By Julie @ ECDA, MSF
Julie is an Early Childhood Subsidy Officer at the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA). For the past 16 years, she has been working closely with child care centres to process subsidy applications for families, which includes processing back-payment cases. She also manages public queries from the centres and parents, and follows up on relevant MP cases.
Sometimes, Julie does more than just ensuring the affordability of pre-school education, as she recalls handling the case of a mother whose action breached the Court Order.
The mother had taken her children away from a child care centre they were enrolled in, and placed them in another centre without the knowledge of the father or the grandmother, even though the mother did not have the care and control of the children.
As such, the grandmother called in – weeping and desperately seeking help to get her two grandchildren back.
But as much as Julie would like to lend a helping hand, her hands were tied.
“In this kind of scenario, we have to let them know that it is not within our authority to intervene in custody issues. With no control over such disputes, it’s best that both parties come to an agreement and settle the issue among themselves, or refer the issue to the Courts or Police, ” said Julie.
Going beyond her obligation – Julie still wrote to the mother to highlight to her about the impact of her actions and the proper manner to handle the issues instead of taking unilateral actions that will inadvertently put the children at a disadvantage.
She says that when dealing with frustrated customers like this, “We have to listen to them, understand the story behind and then do our best to render assistance.”
Even when nasty remarks were thrown at her by applicants who insist on claiming subsidies they are not eligible for, Julie does not let these remarks affect her.
Experience has taught her to handle complaints graciously – but it is Julie’s bubbly and cheerful personality that has enabled her to keep things impersonal and remain professional in her work.
Her judicious thinking is especially useful in managing certain heart-wrenching cases.
For instance, some children from low-income families may miss out on pre-school because their parents can no longer afford the child care fees. Often, these parents will require financial assistance for the children to continue with their pre-school education.
One important part of Julie’s role is to liaise directly with social workers who conduct house visits and carry out the necessary background checks on selected households. With evidence proving a need for financial aid, she will then render the appropriate assistance to the families.
Julie also shares about her encounters with cases involving disputes between parents and child care centre personnel, such as the centre delaying the application of subsidy for the parents even though the latter have submitted the forms on time.
In such situations, she says, “We do our best to help the parents because the centre’s inaction had deprived the parents of the subsidies that they would have been eligible for.” Hence, Julie also helps the centres to perform audit checks and back-pay the affected families.
Doing her best and making a difference in someone’s life – Julie explains “It’s the sense of achievement and satisfaction I get when I manage to help a family with their problem” that keeps her motivated in life.