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Early Years Case Studies

Meet Early Start Leader Jo 

Jo is the Early Start Team Leader for the Family Support Service in Watford and Three Rivers - we asked her about her career so far.

Can you describe your journey into being a Team Leader in the Family Support Service?

After training to be a Legal Secretary at college, I worked for a large law firm in London as a Personal Assistant to one of the partners and then to the Legal Director an in-house legal department for a large hotel chain.  My career working with children and families began after having my own 2 children and volunteering at the local Nursery, where I soon became a Practitioner.  I enjoyed being with the children and helping them to learn and develop, but found that the most rewarding part of the job was supporting parents and the wider family.  When I saw a role advertised as Outreach Worker for a Children’s Centre I applied, and this began my career in Children’s Centre/Family Centres.  I am now a Team Lead for the Early Start Team within the Watford & Three Rivers Family Support Service, leading a team of Early Start Workers to support children and families to have the best start in life.

What support do you get from your employer? 

InspireAll are an incredibly supportive employer in terms of wellbeing not just within the workplace.  The gym membership and other staff benefits contribute to a feeling of wellbeing and work/life balance.  As well as regular support from my Manager, I also find the support from my colleagues and the Senior Leadership Team invaluable to ensure that as a team lead my team feel well supported by me.  I have been able to attend a wide range of training to support my role, as well as being involved in working groups with other partners to develop the service.

What do you look for when recruiting into the Family Support Service?  

The Early Start Workers are a hard-working team, with lots of different skills and qualities.  We look for someone who is fun and enthusiastic as these are the qualities which help engage with children and their families.  You will be facilitating baby groups, rhyme time sessions, physical fun sessions as well as more targeted groups for families, as well as our Self-Weigh/baby weigh sessions, so flexibility is key.  The job role is varied and the need to be able to “expect the unexpected” and respond is essential.  There are some occasions where we need to respond to incidents to safeguard children, so there is a need for an understanding of when and how to, and confidence to be able to do this. 

What support is available to staff joining the service? 

All staff are given a full induction, which will include meeting the team and learning about the Early Start role.  You will be given an opportunity learn about other teams within the Family Support Service and the wider Family Centre Service which includes our Public Health Nursing colleagues.  There is lots of training provided when you first join, including Breastfeeding, Introduction to Solid Foods and My Baby’s Brain training.  Some members of the team also have the opportunity to do other training, for example Baby Massage facilitator training, Speech and Language training.   Some of our team members specialise in an area which they are skilled in, for example we have Breastfeeding Champions and Special Education Needs Champions. 

Why would you recommend joining the service? 

Not only am I fortunate enough to work alongside some amazing people, working with children and their families is incredibly rewarding.  No day is the same but every day we make a difference to the lives of families we meet.

Meet Early Starts Leader Katy Marks

Katy is an Early Starts Team Leader in the Family Support Service. We asked her about her career so far.

Can you describe your journey into being a Team Leader in the Family Support Service?

Before I started working in the Family Support Service in 2015, I completed my degree in Education Studies and Psychology in 2014 and straight out of university went to work in a nursery. When a position came up to work as an Early Start Worker for the Family Support Service, it was a role that really interested me as I wanted to support parents/carers while working with children too. Within a year, I became Deputy Team Leader and within another year and a half, I became a Team Leader.

What support do you get from your employer?

In my first year in the Family Centre Service, I had training specific to my role such as Baby Massage, Introduction to Solids Foods to name a few. I was supported by my colleagues (who I shadowed) and Team Leader and was upskilled to support parents/carers and their needs. Then when I become a Deputy and Team Leader, further training was offered for the role/s. There are regular meetings and supervisions (and team WhatsApp groups), so there is great support available.

What do you look for when recruiting into the Family Support Service?

We look for someone who is enthusiastic, motivated, and passionate to join our service. Every day is different, as we provide a variety of support so that children have the best start and both parents/carers and children have opportunities to learn and develop.

What support is available to staff joining the service?

New starters will be asked to shadow other members of the teams and be offered regular supervisions with their line manager. The Family Support Service offers training to new starters, dependant on their role. There are also regular team meetings and wider team meetings throughout the year.

Why would you recommend joining the service?

Being part of the Family Support Service is a very rewarding job. It is hugely varied; one day to the next is never the same. It can be challenging but the teams within the service are so supportive and feedback from families is definitely a big motivator!

Meet Deputy Early Start Leader Donna Parkinson 

Donna is the Deputy Early Start Team Leader for the Watford and Three Rivers area. We asked her about her career journey so far.

Can you describe your journey into being a Team Leader in the Family Support Service?

I started my Early years career working in a local Pre-School and then onto a School Nursery, after ten years I had to urge to support parents more with their children’s development and well-being, as I am aware of the profound impact this can have on the whole family.  Since joining what is now the Family Support Service over 13 years ago, I have carried out many different roles, including Family Support worker, Schools and settings Co-ordinator to name a few.  I then moved on to Deputy Team Leader.

What support do you get from your employer?

There is tremendous support from senior management, with regular training and supervisions.  We can voice our opinions and ideas to support the development of the services we provide.  You really do feel you are part of a team.

What do you look for when recruiting into the Family Support Service?

When we are recruiting we are looking for  people that are passionate about supporting families and children, people who feel they will be able to break down barriers and connect with all families they meet, to help to give them the best start in life.   We would be looking for people who are keen to continue developing  their skills, and willing to undertake all relevant training required for the role.  

What support is available to staff joining the service?

Staff who join the company are given a full induction, including a comprehensive E Learning platform of courses that are completed as part of the induction process.    New team members will  also spend time  shadowing other team members delivering sessions and learning all the processes that are involved within it.  Team members always work as part of a team.  There are regular supervisions and yearly appraisals to discuss the years successes and plans for the following year.  

Why would you recommend joining the service?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the FSS.  The job offers so much flexibility, no two days are the same.  There are lots of opportunities to increase your skills and knowledge. The satisfaction you get when you know you have made a difference to a family is fantastic.

Meet Deputy Early Start Leader Beata

Can you describe your journey into being a Deputy Team Leader in the Family Support Service?

I started as a volunteer in 2012 at the Children’s Centre’s Nursery while competing the NVQ3 in Child Care online. I completed the online course in April which supported me to apply for Creche worker in the Children’s Centre. With this new knowledge from the course, it allowed me to apply this in practice and support my professional development. When the Children’s Centre Assistant position was available at the Children’s Centre, it interested me to work with the families and support children’s development through empowering the parents with information. After two years experience, I naturally applied for the Children’s Centre Worker role as this further supported with my professional development by having extra responsibilities, such as coordinating sessions and having low level outreach support with families. This role also allowed me to practice my creative skills such as being involved in starting new sessions, such as Gardening club, Me time for parents who were isolated and needed some time to build their confidence and support with emotional well-being through art and craft. After another 2 years in this role, an opportunity arose for me to only focus on outreach and I was successful in a Outreach Coordinator/ Senior Family Support Worker role. This allowed me to further develop my professional skills supporting families with parenting from the antenatal stage and with children up to age of five. I was in this role for six years, when again it felt a natural progression to further develop my skills and I was successful at the Deputy Team role in the Early Start team. 

What support do you get from your employer?

Throughout my journey, I had access to relevant training, which were explored in my termly supervisions and yearly appraisal. I was given the opportunity to shadow my colleagues to gain a better understanding of the new roles that I have started or expressed interest in. Safeguarding was always of a high quality within the service and this supported me to develop professionally and to explore the different roles in supporting outreach families and my colleagues. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the service was very supportive by allowing us flexible working from home and appropriate health and safety measures were put in place to transition back to office working and face-to-face with families. The service also offered support regarding mental well-being throughout the pandemic, by providing opportunities for training and also time within the team.

What do you look for when recruiting into the Family Support Service?

We look for empathic, resilient, non-judgmental, eager to learn and develop, motivated individuals. In the service each day can be very different, so being flexible definitely helps. Having a good sense of humour can also support the team.

What support is available to staff joining the service?

Staff joining the service will be welcomed by their line manager and the team by having a plan of shadowing other members of the team and access to policies, which gives an insight of expectations, responsibilities and what is offered to the individual. Termly supervisions and yearly appraisals will continuously offer opportunities to reflect and discuss ways of professional development. Weekly team meetings allow staff to share concerns, celebrations within the team.  

Why would you recommend joining the service?

It is a rewarding job seeing and knowing the children are having opportunities to experience a better start in life and supporting the next generation with their physical and emotional development.