The birth of a newborn baby brings forth many emotions, but when coupled with confronting issues like poverty, illiteracy, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence situations can spiral out of control.
According to Beyond Blue, post-natal depression affects 16 per cent women giving birth in Australia.
Prior to 2005 there was a significant deficit in the skill level of the children attending Challiss Kindy and Pre-primary, the only way to close the gap was through the development of the Challis Parenting and Early Leaning Centre.
It would be the start of life changing journey for many parents.
“We tackled ages 0-4, to get parents in and educate them, to ensure they were giving their child the best opportunities. We just flood them with services. Not all parents are engaged and there are some we need to bring back in, but we have a lot who are engaging and tapping into the service they need,” said Deputy and member Louise O’Donovan.
Mother of two, Samantha Fogg has been a childcare worker for 11 years and her nine-month-old baby is a part of the Early Leaning Centre.
Here she can attend weekly workshops with like mums that focus on the developmental stages of young children, have access to speech therapy, three-year-old kindy, supported playgroups, occupational therapists and more.
“It’s excellent that the school/community provides this. It should be offered at more schools, because there is so many mums out there struggling, especially for single parents who don’t have the help available,” she said.
Child health Nurse Kate Rowland runs the workshops and explains the challenges they face. “We have lots of single parents attend and also families in very transient relationships, blended families are a huge issue here.”
Looking to the parents to find the issues of concern when determining what workshops to run, Kate said they are also looking at different strategies to engage more fathers in the program.
“It’s a hard for a parent to help their child do their reading every night if their parent is illiterate.”
Early Learning Centre coordinator, Jackie Ivanack works closely with Louise to coordinate the services and the free of charge crèche for parents attending workshops that are now funded by the Health Department and the DoE.
“Its all about early intervention, I think the beauty about our model, is that we don’t work in isolation, the child health nurse and the speech therapist work together. Home lives can be shocking, we aren’t making excuses for background or socio economic circumstances, but it does manifest itself in behavior. It’s important to get in early and iron out these issues, before the gap gets bigger, because it can just grow, especially for our indigenous population,” said Louise.
Pre-primary data proves that they are closing the gap with the transitioning of 0-4 year olds into kindy and pre-primary.
Louise said begin small and assess what services are available in your community and liaise with them.
Ensure you are meeting the needs of your community and engage parents in the simple things you can do with little money.
For what began with just a playgroup, a spare classroom on a Friday morning and a $500 donation to buy toys, the doors have opened for many parents in need.