Child care person in the spotlight
Tabitha Penman
What is your full name?

My Name is Tabitha Penman and I am 38 years old.

Which service do you work in? How many staff and children are in your service?

I am registered under C and R Cowling Scaife Family Daycare Providers, this is a great scheme that I have recently moved to with supportive coordinators and management, my service is Bayside Butterflies Family Day & Overnight Care.

As a family daycare service I don't have staff we are a standalone facility. I am open 24/7. I have four children during the daytime and am licensed to have up to seven, including school children, at other times.

What is your professional background and career experience?

I joined the ECEC sector in 2009 after coming off maternity leave and totally changing career paths. When I opened my family daycare business, I started out working my way towards my Certificate III and then moved onto my Diploma, which I had finished in 2010.

I am currently studying a diploma in OH&S and Diploma in Training and Assessing. Personal growth in knowledge and pedagogical practice is very important to me.

What attracted you to a career in the early childhood sector?

At first it was the flexibility as a mum with two young children it felt like a natural progression and I thought, oh this will be easy I look after two children already. How wrong was I! I quickly realised that the level of professionalism in our sector and the work load was enormous and if I wanted to make my business a success and provide the best learning outcomes for children in my care I really had to study hard and learn a lot.

What does a 'normal' day look like for you?

I'm sure most early childhood professionals will tell you there is no such thing as a normal day, working with children always presents new challenges, opportunities and surprises.

For me planning is very important. I always strive to have embedded intentional teaching in my program or opportunities where this can happen. Nature play and fostering a love of the environment is a massive part of my pedagogical practice and we regularly have bush and beach kindy. Music and movement, messy play and environment play a big part of our normal day.

What makes your service unique?

My service is unique. I love that I can run my programs like bush and beach kindy, farm visits, and a massive collaborative partnership with other educators in my It takes a Village program. I have risky play that develops especially our boys into children that are confident and in love with the environment.

Having a unique and diverse program with the ability to go out in nature and really foster this intense love of the environment I feel really sets us apart.

Another aspect is our opening hours; being a 24/7 facility also really sets us apart. I cater for many markets with these hours having mostly school aged children in at these times. We provide a service for parents who work shifts and also much needed care for many children who are special needs, catering to all levels of disabilities, all while providing a stable home environment that is nurturing and fun.

What are some of the advantages of working in early childhood education and care?

I started out having the ability to be with my children and that has been a big advantage but I did quickly realise that I had a passion for this industry and that has allowed me to advocate and care for hundreds of children over the years.

This is a massive advantage seeing the positive changes you are making. These changes in family daycare are often not just on the child but the whole family. Another advantage has been the amazing bonds that have been made with my families, these families have become my extended family and they treasure you as much as you treasure them.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?

I think some of the biggest challenges to family daycare are perceptions; there is still this antiquated idea that family daycare is just babysitting. Family daycare is a professional educator in a home environment doing the job of a whole centre but just in a smaller setting.

Some sides of government still don't see our sector as a valuable resource in moulding, shaping and educating tomorrow's generations. I also see this as a problem as it's the formative years which are underfunded and undervalued. Family daycare has had a lot of funding cuts in recent years and it's put enormous pressure on the sector which is a real shame.

How has your service changed to deal with these challenges?

Wherever I can I try to be a strong advocate for both family daycare and our sector more broadly.

I attend online forums with ministers for education both serving and past to really try to get them to see the value of our sector and that education and universal access is a necessity for all children not just those that meet certain criteria. Children's rights and being an advocate in our sector is important for us all. Connecting to the community in meaningful and positive ways has been another great way to boost not only our program but also the identity of family daycare in our community. Giving back to our community has always been a focus for me.

How does the early childhood industry need to change to adapt to these challenges?

This is a really hard concept, change is foreign to most people and yet as an educator its one of the things we excel at. I honestly believe until there is a consensus in government where all sides understand and have a grasp that education is the right of every child we wont see the changes we need to see to keep us in line other world leading countries. As individuals I think every educator has the privilege to advocate for our sector and we can all strive to be more involved and contribute to a climate of change and if we persist I think that this change will happen. Be the change you want to see.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care?

My best advice is that in family daycare you need balance, I'm sure the same can be said of centre based care also. Even many years on this is still something that I struggle with, as that desire to give and give often overrides that gut you have.

Burnout in our industry is high with low pay and often not enough recognition for the many hours of love you put in… don't let this get you down. Again be the change that you want to see in our industry. Praise your peers, celebrate their achievements even the tiny things like a great idea or program, and build reciprocal relationships that feed not only your program and the children in care but also fill your cup. Your joy will rub off on the children you love and care for and also your peers.
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