Charles Sturt University
Over the past decade, researchers and policy-makers have increasingly affirmed universal early childhood education and care (ECEC) services as the best way to provide equitable ECEC to all children. While evidence suggests that Australian ECEC services are trying to engage vulnerable children and their families, some of the most vulnerable do not avail themselves of universal services. ECEC programs that specifically focus on vulnerable families may provide two solutions to the problem of at-risk children not participating in universal ECEC services. They may ensure that some of the most vulnerable will connect with services designed to support them and they may assist the sector by sharing how they successfully engage vulnerable families. This paper appraises universal and targeted ECEC services and suggests how both can be combined. It then describes a recent ethnographic study into an Australian ECEC program designed to support vulnerable children and families. It shares some of the study’s findings as well as implications that may be helpful for universal ECEC service providers.
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