Interview Lynn Farrell, Integrated Service Manager at The Infants Home
Lynn Farrell is the integrated services manager at The Infants’ Home, Ashfield. She began her career in 1982. Since this time Lynn has worked in direct service provision, as a director, manager and leader. She even worked a two year stint in Shenyang, China setting up an early childhood education centre (ECEC) for the local community.
Lynn is a strong advocate for children’s rights and social justice and has an interest in pedagogical leadership especially within programs for babies and young toddlers. She has contributed to research articles, journals and delivered training locally, nationally and internationally. We thought we would chat to her about her career, and get her valuable advice.
How has your career path evolved over time?
I have worked in ECEC since 1982. I began as a direct child care worker and evolved my career to my current role. I have always seen myself as a practitioner first and believe good directors and managers have a sound understanding of practice, as well as the challenges and opportunities provided through working in early childhood education and care.
Tell us about your role as Integrated Services Manager, what does it involve?
As the integrated services manager I have direct contact and involvement with staff, children, families and external agencies (non-government and government).
I have direct responsibility for over 280 children every day, over 400 families weekly and 82 staff. I need to be articulate about the organisation’s vision and goals and focus on bringing staff and families together on shared visions.
I need to have a sound understanding about children’s rights and social justice which guides my decision-making and ensures everyday practices meet certain standards.
A key to integrated services is the capacity and willingness to work in collaboration with different professional disciplines, so part of my role is leading this interdisciplinary approach.
How does the integrated approach at The Infants Home differ from other organisations?
As an integrated service we work with many different professional disciplines on a daily basis. For example, the occupational therapist will pair with an early childhood teacher to develop an individual program for a child, and then jointly deliver this program to a small group of children.
Staff always work as a team around the child, sharing their professional knowledge, experience and skills. This is to develop programs that are inclusive, contextual and meaningful.
There are many opportunities (and equally some challenges) in working within an interdisciplinary approach. The capacity to grow professionally and develop a large range of different skills is a benefit when working within an integrated service.
The most rewarding thing about my career
I enjoy the camaraderie that comes from working within ECEC. The connections to similarly minded people, the opportunities to engage in critical reflective conversations and the discussions are what motivate me to be both a better teacher and a better leader.
The opportunities to grow and develop in a profession that is dynamic is wonderful, and the opportunities for me to be challenged and extended in my values, and thinking has also been an advantage.
What qualifications are required to work in integrated child care?
Early Childhood qualifications are required, as per any ECEC service. In addition to this, we recruit and employ allied health personnel such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, nurses, psychologists, art and play therapists and physiotherapists.
We look for more than qualifications; we want people who share our vision, in which every child has opportunities to reach their potential. We place importance on the values of children’s rights that are enacted in everyday practice. We believe that every child and family has the right to access high quality early childhood education services.
Advice for those seeking a career in this sector?
Work on your practice building your understanding of the duality of learning. As teachers we have much to learn from children; we are not the sole informant of knowledge. As I said earlier, good directors come from sound practitioners who are inspirational leaders, who have a high level of professionalism and who see themselves as partners in learning.
Engage in critical reflection, and above all else, see yourself as a professional (you work in a profession not an industry). Would we dare to describe a doctor or a lawyer as working in an industry? They don’t produce anything and neither do we.