I am delighted to have Ruth Phillips Ferrier as my guest blogger. Ruth is the Co-ordinator of the Roving Caregivers Programme, St. Lucia. Here Ruth gives an overview of their outreach project which is very similar to the UK’s Outreach Sure Start programme.
ROVING CAREGIVERS PROGRAMME (RCP)
Saint Lucia Chapter
The Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) is an informal early childhood development initiative that seeks to reach children from birth to three years of age who do not have access to any formal early childhood development programme. The RCP aims to strengthen the care environment for these children through the provision of early stimulation educational sessions for children and their parents. The RCP addresses the developmental needs of the very young in disadvantaged conditions so that children can benefit from quality care and attention, development of basic skills, better health and nutrition and at the next level, better performance in pre-school and future education.
The RCP Saint Lucia Chapter forms part of a replication plan which is modelled along the lines of the programme in Jamaica. At present the RCP serves 402 families and 429 children within 30 communities in which there is inadequate access to Early Childhood Development (ECD) facilities/programmes.
In a region where available services in terms of day care and parenting support are not within reach of the poor, an informal home and family (and community) support model not only helps to meet a prime need but also becomes a stepping stone for families seeking access to other regular (social) services.
In addition, conditions of poverty, high incidences of teenage pregnancy, unemployment and single parent homes constitute the contexts in which these children are being raised. Consequently, these children enter school ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the academic expectations of the schools and failure experiences undermine their developing sense of esteem and confidence and, as such, increase the likelihood of the cycle of poverty repeating itself.
Well documented research shows poverty and lack of access to early childhood education place children on an unfavourable developmental trajectory. The RCP builds on a solid Caribbean history of home-based/community intervention as a way of reducing the chances of intellectual and social failure during the formative years. The RCP uses culturally and developmentally appropriate stimulation activities and materials with the purpose of improving parenting skills and altering child-rearing beliefs that would then prevent developmental lags identified in poor Caribbean children.
In Saint Lucia, the RCP experiences provide a social support system from which parents can build and maintain links and connections that may eventually benefit their families economically and socially. Also of great importance is the fact that exposure to early childhood activities and, in general, a focus on educating our children, will result in an educated and trained workforce in the long run. This, of course, can only have positive effects on our economy.
The RCP Core Working Principles are:-
- RCP focuses on rural, disadvantaged families and children.
- Training is the under-girding principle – children, parents, home visitors/community caregivers, who deliver the service and are called Rovers are all trained. Rovers are young persons from within the community and are treated as paraprofessionals equipped with basic knowledge of early childhood development principles. Rovers receive intensive and systematic training in preparation for their work with the targeted children and their parents. These training sessions are held on a weekly basis and focus on a multiplicity of child development, care and pharmacy and health issues as well as preparing the Rovers for their next week’s assignment with the children and their parents.
- Each Rover makes twice weekly visits to the families according to a pre-arranged schedule. The home visits are 45 minutes in duration and the Rover engages the parent and child in stimulation activities, as well as providing support to the parent through discussion and parenting tips.
- RCP holds monthly parenting workshops aimed at informing parents on effective parenting skills and practices and also provides a forum for the discussion of a wide range of child related topics such as rights, safety, nutrition and the over-all well-being of children. There is also a practical component where parents are required to produce various early stimulation materials for use with their child(ren). Parents are also encouraged to form parent support networks.
- Cost –effectiveness is a strong guiding principle. This adds to the market value of the service.
This is the first indigenous Caribbean Foundation established to ensure that disadvantaged Caribbean children are given a chance to realize their true potential, by accessing early childhood development programmes and services such as the RCP.
Photograph: RCP Parent and children engaged in an early literacy activity
To find out more about the RCP and if you are interested in ensuring the continuity of this programme in Saint Lucia, you can contact us at:
You can also visit the website:
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