We spoke to Keryn ahead of Foster and Kinship Care Week about how important it is for all significant people in a child’s life to take an active interest in the child’s education.
Keryn Smith is a mediation and liaison worker for Life Without Barriers in Hobart. She works with parents or carers who have concerns that some elements of their child’s school experience is not meeting their needs. Keryn brings school staff, parents or carers, and other experts in a child’s life together to nut out a solution.
"One piece of advice I would give to parents and carers is to proactively build relationships with your child’s principal and teachers. It’s best to do that from the beginning, so you can nip any issues in the bud, but it’s never too late to start. If you have concerns about how your child is doing at school, don’t waste any time letting the school know. Always feel that you can make a time to meet with people at school, whether it’s their teacher, principal, or support workers, like teachers aids.
"I often find the parents and carers I work with don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ and so the situation escalates to a point where the relationship with the school might break down and they need to bring in external help like me. I think that all schools are trying to do their best by students, but they are big places with many students and sometimes if you don’t speak up you can fall through the cracks.
"Another very simple thing is to ask the school to make sure your child’s learning plans are up to date and that the school is using them. That way it’s very easy for everyone that works with that child to see, for example 'oh, he doesn’t like loud noises' and plan around that.
"One of the biggest impacts of my job is parents and carers feeling empowered."
"Often in meetings, I don’t say anything once parents or carers realise that they are able to ask questions and stand up for their kids."
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