KidStart pilot to be ramped up after 'promising' feedback [TODAY Online]

Under the initiative, trained officers coach parents on health, nutrition and child development, all the way through pre-school.

TODAY Online

Kindergarten

A pilot programme to help children from low income and vulnerable families could be scaled up, following “promising” feedback after its first year of implementation, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday at the National Day Rally.

Currently, about 400 families are on KidStart, which was introduced by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) in July last year. Under the initiative, trained officers visit the families even before a baby is born to support the expectant mother and impart skills and knowledge on health, nutrition and child development. The officers will continue to coach the parents after the child is born, all the way through pre-school.

On the early feedback from parents on the programme, Mr Lee said: “Parents say their children are more talkative and expressive, and interact much better.” If the results are confirmed, the initiative will be ramped up to benefit more children, Mr Lee added.

The initiative also sees selected pre-schools providing additional support for children in the pre-school years, as well as during the transition to primary school.

Based on their children’s needs, the families will be linked up to existing community resources.

The pilot programme will support 1,000 children from Bukit Merah, Kreta Ayer, Boon Lay, Taman Jurong and Geylang Serai.

Madam Sulastri Abdullah, 31, is among the parents supported by the programme. She is married with three children, having given birth to her youngest child, Raihan, five months ago. “My first two children (who are now two and six years old) took a longer time to develop ... I thought that just meet my children’s physical needs — such as feeding, sleeping, changing of diapers — would be enough,” she said.

She added that she has “learnt a lot” from ECDA officer Lee Wei Qi, including the type of activities that she could do with her newborn to “strengthen the neck, shoulders, arms and back muscles” of the child. “She also shared about some simple toys for infants,” Mdm Sulastri said.

Ms Li, 30, noted that when she first met Mdm Sulastri, she was very worried about Raihan’s development. “At that time, she was unaware of the concept of early childhood development and activities that she can do with Raihan,” she said.

When the programme was announced during the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Committee of Supply debate last year, Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin reiterated that children from needy families “face multiple challenges”.

In all, the pilot programme is expected to cost more than S$20 million, with the cost for each child ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a year, depending on the programmes and services that the child needs.

Writing on Facebook yesterday, Mr Tan said the initiative is “very close to my heart”.

“When we talk of inequalities and disadvantage, we need to go way upstream to begin breaking the cycle. KidStart aims to do that and is the right thing to do; we must do it well,” he said.

Source: TODAY Online

Relevant News