ItemChildlinks Issue 3: Childcare in Transition(Barnardos, 2007) BarnardosOn 10th December 2007, The Minister for Children, Brendan Smith T.D., launched the Government's vision for Children’s Services in Ireland. This national policy document, The Agenda for Children’s Services, ‘is directing us all in a new way of working with children, their families and communities to ensure that our services are evidence-based, accessible, effective and sustainable... It is intended that the agenda serves as a broad statement of principles for all services concerned with children: LJ The broad policy framework and principles set out in The Agenda are far reaching and to be welcomed. But what does it mean for childcare or early childhood care and education? Childcare in Ireland is in a transition phase having come through a significant stage of growth and development since 1999. Childcare in Transition is the theme of this issue of ChildLinks. Dr Noirin Hayes reviews the developments of the last decade and argues for reform if Ireland is to achieve quality, sustainable, affordable and accessible early childhood education and care. In other articles, current key developments including the Framework for Early Learning, Siolta, the National Childcare Training Strategy and the revised Childcare Regulations are presented. In ‘Farewell to Childcare’, Professor Peter Moss presents an outside perspective and looks at how Ireland compares with European and New Zealand's early years provision. He acknowledges that Ireland, like other English-speaking countries, has seen a recent upsurge in policy attention to early childhood education and care services and a rapid growth in services. He argues that, like most other countries, Ireland has expanded services without adequately addressing long-standing and deep-seated problems and without sufficient thought to the future. Returning to The Agenda for Children’s Services, the document commits the OMC to publishing more specific policies in relation to certain aspects of services at a later stage. The National Childcare Strategy (1999) has served us well and much has been achieved. However, this is a timely opportunity for the OMC, in consultation with the childcare sector and parents, to develop an early childhood care and education policy framework, which sets out a vision and plan for ECCE for the next phase of development. Our children and future children deserve nothing less. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Working with Fathers(Barnardos, 2007) BarnardosThe first years in a child’s life are the most critical in terms of learning and development. Children's developmental needs at this stage are time-bound, if they go unfulfilled in these early years, it is difficult to compensate further down the line. We know from our own experience that early childhood care and education has significant benefits for children, their families and the wider community. This is evidenced from research (the High/ Scope Perry Pre-school study), which found that early intervention through quality early childhood care and education improves children's lives in both the short and long term. For example, children stay in school longer and have better employment prospects. The research also shows reduced cost to society in terms of reduced needs for social services support, fewer teenage pregnancies, fewer children leaving school early and fewer prison places. Successive governments have shied away from providing a full universal quality early childhood education and care service. With the general election imminent, increasingly political parties are pledging to introduce a universal pre-school year, which is to be welcomed. Barnardos has published a children’s declaration, A million reasons to get it right, calling for a series of actions across a range of issues including the Constitutional Amendment, Early Childhood Education and Care, Child Protection, Poverty, Education, Health, Housing and Alcohol. Barnardos is calling for the following four action points on Early Childhood Education and Care: Introduce a one year free quality Early Childhood Education and Care place for every child in the year prior to starting primary school. The roll-out of these places should begin with children experiencing disadvantage. Provide professional quality training for all those working with pre-school children. Ensure quality Early Childhood Education and Care services are affordable to all parents by providing financial support to childcare providers that adhere to national quality standards. Implement a comprehensive support system for parents, including 26 weeks paid parental leave in addition to the 26 weeks paid maternity leave. This will enable a child to have a parent at home with them during the first year of life and remove some of the stress being experienced by parents. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Mental Health(Barnardos, 2007) BarnardosThe theme of this edition of Childlinks is children's and young people's A mental health. Barnardos' National Children's Resource Centre information service frequently receives phone calls from parents in despair about where to go for help in regard to a child experiencing mental health issues. Often parents are frustrated about the lack of accessible, child friendly support services appropriate to their child's needs. We know from international and Irish research that the scale of the problem is significant. 20% of children under 15 have a psychiatric disorder at any one time. Of these, 10% have a mild disorder, 8% have a moderate to severe disorder and 2% have a disabling disorder. Boys experience more mental health disorders than girls. The rate for ADHD has been put at 2-5% of children under 15 years. The rate for youth suicide is 15.7 per 100,000 of 15—24 year olds. Waiting lists are the norm for mental health services in Ireland with children and young people waiting up to three years to get an appointment. The medical model and an over dependence on institutional care is still prevalent. Another concern is the lack of services for 17 and 18 year olds who often fall between unsuitable paediatric services and adult services. The national strategy for mental health promotion and service development, 'A Vision for Change‘, recommended a strategy that would be ‘person-centred, recovery-oriented, community-based and multi-disciplinary’. ‘A Vision for Change’ also endorses the model of a life course approach with the emphasis on prevention, early identification and intervention, positive mental health promotion and access to appropriately modelled and resourced services. Barnardos calls for the immediate implementation of the recommendations outlined in ‘A Vision for Change’. Expenditure on mental health needs to be significantly increased in order to seriously improve service provision. Children with mental health problems cannot afford to wait as any delay can lead to long-term negative impacts, which can be detrimental for individual children, their families and also the wider society.