Family matters in the Northern Rivers region

Having a strong support network means that opportunities to connect and learn are endless for Northern Rivers Family Day Care educators and the children they care for.

15 Northern Rivers Family Day Care staff stand in line out the front of their office sign. One woman on the right towards the back holds a flag with a large red heart in the centre. 15 Northern Rivers Family Day Care staff stand in line out the front of their office sign. One woman on the right towards the back holds a flag with a large red heart in the centre.
Image: Northern Rivers Family Day Care staff were gifted a flag – crafted with love – by the local community after returning to their office after the 2022 floods.

After experiencing a few challenging years, Northern Rivers Children’s Services understands the vital importance of supporting its educators. It’s been almost 18 months since, amidst the pandemic, devastating floods impacted NSW’s Northern Rivers region and the area is still on a journey of recovery and rebuilding.

Thankfully, educators who work with the family day care (FDC) provider have a strong network they can lean on for practical, emotional and professional support during difficult times and from day to day, too.

Support from day dot

Ensuring its educators and staff are well supported has long been a priority for the provider, which operates as Northern Rivers Family Day Care. Trainee educators are introduced to the provider’s supportive and collaborative ways of working from day one, when they are paired with a mentor and spend the day shadowing the educator at their service.

This initial training allows new educators to experience an average day in an FDC setting and seek advice from their mentor before they start delivering care in their own homes. The mentors stay in contact with new educators and provide ongoing support as needed.

Benefits of meaningful connections

Northern Rivers Family Day Care continues to support its educators throughout their careers by creating opportunities for them to connect and forge meaningful relationships with their peers (Standard 7.2).

Having a strong support network is essential for FDC educators, shared Cathie Pickford, Service Director of Northern Rivers Family Day Care Lismore. “Their service is their own business – they can feel isolated,” she said. “Educators, generally, do not have anyone else at their service as an immediate back up if things go wrong.”

“Other family day care educators understand what it’s like to be a family day care educator. They can relate to the incidents and issues that arise in the day to day running of their service. When they connect with each other, they exchange ideas, resources, strategies and support each other.”

Northern Rivers Children’s Services is on hand to facilitate informal networking activities, like excursions or playgroups, CEO Jane Isenhood shared. A permanent playgroup officer helps coordinate outings and activities, while the FDC coordination unit assists educators with conducting risk assessments. Educators and children also use Northern Rivers Children’s Services’ bus to visit venues and events, including the library, koala hospital and local festivals.

“Some of our educators also host get-togethers on a Saturday to share and make resources, which is also a wonderful way to connect,” Jane added.

Networking with their peers doesn’t just benefit educators, it offers endless learning opportunities for children too, explained Cathie. By connecting with other educators and little learners (Element 6.2.3), children foster a sense of belonging and being part of the community. They’re also exposed to new ideas, different approaches, environments and experiences, like making new friends and learning about turn-taking.

Strength in numbers

The family day care provider also organises formal networking events for educators, including online and in-person workshops (Element 4.2.1). “They often brainstorm different ideas and strategies for problems and hear different perspectives from other family day care educators,” Cathie shared when speaking about the benefits of these interactions for educators. “This can help each other to stay motivated.”

Service leaders and coordinators also regularly check in with educators over the phone, online or in person to provide support and maintain connection. “Our scheme will send a coordinator out to our family day care educator’s service to assist with incidents if needed,” Cathie shared. “Many coordinators have also been FDC educators before and have a great understanding and empathy for the unique situations FDC educators face.”

Ongoing support

Many of the educators and staff who work for the family day care provider, as well as the children and families they provide care for, experience ongoing mental health impacts from the floods in early 2022. Some were displaced from their homes and have since been able to starting rebuilding. Others have not yet been able to return home.

Despite losing their Lismore office in the floods, coordinators from Northern Rivers Family Day Care continued visiting their allocated educators on a fortnightly basis in the aftermath of the floods to assist in any way they could. They continue to support educators as recovery efforts continue.

The wellbeing of their educators, children and families is a priority for the service, which has engaged mental health professionals to provide counselling for those experiencing ongoing trauma. Staff have also completed mental health first aid training so they can provide additional support for children, families and the FDC community in the Northern Rivers.

6 women sit on the floor around a low table with food and printed pieces of paper on the table. 6 women sit on the floor around a low table with food and printed pieces of paper on the table.
Image: Some Northern River Family Day Care educators host get-togethers over the weekend to share and develop resources.
  • News
Return to top of page Back to top