Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good morning. I am happy to join you today at Circle of Care’s Early Childhood Development Conference 2023, to celebrate the 10-year journey of the Circle of Care (CoC) project supported by Care Corner Singapore.
2 In Singapore, we want all families, including lower-income families, to achieve Stability, Self-reliance and Social mobility. As seen in the recently unveiled Forward SG report, social mobility is one key goal for Singapore. It is also the hope of professionals here today as you help families overcome their challenges, so that they and their children work towards a better future.
Importance of Supporting Child Development
3 An important place to start when strengthening social mobility is with the children. The early years of a child’s life are critical for their development. Unfortunately, in many disadvantaged families, children may not receive a conducive environment for their development in early years. The gaps in development between them and their peers can widen over the years, unless something is done upstream to give them a better start.
Importance of Partnerships for Integrated Support
4 Another key ingredient for effective assistance is to provide integrated support to these disadvantaged families, who face complex and interlocking challenges. One organisation may interact with one family member, while another serves another family member, when in reality, their issues are interrelated. We need to work together, to ensure that families are supported optimally and in a consistent manner.
5 As sector partners, your efforts help influence child outcomes positively. For example, early childhood educators are instrumental in nurturing children’s social-emotional development. Social work professionals can advocate for the needs and rights of the child amidst competing family challenges. Healthcare professionals can contribute to greater public awareness of maternal mental health and access to support.
6 Collectively, the impact is multiplied as we work together to provide holistic care and education to children from lower-income families,
7 Based on these two principles, the Government has embarked on measures to support children from lower income families through the KidSTART programme. The KidSTART programme empowers lower income families to build strong foundations for their children that foster positive child outcomes. Through regular home visits and sharing of evidence-based strategies, KidSTART practitioners enhance caregivers’ capability in forging attachments to their children and in parent-child interactions that stimulate the children’s development. They also support children in meeting age-appropriate child developmental milestones.
8 KidSTART also works closely with Community Link or Comlink to provide integrated support to children and their families. While KidSTART practitioners provide specialist child development support, Comlink Family Coaches provide other forms of support, like children’s enrolment into preschools and looking into the needs of the families.
Achievement of CoC in the past decade
9 The beliefs in the importance of early childhood development and integrated support are also shared by partners in the CoC programme, which provides support to children from low-income families in preschools. In the past decade, the CoC programme has supported over 1,100 children through its holistic preschool care model.
10 CoC is made possible by the close collaboration of all partners here today from the social work, early childhood, and healthcare sectors. All of you play critical roles alongside parents and caregivers in building strong foundations for our children. In fact, the theme of today’s conference, ‘In the Making: Uniting Systems, Supporting Childhood’, shows the importance all of you place in effective partnership for the children and their families.
11 I am pleased to note that the CoC has piloted several interdisciplinary partnerships. This includes the Health Development Support in Preschool Partnerships (HEADSUPP) programme. This is a collaboration between CoC and National University Health System. HEADSUPP aims to enhance maternal and child health by providing health and development screening and support for low-income families at the early stages.
12 CoC had also trained Child Enabling Executives to deliver the Enhanced Support to Preschools component of KidSTART. Indeed, Care Corner has been a valued community partner in the expansion of the KidSTART programme.
13 To conclude, I would like to reiterate Government’s commitment to strengthen upstream support for children from lower-income families, in their homes, the community, and preschool settings. This is to be done through partnerships that provide integrated support to families and their children. Collectively, community players such as CoC and Care Corner help to strengthen the eco-system for national programmes like KidSTART, as they have similar objectives of achieving good outcomes for children.
14 All of us play a part in building strong foundations for our children. Let us continue to work together to empower the lives of our children, help families progress in life and create a more equitable society.
15 Thank you.