Improving documentation and increasing family engagement at Network Child Care Services
Offering child care services to over 1,800 children across Toronto, Network Child Care Services is a non-profit organization licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Education. Established in 1991, Network has expanded from its roots as a home-based child care service to providing high-quality child care services and programs to children and families in early learning programs, child care centres, after-school programs and onsite event child care services. Network Child Care Services is committed to offering inclusive and equitable access to early childhood education with programs that support the unique needs of every child.
Before the pandemic, Network Child Care Services had already begun considering the benefits of educators using technology for family outreach and administrative tasks. The restrictions during the pandemic made it challenging for educators and parents to communicate. The need to find a technology solution was amplified.
Staff were under a lot of additional pressure due to the increased regulatory tasks on top of the routine care and practices they needed to squeeze into each child care day. Communicating with families during drop-off and pick-up times was also impacted, and sharing essential information was difficult.
Network felt they needed to address these issues immediately and decided to investigate digital documentation and family engagement platforms to bridge the communication gap.
3 key criteria to meet
With an already increased burden on educators and time pressure to implement a solution quickly, the Network team knew they needed three key things from a platform:
- An easy-to-use interface
- Extended onboarding support and training
- Security features that ensured family privacy
These key areas were integral to the decision-making process for Network Child Care Services. Their educators were spread across a broad continuum of confidence and competency when it came to using technology, and there needed to be an existing standard in style and frequency of outreach to families. They wanted to find a platform to build a collaborative partnership to ensure their staff could use it effectively and for the long term, improving documentation and increasing family engagement.
Storypark – A stronger pedagogical approach
It was essential for Network Child Care Services to choose the right solution. So they underwent a process of considering Storypark and one other platform. They thoroughly analyzed both platforms and consulted with other Canadian Early Years networks that used learning documentation and family engagement software. They discovered Storypark had a stronger pedagogical approach and was a more reliable and supportive solution. It aligned well with their needs. Storypark positioned itself better to enhance family communication, support quality practice, and foster educator professional development. Storypark also offered supplementary training, contributing to a successful rollout process in centres across the organization.
Bespoke guidance ensures consistency
Working in child care is a very hands-on job that hasn’t traditionally been very digitally focused. Therefore using technology can be challenging for some educators. With this being a potential barrier to successfully implementing Storypark across its services, the Network team took a considered approach to roll out the platform. Storypark’s Professional Learning and Development team was instrumental in supporting Network to integrate its program plans and other forms into the platform. The Storypark team provided bespoke guidance on effectively utilizing the platform’s features and tools. Together, Network and Storypark ensured quick organization-wide adoption of the platform while ensuring consistency with standardized practice and improving the documentation process.
Customized virtual training and support
Storypark supported Network with customized virtual training workshops and “town halls” for educators, supervisors and families. With additional information and resources provided to staff, this integrated approach meant that Network’s staff and families were supported using Storypark from day one. The team at Network appreciated that the Storypark rollout was able to be adjusted to meet their unique needs.
This collaborative approach to implementing Storypark was crucial in successfully launching the platform and helping Network Child Care Services overcome its challenges with educator workload, improving documentation efficiency and barriers to communicating with families.
Since launching Storypark at Network Child Care Services, the organization has experienced noticeable benefits for children, families, educators, and at a network level.
Standardized expectations for educators
Adding quality assurance documents, procedures, customized forms, and plans to Storypark has had enormous benefits. There are now standardized expectations for educators around family outreach and communication. The staff at Network now call it their “one-stop-shop for documentation, creation and archiving.”
Flexibility when recording and sharing children’s learning
Educators find the flexibility of Storypark invaluable. Educators capture learning in the moment and can customize it to suit the needs of each child and family. They document and archive everything, which is a vast improvement on the mostly verbal exchanges of information before using Storypark. Most importantly to the team at Network, educators can capture information and send it to families when they have time in their workday. Families can read and comment when best suits them.
Families feel at ease with timely sharing of information
For new families, staff can communicate more regularly during children’s settling-in process, and there is a reduced time to engage with families on essential matters. Families feel at ease when children are settling into their new learning service. They appreciate the learning stories, program plans and snapshots of their children having happy and settled days. They also value more timely updates about their children’s learning, rather than waiting a week or month to view documentation in their child’s physical portfolio.
A deeper understanding of each child
With a growing level of comfort with using Storypark for their work, educators find that families engage with the learning they share, often adding further information to deepen educators’ understanding of each child. There is consistency in how many learning stories children receive; the information shared on Storypark also provokes deeper in-person conversations with families. Educators report families are thrilled to be learning more about their children. With educators already being stretched for time, having an additional way to communicate children’s learning with families has meant they have more time to work with children and respond to their learning meaningfully.
Children contribute to documenting their own learning
Children now engage more with their learning, reviewing and reflecting on their learning experiences alongside educators. The children are excited about contributing to their documentation, and educators use their reflections in their planning. With enquiry-based and play-based learning, the child mode feature on Storypark gives children a voice in the documentation and planning processes, which embodies the essence of documentation and ensures it is more meaningful to children.
A focus on future growth
Network Child Care Services have found Storypark to be a valuable asset, improving documentation, enhancing family communication and engagement, offering opportunities for educators, families and children to reflect on children’s learning, and supporting knowledge sharing across the wider network.
They have identified several areas of potential future growth:
- Working with Storypark to develop new training resources to support educators’ success using the platform.
- Supporting educators to use Storypark to document their Continuous Professional Learning cycle.
- Leveraging a newly formed internal Storypark advisory group to advise the wider organization on strategies and priorities to improve its platform use.
- Supporting a newly formed Storypark ambassador club, which consists of accomplished staff, to support Storypark use in each of their centres.
- Using Storypark as a portal where staff can access and send all in-house documents.
- Moving all child portfolio activity, including existing screening programs, onto Storypark.
Network Child Care Services remain committed to exploring ways to maximize the positive impact Storypark offers its organization.
“We are constantly looking for ways to grow and evolve, and Storypark is right there with us, helping us figure out what works for us. I can’t stress enough how valuable this collaboration has been. Beyond the family engagement piece and the digital portal, we are continually finding additional ways to use Storypark features as a focus for improving efficiency across the whole organization.” Susan Menchinton – Pedagogy Specialist at Network Child Care Services
Network Child Care Services is a non-profit child care organization, licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Education to provide high-quality child care services and programs to children and families in our Early Years Learning and Child Care Centres, Licensed Home Child Care Premises, Before and After School programs and Onsite Event Child Care services across Toronto and the GTA.