KidSTART is a programme led by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) to enable children from low-income families to have a good start in life. Under KidSTART, ECDA will provide new forms of support for child development, coordinate and strengthen holistic services for families where needed, and monitor the developmental progress of children from birth onwards.
According to research, experiences in the early years can significantly influence a child's physical, cognitive and social development and shape his or her lifelong outcomes. Parents under KidSTART will be supported to ensure that their children benefit from warm and nurturing relationships, age-appropriate and holistic child development, and a safe and secure home environment to grow up in.
Since its announcement by Minister (Social and Family Development), Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, KidSTART has been progressively rolled out since July 2016. The three-year pilot is expected to benefit about 1,000 children living in the pilot regions of Kreta Ayer/Bukit Merah, Taman Jurong/Boon Lay and Geylang Serai.
Eligibility Criteria of KidSTART
The eligibility criteria of KidSTART are:
- Singapore Citizen children aged up to 6 years old
- Low-income household
- Residing in one of the pilot regions
ECDA works with key partners such as the Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres and hospitals to identify and reach out to families with infants and young children who can benefit from KidSTART. Partners may contact suitable families to inform them about KidSTART, and seek their participation.
Approach to Implement KidSTART
The approach to implement KidSTART is underpinned by the following:
- Start small. We are starting small to test the implementation of the programme in selected sites and better understand what works. Based on our experience and results, we will refine the service model for possible roll out to subsequent areas.
- Child-focused and parents as partners. The child is the focus of our interventions. Our multi-disciplinary approach integrate efforts across the key domains of health, learning and development to support the child's holistic development in the early years. Engaging parents is an important aspect of our programme given their crucial role in the child's development.
- In familiar settings. Studies have shown that a child's immediate environments significantly influence his development and overall well-being. Hence, the components of support under KidSTART are delivered in a child's most familiar settings - the home, community and the pre-school.
An ecosystem of support. KidSTART recognises the importance of addressing other 'systems' that impact the child's wellbeing. For example, KidSTART officers work closely with Family Service Centres and Social Service Offices to engage the parents and integrate support. KidSTART focuses on enhancing child development and parent-child interactions, and complements the support provided by these partners for these families. KidSTART will also tap on the unique strengths and resources in pilot areas to co-create models and encourage community participation, such as in the area of outreach and running of local programmes.
KidSTART Programme Components
KidSTART is made up of three key programme components: KidSTART Home Visitation, KidSTART Groups (Supported Playgroups), and KidSTART Enhanced Support to Pre-schools. All programme components are set in a child's familiar setting and designed to cater to the different stages of development.
a. KidSTART Home Visitation Programme
What is it? This consists of regular home visits to parents (or main caregivers) and their infants, from antenatal stage until the child is three years old. Parents will receive support in skills and practical knowledge across areas of child growth, development, health and nutrition. Regular screening of the child's development and maternal well-being across the antenatal and postnatal stages over a period of 3 years will also be conducted to identify and treat issues early. In addition, group-based activities called 'Group Connect' are organised for parents to provide peer support and reinforce learning from home visits.
Depending on the family's needs, the child will also be enrolled into an appropriate pre-school programme.
ECDA has partnered KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) to jointly deliver the HVP. This leverages the mutual strengths across the health and early childhood domains for a multi-disciplinary approach to KidSTART.
Who conducts these visits? Depending on the point of intake, these visits will be undertaken either by home visitors from KKH or ECDA. Home visitors are professionals with qualifications and/or relevant experience in sectors such as health, early childhood or social services. They are supported by other multi-disciplinary professionals, such as pediatricians and nurses, to ensure that the home visitors are able to address the needs of parents and children.
b. KidSTART Groups (Supported Playgroups)
What is it? These are weekly community-based playgroup sessions for parents or main caregivers and their toddlers, aged 1 to 3 years old at the point of entry into KidSTART Groups. These sessions are based on the Supported Playgroups concept , and seek to build up parental skills in child development and parent-child bonding through an evidence-based curricula of structured and purposeful play.
Parents are provided with educational resources to reinforce their learning at home. KidSTART Group facilitators conduct home visits for families who need additional support. Children requiring pre-school placement are supported to find an appropriate pre-school programme.
Who conducts these sessions? The curriculum is delivered by ECDA-trained facilitators who have past experience working with young children and families.
c. KidSTART Enhanced Support to Pre-schools
What is it? This is a model of support piloted in selected Anchor Operator pre-schools operated by PAP Community Foundation and NTUC First Campus. Selected centres are provided with additional resources to improve engagement with and support for parents, and to improve the child's school readiness. This may include addressing barriers related to poor pre-school attendance and referrals to other support programmes to ensure their children's developmental needs are addressed. Eligible children who are currently enrolled in these pre-schools will be included in this component.
Who delivers the support? Child Enabling Executives are deployed to the selected preschools to work closely with the teachers, parents, and local community partners to build a strong network of support for KidSTART children.
Updates on roll out
Since July 2016, ECDA has progressively rolled out the KidSTART components in the pilot areas. As of June 2017, over 400 children are receiving KidSTART support.
Based on our interactions, parents generally appreciate the value of early childhood development and share the desire for their young children to have a good start in life. However, many are not sure how to nurture their children. KidSTART staff have been working with these parents with practical guidance and support.
Feedback from families have been positive and encouraging. Parents say that they feel better supported and more confident in their parenting skills. Parents also shared that they were better able to engage their child.
In addition, community partners have also been strongly supportive of KidSTART. This is an important success factor and we hope to collaborate with more partners to provide support to KidSTART families.
During this pilot phase, ECDA will continue to test and refine the use of evidence-based programmes, duration of support, modes of delivery and other aspects of implementation to ensure that the programme makes a sustained and positive impact on the children. ECDA will provide updates of KidSTART at appropriate junctures.