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CRH embraces new culture, reaching internationally recognised benchmark

Determined to learn from the devastating CRH Incident last December and to rebuild its child care service to the front edge, the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC) launched in March a nine-month CRH Reform Project led by the Council of Non-profit Making Organisations for Pre-primary Education (CNOPE) with guidance and support from the Social Welfare Department (SWD). The conclusion of the CRH Reform Project on 20 December is celebrated on 15 December with a certificate presentation ceremony, recognising the exceptional efforts of the new team of frontline CRH Child Care Workers (CCW) who achieved a service quality certified as satisfactory overall according to the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS, for young children) and Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS, for children aged 3 and above).

ITERS/ECERS is an instrument used internationally to measure the quality of childcare setting. By guiding frontline staff and showing how well their service meets children’s needs with quality improvement goals, ITERS/ECERS helps ensure that the service is child-centric and in the best interest of the child. It is not only a structural indicator to measure the features of the classrooms, but also a process quality indicator to scrutinise the quality of care, such as that of interactions between staff and children, interactions between children and the environment, with activities and daily schedule designed to facilitate children’s all-round development.

Among the CCWs proudly receiving their certificates today were members of the seconded CNOPE team and CCWs re-deployed from other service units of HKSPC, who chose, in the end, to stay at CRH to join its staff.
Partners in the CRH Reform Project, including Council of Non-profit Making Organisations for Pre-primary Education, Yew Chung College of Early Childhood Education, Department of Childcare, Elderly and Community Services of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Sha Tin), Pacific Early Childhood Education Research Association – Hong Kong, and the Social Welfare Department, celebrated together on achieving positive change for CRH.

Receiving visitors from LegCo and Executive Council

We were also delighted to receive visitors from the Legislative Council (LegCo) Panel on Welfare Services and Executive Council (ExCo) to CRH on 28 and 29 September 2022 respectively. They got a first-hand feel of the changes introduced at the Home since March, including a new educare model. Visitors were briefed on the latest operation at CRH, and taken around the facility to interact with the children and their carers. (see RTHK’s report)

Members of Legislative Council visiting CRH
Members of Executive Council visiting CRH

New educare model to provide best possible environment to children

“It has been an exceptional reform journey at CRH symbolic of and supported by the drive to build a new culture and best practice in this highly complex and challenging service unit. With the help of the industry through CNOPE and their professional partners, the new CRH team has made very substantive improvements while under intense scrutiny to ensure we provide the best possible environment for these children in need. We have introduced a new educare model that aims to incorporate age-appropriate stimulation and education for the young children under our care, many of whom have developmental disabilities or special educational needs. Underpinning this is a substantially improved staff: child ratio, from typically 1:7 to 1:5, as well as revision to our staff rostering so that the children are in familiar groups with familiar staff. With a new management team in place, and an increased emphasis on child safeguarding and staff training, we will continue to improve,” said Robin Hammond, Chairman of the Executive Committee of HKSPC.

“Work is also ongoing to improve the digital platform for the Home to reduce administrative work that used to occupy CCWs and the multi-disciplinary team at CRH. The enhanced platform should help to reduce human error and associated risks. We are immensely grateful for the help offered to us through this difficult time, showcasing the collaborative power of the sector and helping to address issues for the care sector in general. The road ahead is long and sustaining the positive changes will prove every bit as challenging as introducing them. Trust is difficult to earn, and easily lost. We will continue to do everything we can to regain that of the families we serve and all our stakeholders,” continued Robin.

Subrina Chow, Director, HKSPC, remarked, “Working and learning to address the multi-faceted challenges together with the CNOPE team over the last nine months have been most inspiring. We’ve seen ups and downs, cried and laughed but we’ve never given up striving to do better to safeguard our children. The frontline team now knows they are not alone, and the back office team knows they are as responsible to ensure service quality as pledged at the delivery point. I am confident our new team will continue to work and improve as one. We shall also seek to contribute to the sustainable training and professional development by sharing HKSPC’s experience in a structured, step-by-step manner.”

Children’s Residential Home after Reform Project

Staffing ratio: Daytime staffing ratio of child care workers to children is improved from 1:7 to 1:5, which is the highest in the industry.

Work allocation: New clerical and administrative staff are hired to give necessary support to the management so that they could devote their time to frontline supervision.

Collaborative groups: Same group of child care workers and social workers are assigned to the 4 different age groups, so that they can build stronger bond with the children and with one another.

Monitoring: CCTV monitoring is enhanced with random daily checks by authorised staff.

Staff training: Since May, both frontline and management staff have received regular training on how to provide better care and environment for children.

Staff benefits: Competitive staff fringe benefits like 5-day work and fixed shift work are offered to attract applicants, with a view to maintaining the enhanced staffing ratio.

Clinical support: Since June, children diagnosed with developmental disabilities have received On-site Pre-school Rehabilitation Services by HKSPC’s Centre of Child Enlightenment. Doctors also visit CRH 3 times a week.

External communication: Close coordination with the Social Welfare Department is maintained to strengthen governance and management.

Education: Children reaching suitable age are enrolled in HKSPC’s nursery schools.