A Day in the Life of a Family First Coordinator

In my post as Family First Co-ordinator I cover North Skye and I also carry out a number of hours a week as a PSP Volunteer Co-ordinator for all of Skye and Lochalsh. To the top of Skye this is an area of roughly 120 miles. It is a big island with a lot of in and out ‘bits’!

I tend to think of my job as having three areas of responsibility – group work, individual family work and volunteer work – all of which overlap and merge into each other.

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Every Wednesday I leave the house fairly early in order to buy the snack and set up my group in Portree. As it is aimed at newborn right up to 4 years I have to plan for activities and put out equipment that suits all. Activities I plan before (and some of my best ideas the night before!) include puppet shows, junk modelling, crafts, den building, cake decorating, Bookbug……… we do/have done it all.

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I love to add new ideas and add to my repertoire of firm favourites – parachute games and messy play. As well as involving parents and carers in activities, they have the opportunity to share parenting issues, local initiatives and generally support each other.

Since I started just over a year and a half ago I have had two brilliant volunteers in place, Nikki and Ishbel who help me run the group – I simply couldn’t do it without them.

I am lucky to have an office in Portree in premises I share with CAB. After the group I fit in some admin and paperwork (and if it is a nice day gaze out at the Cuillins – there are not many offices with such a view).

Then in the afternoon off for a family visit. Individual family work is either carried out in the home or in the community. Families are usually referred to me by a Health Visitor or less often by a Midwife. I also work very closely with Family Teams, NHS and HC colleagues.

At the moment I have families all over north Skye in the Staffin, Carbost, Dunvegan, Uig and Portree areas. The mileage can be very high – I try to alleviate this by the way I arrange visits. But anyone reading this who has done this type of family work will know that it doesn’t always work that way!

On a Wednesday I visit a family who have two children under 4, the oldest child has special needs. Along with the health visitor I have devised a programme of therapeutic play to carry out with the oldest child, making any activities as fun as possible. Weather permitting we will often go for a walk or go to the library giving mum some well-deserved time to herself. Recently I have been discussing with mum and dad particular issues that are proving challenging – especially around meal and bedtime routines. With two young children in the house there are never straightforward solutions. Every family is different and I find it is best to take a trial and error approach when choosing parenting strategies.

Families are referred to me for a variety of reasons – for example a child or adult with special needs or assisting families to integrate into a new area; they may have little access to transport, suffer from financial hardship, or simply have more than one child under four. Some parents/carers just need a little respite –time for themselves or time to focus on a particular child. For other families the support may be more focused, sharing parenting strategies, modelling play, or other more specific interventions.

I am now in the process of recruiting more volunteers to engage with our individual family support work. These volunteers will work with families in the north and with families that my fellow Family First Co-ordinator, Moira Lane, works with in the south of the island.

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It really is a privilege to live and work on such a beautiful island and to have the opportunity to enhance the lives of the children of Skye and Lochalsh.

Evelyn Freeman, CALA Family First Coordinator