It is important to take concerns seriously

Do those of you who work at preschools experience prolonged concern about a child's home situation? If so, it is important to take your concern seriously, reveals a Swedish study.



Children who were the cause of prolonged concern at preschool had more trouble making the transition to school than children who gave little or no cause for concern. This was corroborated by a large-scale study in Sweden.

The study shows that childcare workers possess a wealth of information, along with a good sense of what early childhood development should be.

‘Accordingly, it is important that those who work in preschools remain cognisant of many different aspects of a child’s development.

‘They should also keep an eye on children’s mental health, social problems, language and well-being’, enumerates researcher Birgitta Svensson.

Unique study

The researchers monitored three groups of children: Those who gave staff no cause for concern, those who staff had previous concerns about, and those who gave staff prolonged cause for concern. These children continued to be monitored after starting school. Data were collected from responses to a questionnaire sent to the preschool teachers, head preschool teachers and parents of a total of 2021 children in the municipality of Karlstad in Sweden.

Svensson believes this to be the first time researchers have followed up to determine how life has unfolded for children who gave preschool personnel cause for concern.

Less contact with parents

The study shows that when staff has prolonged cause for concern about a child, that child often comes from a family where the parents have low incomes and little education. There is also a higher percentage of children in this group who were born outside Sweden.

‘Staff concerns are often due to a lack of contact with the child’s parents over time’, Svensson points out.

‘That may indicate that parents are not very involved in their child’s life. Or it might arise from a lack of continuity in dropping the children off and picking them up, or perhaps because parents fail to attend parent-teacher conferences on their child’s development.

Unfortunately, the study indicates that the comprehensive knowledge possessed by preschool staff is not used as well as it could be.

Knowledge is not used well enough

Unfortunately, the study indicates that the comprehensive knowledge possessed by preschool staff is not used as well as it could be.

Preschools only file reports with the child protection agency when their concerns are prolonged. Even in those cases, only about one in four of the concerns is actually reported. In every fifth case, the preschool had addressed the issue with the parents.

Svensson is of the opinion that the knowledge produced by the study can be used to develop cooperation between the child protection agency and the early childhood institutions.

This applies to the information preschools provide to the child protection agency, and to the help that can be made available to the child at home and in preschool.