In this, the second article in our series on positive parental partnerships, we are looking at assumptions. Becoming key worker to a child catapults you into being a surprisingly intimate part of the family team. You may well be the first adult a sleepy single parent speaks to in the morning. It won't be unusual for you to hear about daddy's bathroom habits. You will share in the biggest milestones of a young child's life. Close involvement in family life can be the bedrock of positive parental partnerships. It can also be undermined by careless assumptions.
In the UK alone, there are at least 2.8 million children living in lone parent households, over 20,000 children being raised by same-sex couples, and nearly a quarter of a million children being cared for by grandparents. It is all too easy to make assumptions about the role of an adult who collects a child from your setting. Taking the time to ask a new key child's carers about their living situation, who the key adults in the life are, and who is likely to be collecting the child is vital when settling a new child. Equally important is that you, the key worker, takes the time to share such information with colleagues.
You might be working in an beautiful countryside nursery in an affluent village. You could be a childminder serving a deprived area of a large city. Whatever the economic situation in your area, making assumptions about any families' finances can be hurtful to children and adults. The next time you're making a display about "where we live", take care not to overlook the minority of children who might live in a shared house in favour of the majority who live in cottages with gardens.
It goes without saying that as early years professionals, we are always secondary carers. The decisions which parents/carers take about how to raise a child are intensely personal and precious. Making innocent assumptions about how a parent would feel about their child's routine or life experience being changed while in your care can quickly undermine positive relationships. This isn't to say that you need to check every last detail with parents beforehand. If you're planning on taking a group of children to a local church or mosque for a visit though, it is worth double checking with the relevant parents/carers beforehand to help strengthen partnership working.