Launch of Lets Grow Together! Infant and Childhood Partnerships CLG
4th of June 2021
Officially launched by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
A launch that inspired many and brought people together to focus on what young children need, their rights, the value of prevention and early intervention, which sets children up for lifelong development, wellbeing and resilience.
“The foundations of sound mental health are based on the early experiences of the child” -Professor Kevin Nugent -Founder and Director of Brazelton Institute.
Details: The online launch of Let’s Grow Together! Infant & Childhood Partnerships CLG took place on Friday 4th of June at 11am.
275 people registered for the live event and by Tuesday 8th of June a further 370 people had watched the recording on Facebook, including a number of participants we could never have reached in the traditional face-to-face event format.
“The numbers of people registered and viewed since, with feedback in the chat and on social media from parents, services and public representatives, community and organisation partners proves the dedication of all to get children’s lives off to the best possible start.” -Katherine Harford, Manager Lets Grow Together! Infant & Childhood Partnerships.
Let’s Grow Together! Infant & Childhood Partnerships CLG has evolved from the successful journey of the Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood Programme (YK) which has been in operation in the northwest area of Cork city since 2015. Let’s Grow Together! provides a new governance structure which will oversee the long-term development of the area-based prevention and early intervention work.
This event marked the launch of Let’s Grow Together! Infant & Childhood Partnerships CLG, along with the ‘Let’s Grow Together! Strategic Plan 2021-25’ and ‘The Many Voices of Let’s Grow Together!’ documents, but in reality, the true richness of what unfolded over the 1 and a half hours online turned into so much more…
Launch Format and Line up.
The organisation, Let’s Grow Together!, and its 5 year strategic plan was officially launched by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, and the event was hosted by the areas own popular podcasters, The Two Norries: James Leonard and Timmy Long. Katherine Harford, Manager Let’s Grow Together!, gave an overview of the work, and was then joined in conversation by Kevin Nugent, Lise Johnson, Yvette Blanchard – international colleagues from the Brazelton Institute at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, to help us understand the word of babies and what we all can do to support them. We were also joined by Tanya Ward CEO of Children’s Rights Alliance to launch the ‘Many voices of Let’s Grow Together!’ and reflect on the importance of prevention and early intervention from a Children’s Rights perspective. Most importantly, the voices of babies and young children themselves, and their parents/caregivers voices, were included as the central focus to the event… It also featured an Art Completion which drew over 350 entries from local children. An exhibition of the wonderful images is now on display in Hollyhill Library for the month of June. This was indeed a jammed packed, special event, which captured the attention and hearts of many, at local, regional and national levels, and was of interest to parents, caregivers, health and social care workers, family support workers, early years educators, teachers and policy makers.
Special Message from An Taoiseach Micheál Martin
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin who officially launched Let’s Grow Together! and its 5 year plan, provided a special message for the new organisation which was streamed as part of the event. In it the Taoiseach acknowledged that Let’s Grow Together is built on the tremendous work of Young Knocknaheeny “which has had a profoundly positive impact in many areas particularly in Infant Mental Health where you are leaders in service improvement”
He went on to state that the most important tool to improve the lives and life chances of children is prevention and early intervention leading to better health and engagement in education which in turn leads to happier and more fulfilled families… “The government I lead recognises the value and potential of work of organisations like yours…”
The Government which An Taoiseach leads, strongly endorsed and shared the vision of Let’s Grow Together that “Our communities are places where children experience happy, healthy and thriving childhoods that last a lifetime and no child is left behind.” He concluded by saying “Your contribution to our city and to our young people is a true public service and I thank you for it”.
Kevin Nugent one of the later contributors called An Taoiseach’s speech inspiring, “hearing his commitment to the early years… if [programmes like Let’s Grow Together!] expanded across the country this would make a huge difference” Equally, Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance also acknowledged An Taoiseach’s commitment and called for a national prevention and early intervention plan which would map current services around the country and work towards an overall approach to prevention and early intervention as ‘we know that what happens in early childhood really matters’.
Katherine Harford, Manager, shared an overview of all the elements of the work of Let’s Grow Together! which is an area based, evidence-based programme underpinned by a relational approach and Infant Mental Health framework to nurture every baby’s and young child’s interactions within their world and build strong foundations for their lifelong journey.
She was then joined in conversation to discuss “Babies capacity, relationships and their wider world: what can we all do to give babies the best start in life?” with Brazelton panellists:
- Kevin Nugent, Ph.D. Founder and Director, Brazelton Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital; Emeritus Professor, University of Massachusetts; Lecturer, Harvard Medical School.
- Lise C. Johnson, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Associate Director, Brazelton Institute, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital.
- Yvette Blanchard, PT, ScD, PCS, Professor of Physical Therapy in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Science, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut; Brazelton Institute, Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital
It was a hugely rich and enlightening conversation.
The first section focused on babies themselves.
Yvette Blanchard described so beautifully how babies are born with “intention” they can see and also expect to be seen, they can hear but they also expect to be heard. She says if you look closely, babies have action plans and when they have accomplished it, they look to see was anyone watching. So the more we see and hear the more they develop their sense of self. Kevin Nugent explained then, the key issue is trying to understand their language, they have dreams, hopes, they hoped to be loved, to be cared for. Lise Johnson added that behaviour is the language of babies. We can learn the meaning of this behaviour, this language, that babies demonstrate to us… they show us their competencies and their vulnerabilities. “If we can understand their language we can care more sensitively”. Kevin Nugent concluded that all the development that is taking place only happens in relationships with their caregivers. The baby is our only teacher and is beautifully designed to interact with his or her world, with mums, dads, grandparents, with us and with their world to create the architecture of the baby’s brain through these integral relationships. “The capacity to love, to be kind, to be a leader, to think, are all shaped in first few years of life, when a child can’t articulate it but is communicating in every single moment of their life”.
The next section focused on the role of parents and the wider family.
This was very reassuring. Yes parents need to be available, and responsive but just as important is the message of ‘Good enough, not perfect parenting – let baby be our leader and partners in the journey’ ‘Be open to making mistakes and to learn’ ‘Babies are forgiving’ ‘Getting to know your baby is a lifelong thing’. Lise Johnson, gave a strong message to parents, “you know your babies, when you trust that, focus on your baby you can feel the confidence. There is a lot to learn, but every parent has the capacity and the knowledge”.
Addressing queries about the impact of covid restrictions on babies, Yvette Blanchard, reflected on the opportunities during this time, parents it was a time to get to know your baby, as there are no masks in the house. And Lise expanded by saying that babies interactions are multisensory. That babies and children are resilient and that relationships at the heart of it all’
The final part of the discussion was about the role of practitioners.
In all his years of experience of learning and sharing, Kevin Nugent says,” the last thing I would ever do is give parents advise. Especially with so much cultural diversity, how little we know about the culture of others, only our own”. He emphasized the need for humility, a willingness to listen, to pull back from a teaching role in our work with parents and caregivers, to refrain from giving advice, practitioners are co-learners, to honour parents and enable them to grow into their skins as parents, to wonder with parents “who is this little baby, what is he/she trying to tell us?” Even for vulnerable parents and babies there is an opportunity and a capacity. -Lise Johnson
Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance launched ‘The Many Voices of Let’s Grow Together!’ Report. Tanya noted that a key element of this document was seeking children’s voices as children demonstrated clearly that they know what is important and what matters for babies in their community.
Tanya explained the work of the Children’s Rights Alliance is to campaign to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. “What children’s rights are about: there are special rules about how children should be treated by the state and by their parents as well”.
She went on to make some key points about children’s rights, and what change needs to happen.
‘Children have a right to survival and development and the work of Let’s Grow Together! is instrumental for providing that for children’, ‘children have a voice and that voice should be heard, and not only should it be heard, we should be acting on it as well’
‘Children should be treated without discrimination and what I see is that parents are the main advocates for their children.’ ‘some of these rights are not being respected, … what happens in childhood really matters. Tanya mentioned an international study that showed you could predict which child went to university based on their social and emotional skills at the age of 3. “It shows inequality gets locked in early on…locking children into intergenerational inequality and it is not inevitable. Poverty isn’t inevitable and we should never accept it.”
Tanya highlighted another report by the ERSI about intergenerational poverty and one of the things that jumped out was self-concept of children exposed to a lot of economic vulnerability with 31 percent of 9 year olds having a poor self-concept, she said “you always remember the teacher or the youth worker who told you nothing was possible and you always remember the ones that told you everything was possible, so these programmes are critical to opening up the horizons for children”.
Throughout the launch event, and reflective in the inclusive values of the organisation, the voices, faces and wisdom of babies, children, parents, and the community were represented. A gorgeous video montage sharing children’s voices from our wonderful early years’ toddlers sharing their very important insights into what’s important for them in their community. From water, vegetables and sleep to the ice cream van, dogs, bees, the library, SuperValu and even Dolly Parton!
We shared a video clip of heart-warming photographs of babies who were born in the past year in our community together with their parents/caregivers. We heard from the wonderful parents involved in our Parents Forum, one member Niamh O’ Connor said “it’s so great to have a platform and to share our opinions…and to be able to say we have played a part in the plans going forward.”
As part of the launch, Let’s Grow Together! held an art competition, which saw entries from 350 children aged 2 to 12 representing Let’s Grow Together! and illustrating the best thing about their community. An exhibition of entries can be seen in Hollyhill Library for the month of June.
James Leonard and Timmy Long from the Two Norries podcast expertly and with vast knowledge and insight, hosted the event bringing a true sense of Cork’s Northside and a sense of pride to the occasion. Through their own curiosity they set the tone for the conversation. They helped to explain the importance of prevention and early intervention for young children for their wellbeing, and resilience for life. Timmy Long reflected that ‘prevention and early intervention with kids, how important this is for them to live a healthy life around their mental health and behaviours to help them grow into healthy adults’. He also said there is a lot more awareness now about the importance of healthy relationships for children early on, and that research shows that young children and babies who don’t have that do eventually turn to different addictions, so it’s critical to continue working more towards what everyone here is doing.
James Leonard acknowledged the importance of including the voices and views of people who use services in the planning process, recalling the reference “nothing about us without us”. He also encouraged parents to engage with services. That while babies have been born for millenia, it’s okay for parents, in today’s society to be supported in their parenting journey. ‘Let’s Grow Together!’s vision that ‘no child is left behind’ is so important because very often there is a perception that a service or organisation like this is for families in crisis, for women and babies, but it’s not, it’s for men too, and for families who may be very stable but just need a bit of help’. Of Timmy and James, Lise Johnson commented “you lift up the importance of men, in our infants and children’s lives, of fathers in the lives and wellbeing of infants and young children which is integral to the health and wellbeing of communities.
Kevin Nugent expressed his privilege and honour to have been asked to join us for the launch of Let’s Grow Together! “One of the most remarkable, comprehensive children’s programmes in the world”. ‘The foundations of sound mental health are based on the early experiences of the child-expanding services like Let’s Grow Together! are critical to the future of the country’
Dave Cashman, Chairperson of the Board, thanked everyone involved in delivering the programme, his fellow board members, the people that went before them in establishing Young Knocknaheeny, the staff team, and interagency and community partners. He thanked core funders Tusla and others who have providing funding and support such as City Council, HSE, UCC, and many others. This he said this “showed how important relationships are including the impact they have on the wellbeing of all children”. Finally reflecting on the services, people and communities involved in the work, he remarked “when everyone works together, amazing things can happen”
- To watch highlight videos from the launch click here.
- The Art Exhibition is displayed in Hollyhill Library for the month of June.
- The link to the launch is here: https://fb.watch/60pScF91D8/
- The link to the Strategy Document is here https://letsgrowtogether.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Many-Voices-of-Lets-Grow-Together.pdf
- The link to the Many Voices Report is here https://letsgrowtogether.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/LetsGrowTogether_Strategic-Plan-2021-25.pdf
- For further information please go to letsgrowtogether.ie
- or contact Katherine email@example.com