Conference hears of critical roles in parenting

Representatives from the East Antrim area who attended the Northern Childcare Partnership conference included (left from right): Karen Jenkins, Glenroe Preschool, Larne; Margaret Armstrong, Horizon Surestart; Thomas O'Neill, CNAG; key speaker Adrienne Burgess, Fatherhood Institute; and Jenny Adair, Northern Childcare Partnership.
Representatives from the East Antrim area who attended the Northern Childcare Partnership conference included (left from right): Karen Jenkins, Glenroe Preschool, Larne; Margaret Armstrong, Horizon Surestart; Thomas O'Neill, CNAG; key speaker Adrienne Burgess, Fatherhood Institute; and Jenny Adair, Northern Childcare Partnership.

Delegates from Mid and East Antrim have heard that both mothers and fathers have a critical role to play in helping children grow and develop.

They were attending the recent annual Northern Childcare Partnership Conference to more than 200 early years representatives from day care nurseries, Sure Start projects, preschool and school aged childcare groups.

Delegates from the borough and the wider Northern region heard how parents, as prime educators, play a crucial role in their children’s development until they attend an early years setting or start school and they remain a major influence on their children’s learning throughout school and beyond.

Recent studies suggest that it is not only mothers but fathers too who can help ensure positive outcomes for their children. Since the 1970s, the number of fathers taking care of young children has increased dramatically and they now contribute one third of direct care, compared with mothers who contribute two-thirds. However, there is substantial variation in the extent to which both parents participate in developmental activities with their young children.

Keynote speaker, Adrienne Burgess, Fatherhood Institute Chief Executive said: “Fathers have long been the forgotten contributors to child development and are possibly the greatest underused resource in children’s lives today.

“It is inspiring to see such commitment to engaging with them, alongside their child’s mother, from the children’s earliest years.” Debbie Greaves, Senior Social Worker, Western Health and Social Care Trust, introduced the concept of ‘sharenting’ to delegates.

Sharenting is the term used when parents share information or photographs about their children online. Debbie described how parents should be mindful of what impact their ‘sharenting’ can have on their children both now and in the future.

The conference was organised by the Northern Childcare Partnership which was established through the Health and Social Care Board to promote the development of services for local children through an interagency partnership approach involving statutory, voluntary and community organisations.

Jenny Adair, Northern Childcare Partnership Manager said: “The conference provided an excellent opportunity for early years practitioners to explore the importance of parental engagement in the delivery of services.

“Early years, childcare settings, schools and communities should be open to involving fathers and mothers in the work that they do and in creating effective partnerships with them”.