Family centre integrated parent agenda practice model
The parents’ agenda as depicted in the model in Fig. 18.1 includes the following four domains.
Personal agenda, reflecting parents’ desire to connect and bond with others, be guided and mentored, and gain resources. Personal agendas can be met in a variety of ways, including work with case managers to facilitate use of a range of possible opportunities and services, work with a mentor (parent peer) or guide on steps to self-sufficiency, or work with a therapist to meet interpersonal and mental health needs. Mental health needs are normalized with a focus on building relationships and learning and developing coping skills in a supportive environment.
Protection and problem–solving agenda, including learning how to protect and nurture one’s children and one’s self, as well as gain competence in parenting. Many parents have to fulfill mandated requirements to prove they are competent; others want to meet basic needs and find their way out of poverty, domestic violence, or substance abuse. This domain can include learning to solve problems at points of crisis and later develop problem-solving skills to work with family parenting and personal concerns. Of primary importance is the need to establish safety plans that ensures that children are protected and nurtured in their families and communities. This includes recognizing the effects of trauma and understanding the path to recovery. The role of support as a buffer to the stressors of ongoing exposure to violence can involve the resources of the family centre; work with early childhood education that can respond to the special needs of children, as well as the broader community.
Social and learning agenda, which includes developing friendships, learning to be supported, and supporting others. The experience of mutual aid and being valued as a member of the family centre community is an essential contributor to parents’ development and self-efficacy, as friendships and support are invaluable in raising children in impoverished or dangerous neighbourhoods. Parents are usually interested in group programs, as they share many concerns and can mutually benefit from working on issues with each other, such as managing family life, budgeting, and preparing for employment. Parents often need help identifying what they need to learn and how this can best happen.
Community agenda, which involves learning to belong and take responsibility, including new roles in the family centre community, and to be an activist. Parents’ membership as part of the family support community reinforces their belonging and provides opportunities for them to join with other parents and staff. Experience as an active community member can increase a parent’s authority and sense of efficacy because they have a role as a citizen to influence and shape the centre’s community and to advocate for change. This level of involvement can prepare them for citizenship in their local community important for needed social change.
Comprehensive programs offered in many family centres make it possible to meet multiple social and mental health needs described in the parents’ agendas. Parents can be engaged to work on one or more agendas. A parent’s progress in meeting goals with one agenda can influence desire to work on other agendas that will influence their overall progress. The challenge for family centre practice is working with the whole while also focusing on specifics. For example, integration of comprehensive services that aim to meet requirements of mandated protection includes a focus on development for parent and child. Some parents have been victims of violence; for them to grow in competence as a parent they need help with their own recovery and healing. Service integration happens over time, in response to a parent’s needs, priorities, and abilities to engage in the work of the agenda, and is similarly based on the capacity of the family centre to provide different forms of help. John’s substantial work (for example, John 2008) recognizes and clarifies the special leadership qualities which underpin the integrative practice capacity of centre managers.
This chapter has defined and highlighted aspects of child poverty as the context for community-based, family-centred practice. It described an integrated practice model for family centres, illustrating possible pathways for engagement, development, and change. The chapter proposes such family centred practice as the necessarily sophisticated response to the formal and informal needs of impoverished families, the need for a multi-systemic approach to intervention, and the need for a whole family, community approach that can buffer ubiquitous stressors and create essential resources. Thus parents are more able to work toward self-sufficiency while there is tandem support for their children’s development through early childhood education. These community programs can also engender a collective response, where social action is successful because parents with family centre staff have become effective advocates, focusing on conditions in poor neighbourhoods that impact the lives of those living in the broader community, building capacity for change.
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