It’s time to step up our game: Promoting ‘Baby Love’
Guest Blogger: Catherine Rushforth: National Consultant and trainer in Safeguarding and Child Protection.
It is an exciting time in the early years’ sector. Key publications, point to us as those who will be instrumental in making the shift into new ways of working possible. Central to this change is way that we :
– recognise strong emotional attachment between very young children and their parents
– intervene early where we see that this attachment is shaky, perhaps inconsistent or appears to be missing completely.
In this blog I will run through why a strong attachment is so essential for children’s development, outline our professional role in assisting parents to build on this key relationship and make a call for all early years’ practitioners to upgrade their practice in this vitally important area.
We know from rapid development in neuroscience that a baby’s brain development is directly effected by the quality of the attachment or bond between the baby and their parents. The most critical time for the growth of attachment is between the early stages of pregnancy through to 18 months. In my opinion this is why we should have our most well-informed competent, confident practitioners working within baby provision. These emotionally warm, sensitive practitioners are those best placed to help parents to strengthen and build on their relationship to their baby. They are also in a position to make early observations of the relationship, to pick up signs that the parents may not be as well ‘tuned into’ their baby as we would expect and to offer ‘early help’, as Professor Eileen Munro referred to in her review of child protection services.
The link made in the quality of attachment between the baby and her parents and child protection might seem like a rather big and alarming leap. We know from extensive research however that the weaker the attachment, the greater likelihood of neglect or abuse towards the baby.
On the other hand where we offer ‘early help’ the outcomes are extremely positive for the baby and their parents. On a practical level, this might include us :
actively assisting a socially isolated, lone parent who is low on self confidence to build a warm, responsive relationship with her baby
supporting parents to access their health visitor or GP where we believe the mum might be suffering post-natal depression
encouraging new dads to come along to Saturday morning music-making (or other activities) with their babies
arranging baby massage or baby yoga sessions for parents
putting on brief workshops to help promote social and early language skills
It is essential to recognise that the early help that we offer to parents in assisting to build strong emotional attachment to their children is our professional responsibility and a key part of our early safeguarding work. Indeed failing to provide this ‘tuned in’, warm and nurturing encouragement to parents in my opinion amounts to a failure in our professional role.
I strongly encourage you to upgrade your professional practice this November. Make it your ‘Baby Love’ month. Locate some key text on the importance of attachment. This might include some whole team reading; discussing it in this month’s practitioner meeting and agreeing how you will share it with parents. I recommend:
Early Intervention : The Next Steps – Graham Allen MP (Chapter 2)
The Key Person Approach – Jenny Lindon (Chapter 1) – Pre-School Books
Order a copy of Attachment in Practice CD – Siren Films
‘Your partner for excellence in safeguarding children’
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28th October 2011