 

Huntsman, L, (2008). Determinants of quality in child care: a review of the research evidence

 

Hutchins, T., Frances, K. and Saggers, S. (2009) Australian indigenous perspectives on

quality assurance in children’s services Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 34(1), 10-19.

 

NCAC regulatory impact statement (RIS) response, 1-22

 

NSW Children’s Services Regulation (2004). Retrieved 29 March 2011, from,

http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/fullhtml/inforce/subordleg+260+2004+FIRST+0+N

 

Paquette, D and Ryan J, (2001) Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, retrieved 29

March 2011, from, http://pt3.nl.edu/paquetteryanwebquest.pdf

 

Policy Brief, (2006). Quality of children’s services. Retrieved 29 March 2011, from,

http://www.rch.org.au/emplibrary/ccch/PB2_Qual_childsrv.pdf

 

Stein, M. (2009), Quality matters in children’s services: messages from research, Jessica

Kingsley Publishers, UK

Submission to the National Quality Framework for Early Education and Care: a discussion

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