Fenton, A. & McFarland, L. (2018). Building early childhood educators’ capacity to apply a strengths approach to working with vulnerable families and children. NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 21(2), 19-31.
Original Research Paper
Building early childhood educators’ capacity to apply a strengths approach to working with vulnerable families and children
Angela Fenton and Laura McFarland
Charles Sturt University, Australia
This paper investigates the use of a strengths approach by early childhood educators when working with vulnerable children and families. The paper examines existing strengths approach literature and research and draws on findings from an evaluation of a small-scale project to implement a strengths approach to working with children and families within a regional Australian early childhood service. The project included theoretical development aimed to clearly define and introduce the strengths approach and modelling of a range of practical strategies for addressing complex issues. Survey and EView (electronic interview) findings revealed that at this localised level, educators felt positive about using explicit and implicit strengths approach strategies in their work with children and families. Factors reported as being important to implementation were a “mind-shift” about working with families; noticing an implicit strengths approach; and acknowledgement of “human resources” as well as physical resources. Participants reported that continued development and connections with community agencies would help to sustain their use of a strengths approach. The findings from the nuanced study were supported by the wider review of existing literature and together provide positive encouragement for further in-depth research regarding the use of strengths approaches in early childhood contexts.
Key words: Strengths based approach, vulnerable children, teacher practice, evaluation.
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