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Academic Paper, 2013, 46 Pages
2. Developing a Concept of Effective Engagement
3. Ethnicity and Effective Engagement - Research Evidence from the Early Years
Effective Engagement and Sensitive Service Design
4. Integrated Children’s Centres – The Background
5. Turning to Practice: Engaging Effectively with Somali Parents
Preliminary Remarks and Methodology
Service Engagement of Somali Parents – External Factors
Service Engagement of Somali Parents – Centres’ Response
6. Concluding remarks
7. Annex: Foundation Stage Profile Results 2009 for the Observed Area
Inspired by discourses on social justice and human investment, the situation of children and their families has moved to the forefront of scientific and political attention in recent years. Across Western countries, there has been increased concern about the decisive impact, family factors, such as social class, household structure and ethnicity, have on a child’s development, well-being and future life opportunities (Moss 1992; Anning and Ball 2008).
Assessments of children from deprived or black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds consistently show significant deficits in cognitive, social and physical development compared to white middle-class peers even before entering school (Sammons et al. 1999; Feinstein 2003; Strand 2008). BME children thereby often suffer a double disadvantage of deprivation and difference (SEU 2001, Craig 2007). International evidence, however, suggests that adverse contextual effects can be considerably mediated through high-quality Early Years provision and good at-home parenting (Pugh 1992; Desforges 2003; Melhuish 2004; Sylva et al. 2004; Zoritch et al. 2004).
As a cornerstone of the government’s Every Child Matters strategy, the Sure Start programme, initiated in 1998, builds on area-based multi-sector services comprising childcare, early education, health and family support to provide accessible, targeted and comprehensive services for children in pre-school age and their families. Developing partnerships with parents to help children achieve their full potential is an explicit objective. Yet, the National Evaluation of Sure Start Local Programmes (NESS) and first evidence from their successors Integrated Children’s Centres (ICCs) point to significant difficulties in reaching BME families (National Audit Office 2006; Belsky et al. 2007; Anning and Ball 2008; Craig 2008). This raises serious concerns about the appropriateness of service provision for this target group.
The following essay seeks to explore conditions for engaging effectively with BME parents in ICCs. The first section establishes a concept of effective engagement encompassing accessibility, inclusion and outcome dimensions. Drawing on existing research on ethnicity and Early Years provision, the second section provides a framework of individual and structural determinants of effectiveness, which is subsequently applied to the specific conditions related to ICCs.
Given the significant diversity of BME groups and the limitedness of existing research on their experience, general considerations will then be compared with findings from a case study of Somali parents undertaken in a London locality from January to June 2010. In order to develop a more profound understanding of the underlying processes and conditions, a qualitative approach has thereby been pursued, combining documentary analysis with participant observation and semi-structured elite interviews. It will then be contended that while individual, ethno-specific and environmental factors often create additional challenges for engaging effectively with BME parents, those can be overcome through culturally sensitive services provided by well-trained and committed staff as well as their appropriate endowment with financial resources and time to build up trusting relationships. There are, however, indications that the ability of staff to respond to the specific needs of BME parents is constrained by tensions arising from the rapid expansion of service provision as well as the underlying target culture and performance management model.