Family resource programs (FRPs) are community-centered organizations that through close partnership with other service providers “create a web of supportive services for families” (FRP, 2013, p. 1). The Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs (FRP Canada) recognizes guiding principles of the organizations that include, but are not limited to, building supportive relationships, promoting diversity, increasing opportunities, advocating non-violence, enhancing family literacy, and furthering community development (FRP, n.d.). The number of communities that opted for FRPs as the model of choice for developing their communities is constantly on the rise.
This trend is associated with the widespread acceptance of the notion that by supporting “parents as a means of promoting children’s development” (Kyle & Kellerman, n.d., p. 16), it is possible to improve a wellbeing of society as a whole. FRPs allow expanding narrow focus on children to include families, thereby recognizing that the problems they face often have root in the external conditions that can and should be controlled with the help of community and group resources. This approach to early childhood development is especially important since during the last decade there has been a significant increase in the level of mother’s labor force participation, which means that there is a need of early childhood training programs that would be able to address all community needs (ECEC, 2008).
The aim of this paper is to analyze a case study and examine the incentives and motivations of the study participant for using the FRP. The analysis will include the exploration of the major themes, theories, and principles associated with the provision of family support through FRPs.
Motivation and Key Challenges
Zara is a woman in her mid-thirties who immigrated to Canada two years ago (Case Study, n.d.). The woman is a mother of two children—a three-year-old girl and two-and-a-half-month-old baby (Case Study, n.d.). Even though the participant of the study has been attending the program for less than a month, she already feels a part of a tight-knit community comprised of other parents and staff. She reports that the program creators make one feel important and she is happy to have an opportunity to visit a center. Zara states that her children learn the importance of personal hygiene by being provided with an example of other participants of the FRP washing their hands. The woman appreciates the fact that her three-year-old daughter is provided access to creative toys; therefore, she brings her to the center three days a week. Zara notices that the engagement in creative activities in the center leads to the unleashing of her daughter’s creative energies at home. The girl is “proud of what she has made” and “is getting into the habit of being creative” (Case Study, n.d., p. 1).
Another incentive for Zara to participate in the program is the development of communication skills of her children. The woman reports that the center is a perfect environment for her daughter to engage in an active interaction with other children of her age as well as adult staff members. The ability to build relationships with other parents serves as an additional motivation for Zara to use the FRP. She shares her experiences of child upbringing with the FRP community and carefully listens to the feedback provided by other mothers, thereby increasing a chance of finding effective solutions to her problems. Moreover, professional caregivers at the center always have a valuable insight into challenges that a mother can face while dealing with young children. The woman finds the experience of interacting with other parents and staff at the FRP center to be positive and supportive. Taking into consideration the fact that she has to deal with a challenge of raising two children, one of which is an energetic toddler, extra help that she receives from professional caregivers allows her to have much-needed time for herself. Furthermore, by interacting with other parents, she receives social support and acquires social capital, which can be considered main prerequisites for building a close-knit community.
Family Support Principles
Zara’s focus on the importance of experiential learning is supported by the findings of early childhood development experts who believe that early experiences and contexts of children’s daily lives have enormous influence on the development of their brains (McCain, Mustard, & McCuaig, 2011). Neuroscientists also believe that even though biological underpinnings of brain functions serve as powerful drivers of human behavior, the environment can influence the way certain alleles are expressed. In other words, gene regulation is a process that is responsive to the variation in the environmental factors. According to McCain et al. (2011), “who our parents are, our health at birth and how we live, eat and play as young children all have an impact on our adult life” (p. 28). A large body of evidence garnered by biological and social scientists suggests that there is no actual chasm between nature and nurture: both environment and genetic influences play equally important role in the development of an individual (McCain et al., 2011).
Nurture is an essential stimulator that influences numerous functions of DNA, thereby altering epigenetics or gene expression. The change in treatment during an early childhood period can result in substantial personality differences between identical twins. Therefore, Zara is correct in assuming that exceptional nurturance provided to her children in the FRP will be positively associated with their empowerment and development. By engaging in meaningful interactions with the center members, her children learn how to mediate new experiences, regulate their emotions, and behaviors (Ontario Public Service, 2014). They become highly attuned to the quality of those interactions and develop positive responses to early environmental stimuli. A case in point is infatuation of the three-year-old girl with creative pursuits. It is safe to assume that the girl receives a fair amount of positive reinforcement for painting, which is considered a desired behavior, from professional caregivers at the center. All children pay keen attention to praise and seek effective ways to access reinforcement; therefore, her behavior at the FRP spills over to the activities she tends to pursue at home (McCain et al., 2011).
Zara is also right in assuming that the participation in the program facilitates the development of communication skills of her children. By bringing her children to the center, the mother provides them with a wide variety of interactive venues such as active motor play, imaginative play, and collective art projects among others (Essa, 2012). Natural curiosity of preschool children helps them to form friendships, thereby strengthening their communication skills. Through meaningful peer interactions, children become confident in their ability to initiate new activities. They also learn how to resolve disagreements with their peers by adopting new perspectives or regrouping (Essa, 2012). It is especially important because at this stage of cognitive development, young children learn to share and use verbal means of communication instead of immature physical approaches, thereby building a “foundation for more sophisticated relationships in primary school” (Essa, 2012, p. 46).
It is necessary to note that a socioeconomic status of a family has a bearing on the development of vocabulary in young children. The findings of Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey for Children and Youth reveal that “children who are poor are more likely to have difficulties and less likely to be advanced than children in higher income family groups” (McCain et al., 2011, p. 55). Taking into consideration the fact that low literacy rates are positively correlated with health problems, it is extremely important to make sure that children have nurturing environments for learning that are not always present at their homes. FRPs can serve as an effective mechanism for solving this problem because their main focus is on “primary prevention and the promotion of health and well-being, particularly for young families” (Kyle & Kellerman, n.d., p. 14). Even though there are substantial differences between various programs, they all share similar theoretical underpinnings and approaches: building communities and engaging families. By having a clear view of the main family support principles, I will become an early childhood education professional who is able to recognize the key needs of struggling families as well as effectively respond to them.
After carefully analyzing the case study, it became clear that its participant is motivated by the promotion of health and wellbeing of her children as well as building meaningful relationships with other members of her community. The provision of family support through FRPs is associated with concepts such as social capital, family engagement, empowerment, and building a community among others.
Case Study. (n.d).
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FRP. (2013). How Canada’s family resource programs contribute to integrated early childhood and community support systems. Web.
FRP. (n.d.). What is a family support program? Web.
Kyle, I., & Kellerman, M. (n.d.). Case studies of Canadian family resource programs: Supporting families, children & communities. Web.
McCain, M., Mustard, J., & McCuaig, K. (2011). Yearly years study 3: Making decision, taking action. Toronto, Canada: Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation.
Ontario Public Service. (2014). How does learning happen? Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years. Web.