The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) will pilot a new system of support for low income and vulnerable children, to enable them to have a good start in life. The new initiative, called KidSTART, will coordinate and strengthen support across agencies, extend new forms of support, and monitor the progress of these children from birth to six years old.
Research has shown that experiences in the early years of a child’s life can significantly influence his physical, cognitive and social development. Strong parent-child relationship and holistic early childhood development bring about positive impact on the child’s lifelong outcomes. KidSTART aims to support the provision of a conducive environment for the development of low-income and vulnerable children in their early years so as to give them a good start.
Through KidSTART, families requiring additional support will be proactively identified. Their children will be provided with early access to appropriate health, learning and developmental support. Parents will be supported and equipped with parenting knowledge and resources to nurture the child at home, through home visits, parent education and/or family support programmes. Selected pre-schools will also provide additional support and work with parents, to better support the child through his pre-school years and his transition to primary school. The families will also be linked up with existing community resources for additional assistance, based on their needs.
1,000 children living in the pilot sites - Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai - are expected to benefit from KidSTART when the pilot starts in the second half of 2016. This pilot will allow ECDA to test the implementation of the system with different partners, and tap on the unique make-up and resources available to support vulnerable children in these local communities. It will also allow ECDA to evaluate and refine the delivery model before evaluating whether KidSTART should be offered in more areas, and if so, the most feasible approach. ECDA has set up a programme office to work with government agencies, and selected Social Service Offices, hospitals and community partners to implement KidSTART.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is KidSTART for?
KidSTART seeks to support infants and young children aged up to six years old, from vulnerable and low income families, whose parents or primary caregivers require additional knowledge, skills and resources to nurture and develop their children’s potential.
How are children identified for KidSTART? Can families sign up for KidSTART?
For a start, ECDA will work with key partners, such as hospitals, Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres or pre-schools to identify and reach out to families with infants and young children who can benefit from KidSTART. Partners will contact suitable families to inform them about KidSTART, and seek their participation.
Families requiring assistance can continue to tap on the existing programmes and services that support children and families in need. For example, they can approach the Social Service Offices, if they require social assistance. They may also contact pre-schools or ECDA if they require a pre-school place.
What types of support will families receive from KidSTART?
Families on KidSTART will receive a range of support depending on their needs and available resources. This may include:
(a) Systematic coordination of existing resources available to children from birth to 6 years old, e.g. basic immunisations and health checks, pre-school placement and assistance to attend pre-school;
(b) Parenting resources to provide parents or the primary caregiver with sufficient knowledge on nurturing the child, equipping them with the skills to care for and support their child’s development. This could include support provided through home visits or parent support groups; and
(c) Support to selected pre-schools to systematically engage and support parents with skills to support their children’s development. These could include parenting workshops, reading programmes, and closer monitoring and support of the child in the pre-school. Existing support programmes, such as the Developmental Support Programme (DSP) and the Focused Language Assistance in Reading Programme (FLAIR) will be part of the system of support offered.
How are the pilot areas selected?
As we are piloting a new approach, we will start small and focussed. KidSTART will be piloted in Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai. These areas provide some coverage across the country that will allow us to test out the implementation of the system with different partners. It will also allow us to tap on the unique make-up and resources available to support vulnerable children in the different local communities.
Will KidSTART be available to children with special needs?
There is an existing system of support for children with special needs. Children identified by KidSTART with special needs, will be linked up to the relevant services and programmes to ensure their particular needs can be addressed.
Can families staying outside the pilot areas benefit from KidSTART?
As we are piloting a new approach, we will start small and focussed. KidSTART will be piloted in Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai. For other areas, other existing programmes and services supporting early childhood development are available and accessible to parents of young children. These include free childhood immunisations, well-child checks and learning support programmes in the pre-schools. There are also various pre-school subsidies to help low-income parents defray the cost of pre-school. Families can also approach relevant social service agencies, such as the Social Service Offices if they require social assistance.
How much will KidSTART cost? What is the cost per child?
The pilot is expected to cost more than $20 million. The cost per child will depend on the services and programmes required by the child based on his/her needs. This could range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars each year, for support ranging from provision of parenting resources to parent support groups or regular home visits.