NEWS – INTESYS is about Integrated Systems. Say what?! – Part 1
If integrated systems sound a little complex it is because they are. After all, how can systems address multifaceted issues without reviewing their complexities? Stepping outside of the standard approach to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) can be confusing, even for those in the field.
What is meant by integrating early childhood services? And, why is it so essential to do so?
Often, early childhood services are approached in siloes. Daycare is considered separately from a child’s home-life – the financial stability of their families, their nutrition, the attention they receive from their parents, etc. This narrow view does little to aid children, as it does not give those who work with children the full picture. The reality is that children do not live in a silo.
Mihaela Ionescu, Program Director of ISSA, says “Health, education, a safe and stimulating environment at home and in public spaces… none of these is more important than the other. If at home a child does not have enough food, safety, income, attention, stimulation, the daycare service will never be sufficient.”
An integrated approach considers the situation of each specific child in a holistic way. While each service a child benefits from addresses a specific need, the professionals working in one service are aware of the other services a child is receiving. This approach centers around each individual child, rather than the services they receive. In order to have the full picture, Ionescu says, “we have to address all the aspects of child development together, in an aligned and coordinated way.”
Integrated systems help practitioners, managers and policymakers accomplish more together – all the while keeping the child at the center of their work. Still, there are no guidelines in Europe to assist authorities in the integration of ECEC systems. The INTESYS consortium aims to develop an innovative package of tools and approaches to integrated systems which can be used throughout Europe. During the project, pilots have developed new approaches that allow early childhood services across sectors to align and work in tandem, especially for the benefit of the most vulnerable: migrant children, Roma children, children with special needs, children living in poverty.
Though we know that integrated systems reduce disparities in learning outcomes for vulnerable children and help professionals meet the diverse needs of children and families, it can be challenging to motivate systems to change and obstacles can slow down progress.
We asked project partners involved in five pilots to tell us about how they were able to motivate change, the barriers that have arisen during the pilots and the changes they have facilitated in spite of difficulties. These questions will be explored in a series of articles. First, we ask, based on your experience, what do you see as the critical factors in motivating different early childhood organizations and services to work together? Read what those involved in the piloted projects have to say below:
"...teams need to be curious..."
"First of all, the teams need to be curious to find out about each other's activities and to understand their work environment. This allows them to build a shared base, taking into account the context of the others, while not being judgmental or in competition. For example, not all services have the same freedom to act or to build partnerships.
You also need a trigger factor, like the INTESYS project, though this is not enough. It is also necessary to have a coordinator, a professional, who believes in the interest of the exchanges and who plays a driving role to push the teams and generate their curiosity. For example, INTESYS has triggered something new, even if there were already collaborations. The project has made it possible to understand each other and then to build together more easily with a common goal.
The integration of services requires a common vision, and partners that are drivers in their respective institutions (e.g. a school director). It is nevertheless fragile because it takes a lot of time and patience. And, it depends on the will of the people involved as long as the innovation has not been embedded in the institutions."
Christine Redant - Director of the Réseau Coordination Enfance, Belgium