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The Roving Caregivers

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The Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) is a developmental programme that is aimed at providing stimulation to young children and enhancing parenting practices in an informal way. This programme was initiated in SVG some ten years ago with its object of providing an early education to children from birth to three years. It has been designed to benefit families that cannot afford the expenses of early childhood education. With her band of roving caregivers the enthusiastic Judith Hull-Ballah provides a well-needed service to communities such as Georgetown and Byera.{{more}} The programme has passed its pilot stage and is in full gear. Unfortunately, it does not reach every village and town, but there are plans for its expansion to other areas.

The forerunner

The programme was first started in Jamaica in the Clarendon area in 1993, where it achieved some successes. It has been adopted in the Eastern Caribbean and pilot programmes were carried out in Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The initiation of the programme is based on scientific evidence that suggests that children who miss out on early learning will be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis those who got the opportunity. Research has shown that “the most rapid brain development takes place in the formative years”. The rationale for this programme is based on documented research that shows that poverty and lack of assess to early education could place children on a different development route. Given a chance at early stimulation intellectual and social development could be enhanced.

A home-based programme

All parents want to give their children a good start in life, and for many years this group of children in the Caribbean has been at a disadvantage. The programme is aimed at preventing “developmental lags’ in poor Caribbean children, and it is different in the sense that parents do not have to take their children to a school or a daycare centre. The education is delivered by the roving caregivers who are specially trained to provide the necessary stimulation right in the comfort of the child’s home. It takes about 30 to 60 minutes to provide this vital service. The programme also seeks to enhance interaction with the parents and provide them with the necessary parenting skills while discouraging inappropriate child rearing practices. It also takes into account nutritional and disciplinary knowledge.

Research findings

The programme was introduced in St. Lucia with help from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, with the aim of providing insights into the programme and to determine costs. One of the findings was that the sooner the children were placed in the programme the larger was the impact. It was also revealed that there was an increase in the stimulating interactions for RCP families that has been beneficial for the child’s development.

Opportunities

The following are some of the opportunities that RCP offers to parents and child

1 To interact fully with one’s child through play, language development so as to encourage social and emotional growth.

2 To develop parenting skills in a personalized manner within the security of the home environment

3 To improve the quantity and quality of cognitive and social stimulation with the child.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]

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