Why Support Parents?
Children benefit from positive parenting from birth, right through to adulthood. The Child and Family Agency and its partners are working to support parents to raise their children in a way that improves child well-being and children’s outcomes. At the family level, effective parenting support can help family well-being and reduce problems that might happen later on. In communities, parenting supports can improve the well-being of communities and promote co-operation and solidarity. Finally, within society, support for parents can ensure a better use of resources, can serve to reduce inequalities, and can build and strengthen relationships, education, the economy and our environment.
What is Parenting Support
Parenting support is both a way of working and a set of activities that provides information, advice and assistance to parents and carers about bringing up their children, so that these children will reach their full potential.
Examples of Parenting Supports include parent and toddler groups, home-based parenting programmes, group based parenting programmes and school based parenting programmes.
Parenting Support Approach
The Parenting Support Approach is a way of working that recognises the importance of relationships in delivering supportive programmes and services for parents.
Applying a Parenting Support Approach means that practitioners will be interested not only with a parent’s relationship with their child but also be conscious of the effect of their own relationship with the parent and other family members. They will have a genuine interest in whatever family they are working with and be friendly and understanding at all times. The Parenting Support Approach also means that practitioners will be able to spend a certain amount of their working day with groups of parents and other practitioners in an educational and preventative capacity.
Lifecourse means the different stages that people go through over a lifetime. We have found that by using a Lifecourse approach in the Parenting Strategy we can ensure that parents will have supports at all ages and stages of their children’s lives from pregnancy to the teenage years and beyond.
In the Parenting Strategy we have divided the Lifecourse into five different stages as follows:
- Preparing for and becoming a parent
- Birth to five years – this stage is a priority area because of the strong evidence that supporting parents and their children in the earliest years is the most effective and efficient way to achieve family wellbeing and improve outcomes for children.
- 6 to 12 years
- 13 to 17 years
We also have some key messages that we have discovered through looking at scientific research into what works best for children and families throughout the lifecourse. See Parenting24Seven for more information.
Levels of Need
The Child and Family Agency recognise that parenting is a complex business and that many families will need different levels of support at different times in the lifecourse of their family. Thinking about what services we can provide to meet these different levels of need helps us to plan better and provide more timely and effective services.
On the very first level we have the provision of services to all families - universal supports – and this can include information on parenting. On the next level we have supports and services for families who may be experiencing some difficulties or who are at risk. On the third level we have supports for families who we know are having difficulties at a particular phase in the lifecourse and this might include child protection issues. Here we can provide ‘supervised parenting’ to actively support these families. At the fourth level the Child and Family Agency are acting as parents themselves where a child has been taken into care. However, parents of children in statutory care will still be supported to participate in contact with their child and to build a good quality relationship.
Delivery of this Parenting Support Strategy will be through four main goals as follows:
- Parenting Support will be an important part of the work of the Child and Family Agency and parenting supports and services will be included in all plans for children and families in all areas.
- We will use the best evidence we have about what works for parents and families when we are thinking about and delivering supports and services.
- Parenting supports and services will be available in all areas, at all stages of the lifecourse and at all levels of need.
- Parents using the supports and services will experience them as being friendly and accessible.
Parenting24Seven is a campaign that promotes key messages from evidence about what is important in parenting, from pregnancy to the teenage years and beyond. It is an initiative of the Parenting Support Strategy. Parenting24Seven promotes 31 messages: 7 general messages that apply to parenting children of all ages; and 24 messages that are specific to the different stages in the lifecourse – preparing for and becoming a parent; birth to 5 years; 6 to 12 years; and 13 to 17 years. These 31 messages form a portion of the 50 key messages document that accompanies the Parenting Support Strategy, the remaining 19 messages are related to parenting in different contexts, for example, lone parenting, parenting children with additional needs, parenting when there is a drug and/or alcohol problem etc.