Karen Rodrigues-Ayers, our Camden Portage Home Learning team coordinator, shares her journey from being supported by KIDS to working for KIDS 

I had a background in Early Years but had strayed from that path into Human resources for an Engineering Firm following the need for a larger salary but I was unhappy in my role working with adults. I then became pregnant and my daughter was born almost 8 weeks premature she needed bowel surgery and was given a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome. Those early months were so lonely with only medical staff to speak to. The worry about if she would survive we fell through some cracks in the system and we didn’t have time to think about the impact of that extra chromosome.  Finally we got a health visitor to see us who said “I know nothing about Down’s syndrome, what do you want me to do.” Not the most helpful and I knew from that moment on I wanted parents to have a different experience. 

I had done a little bit of research and I wanted a service called Portage so the only useful thing that the health visitor did for me was to refer us to KIDS Portage service. That initial first meeting with Margaret and Helen was just amazing! The care, the love  and the useful information that I received  honestly felt like I had made new friends who really understood. Little did I know then that they would become not only my friends but colleagues as well.

I remember one day while at a play session, my daughter Christina was sitting on her bottom refusing to move. Helen noticed that my daughter loved her red hair so she was crawling around the floor shaking her hair in Christina’s face, getting Christina to reach for it not worrying about her banana covered hands.

Margaret put me forward as a parent to do the Portage training course and I was asked if I wanted to be a part of a new developmental play session which was going to be run in Kentish Town, London. So I updated my early years qualification, took redundancy and have never looked back.

Sometimes being a parent of an early years child and an early years practitioner was a challenge and I had to take a break and work elsewhere for a little while but here I am back with KIDS and have the privilege to be  running the Camden Portage Home Learning team, where the goal is to empower parents to show them how to navigate the services and learn to enjoy and play. 

I know personally the impact the service has on parents because I was one of those parents. The KIDS Portage Home Learning team go above and beyond for the families we have the privilege to work with.  In our closing letter, when a family is moving on into formal education, we always say that even when they leave the service they are still part of the KIDS family and if they need anything just call or visit us and we will see what we can do to help.  The care and love we have for the children and their families is immense and this is how I felt as a parent and as a practitioner I’m always striving to learn more and deliver more.  We fight hard through all the challenges with funding to maintain the original Portage ethos : Celebrating the small steps to get to that big goal and supporting families to get to that goal is very important.