Explore ECA’s inspiring journey from establishment to empowerment

Abu Dhabi, July 17, 2022: Since its establishment in July 2019, the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) has been working, in partnership with relevant entities, on developing a comprehensive early childhood development strategy for Abu Dhabi. In addition to reviewing early childhood-related policies and programs, ECA has taken responsibility for developing relevant legislation, policies and regulations, conducting specialized studies in the early childhood development (ECD), and sharing the industry’s best practices at the local, regional and global levels. The authority is also tasked with proposing the best solutions and recommendations, managing Abu Dhabi’s early childhood sector, and collaborating with relevant entities to develop and implement ECD plans and programs.

On the 3rd anniversary of ECA’s establishment, let’s highlight the Authority’s most prominent achievements from establishment to empowerment. Owing to the generous support of the wise leadership, its promising vision, and valuable partnerships with various sectors, entities and community members, ECA seeks to promote optimal development and well-being for Abu Dhabi’s children. To that end, ECA focuses on four child-centered sectors, namely child protection, health and nutrition, family support, early care and education. In collaboration with its partners, ECA is working on supporting and developing these sectors for their crucial role in achieving holistic development for children, thus raising healthy, active and responsible generations who are capable of making a positive change in the future.

H.E. Sana Mohamed Suhail, ECA’s Director-General, said: “For child protection, ECA has conducted, in collaboration with partners, a detailed audit and analysis for challenges in all aspects of Abu Dhabi’s child protection system. In collaboration with 12 local and federal government entities, ECA has developed a holistic child protection strategy for Abu Dhabi.”

“To enhance child protection outcomes, the Authority identified four key prevention programs, including Safe Schools, Positive Parenting, Community Awareness Raising, and Improving Parents Mental Health. Furthermore, ECA has created actionable tools to strengthen child protection in Abu Dhabi, including matrix of forms of child maltreatment, five components of child abuse response, and a quick reference guide for health practitioners,” she added.

“ECA has published, in collaboration with partners, practical manuals and guidelines, including Child Online Protection Guide (ages 0-8) and Child Protection Policy & Manual for Educational institutions in coordination with the Department of Education And Knowledge. The Authority has also commissioned actionable research on adverse childhood experiences with local and international universities, including development of a first-of-its-kind predictive analysis tool to enable early identification of potential child abuse cases.”

According to Suhail, ECA has expanded coordination between government entities at local and federal levels in child protection, including providing technical support to establish child protection units within eight government entities and harmonizing policies and practices among relevant entities. She also affirmed ECA’s support to Abu Dhabi’s health and social sectors in scoping the comprehensive mental health, addiction prevention, people of determination and early intervention strategies for the Emirate.

“In addition to supporting the establishment of the Multi-sectoral Abu Dhabi Family and Child Protection Committee, ECA has commissioned studies related to justice system and the potential of raising criminal responsibility age in coordination with the Ministry of Interior. ECA has also facilitated review of several human rights initiatives related to child protection in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.”

With respect to family support, ECA has conducted, in collaboration with partners, a detailed assessment of more than 60 ECD services and resources in Abu Dhabi, to identify strengths, gaps and areas of improvement. Besides, the Authority has developed a comprehensive Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) strategy for the Emirate, she clarified.

In response to COVID-19 pandemic, ECA has supported the establishment of the UAE’s first child vaccination center, and publishing a dedicated Parents’ Toolkit containing reliable information on COVID-19 vaccines. The Authority has also developed a comprehensive health and nutrition guide for children (0-2 years).

The Director General indicated that ECA has utilized Ma’an Social Impact Bonds in implementing targeted measures to better understand and proactively respond to the specific needs of parents of young children experiencing divorce or separation. ECA developed and monitored the implementation of the Positive Parenting pilot program in Abu Dhabi, including the training of local coordinators and the tailoring of relevant resources to parents.

Likewise, ECA has launched the Parent Friendly Label (PFL), an innovative initiative aims to recognize parent-friendly workplaces in Abu Dhabi and promote a more parent-friendly work culture in the Emirate. In June, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has honored organizations received the PFL in its 1st cycle. Sheikh Mohamed has directed to scale the initiative to the country’s all organizations, Suhail added.

H.E. Sana Suhail said that ECA has finalized draft of Early Childhood Parents Support Strategy and conducted groundbreaking Knowledge, Attitude & Practice Study on parenting behaviors in Abu Dhabi.

“To support families of children of determination, ECA has conducted a survey for their parents, designed a framework for an integrated early intervention system for the Emirate, and developed a dedicated pilot program and resource guide to support new parents of children of determination. In addition to launching a program to support nurseries in Abu Dhabi during COVID-19 pandemic, ECA increased coordination between the local and federal entities in early education. This included contributing to developing and reviewing draft national laws, policies, and programs.”

She noted that ECA has published a comprehensive ECD policy-making guide in collaboration with relevant government entities, adding the Authority has also developed, in collaboration with relevant government entities, a draft for the comprehensive child protection policy that unites all relevant stakeholders in a strategic manner, improving coordination between entities and safeguarding the emirate’s children.

“To support working parents, ECA has conducted targeted survey on maternity and paternity leave among parents working in Abu Dhabi’s public sector. Further, the Authority commissioned study on parent-friendly workplace practices in coordination with Human Resources Authority, leading to evidence-based recommendations to human resources and labor regulations in the Emirate,” Suhail clarified ECA’s efforts to improve ECD policies and legislation.

Her Excellency said that ECA has implemented an innovative experiment to spend time without mobile devices in cafes and restaurants in Abu Dhabi. The Authority has also published Healthy Use of Technology Guide for children aged 0-8 years. ECA has also partnered with the Federal Government to help review and consider revisions to ECD-related federal laws and regulations, including existing laws regarding domestic violence and children of unknown parentage.

Suhail stated that ECA has developed a comprehensive human capital strategy to enhance domestic ECD capabilities in partnership with eight local and federal government entities.

She pointed to the several tools launched by ECA to measure and improve outcomes of ECD practitioners and services. These include a standardized competencies framework for ECD practitioners, a flexible supply and demand model for the staffing of 46 prioritized ECD positions over the next ten years, an accessible database of 102 ECD-related positions, and an annual ECD workforce survey.

“In coordination with the NYU Abu Dhabi, ECA has developed and presented training programs on ECD fundamentals to over 50 local practitioners and 50 policymakers in Abu Dhabi. The Authority has also developed, in coordination with Georgetown University and three local universities, a training program in Arabic and English for over 100 child protection specialists in 2020, and more than 180 specialists in 2021. Moreover, ECA launched targeted programs to improve the competencies of hotline workers, managers of family shelters and other social support facilities in the Emirate. ECA further conducted a study to explore ways to boost skills of domestic workers and raise their awareness about their crucial role to ensure children’s development.”

Sana Suhail mentioned that ECA has also conducted a study involving more than 330 female jobseekers in the ECCE sector and a cross-section of potential employers to inform relevant skills development programs. She further added that ECA, in partnership with the US-based National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC), has provided a specialized training on forensic interviews with children to over 100 professionals working across the social, educational and healthcare sectors.

“The Authority also provided a practical training on child development and quality learning improvements in four languages to over 5,800 teachers at more than 580 nurseries across the Emirate.  Besides, ECA has supported ECCE practitioners and organizations in addressing COVID-19 challenges by developing materials and providing training to more than 22,000 nursery employees across the UAE on Safe Return to School Protocols for 2020-2021.”

In terms of knowledge-sharing and outreach, Suhail revealed that ECA has launched its annual community program “Takween”, featuring a set of various educational and recreational activities. The program’s offerings are available on Parents’ Platform, the first local platform specialized presenting curated content on ECD-related topics.

By hosting 210 workshops for more than 30,000 parents on various aspects of children’s development, ECA worked on raising awareness about ECD fundamentals and available child-centered services in Abu Dhabi. The Authority has also launched interactive “Knowledge Maze” event at Umm Al Emarat Park, she stated.
“In collaboration with international academic institutions and local experts, ECA has developed and published integrated guides for parents focused on the three development stages of pregnancy, children aged 0-1 year, and children aged 2-3 years.”

H.E. Sana Suhail noted that ECA has partnered with UNICEF to develop and launched the Child Protection Social and Behavioral Communications Strategy. She added the Authority established diverse advisory bodies to support its activities, including the Voice of Child Panel representing parents from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and the ECD Expert Panel comprised of 12 local and international ECD subject matter experts.

She further indicated that ECA has developed, supported and implemented a wide range of public awareness campaigns, including on learning through play, safe outdoor play, dental health, maternal health, premarital counseling, effects of divorce on child development, and child vaccinations.

Suhail has shed light the World Early Childhood Development (WED) Movement, launched by ECA. The initiative brings together the world’s leading experts, innovators and disrupters to create and disseminate knowledge, facilitate collaboration with stakeholders, and improve ECD outcomes in Abu Dhabi and beyond. The 1st WED Forum was held in Abu Dhabi, featuring 250 experts, thinkers, and specialists who participated in 40 engaging talks, panel discussions, and roundtables. In addition, over 500 children have joined the Fun Run organized in partnership with Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

With regard to research and innovation, Suhail said that ECA has designed and established a targeted Grants Program for 2021-22. The program called for proposals addressing specific knowledge gaps in the ECD landscape related to early interventions for Children of Determination and chronic absenteeism. To date, five grants have been awarded. The Authority has also launched a research working group bringing together key researchers from universities and academic institutions, along with research managers from relevant public and private entities in the Emirate.

Finally, Suhail noted that ECA has developed and implemented the innovative Anjal Z program. In partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office, the program aims to attract promising international ECD start-ups to Abu Dhabi by inviting them to participate in an 8-week program providing investment and hands-on support, to enable them localize their offerings in Abu Dhabi. A total of 12 start-ups from two cohorts have been on-boarded to date.

She added that ECA, in partnership with international vendors, has been developing the transformative Abu Dhabi Child Insights System, to provide a multi-sectoral data analytics platform that collects child-related data from more than 15 public and private entities in Abu Dhabi. The system aims to identify children in potentially vulnerable situations, enable early interventions for children in need, and support evidence-based policy decision-making in Abu Dhabi. The system was selected as the Most Innovative UAE Government Project of the year and received the “UAE Innovates 2022” Award.

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