14 SES 07 B, Parent Engagement in Schools and Communities (Young Children)
Providing support to parents in the early years can enhance their engagement in children’s learning and development, with a positive impact on educational outcomes, and reduction of poverty effects (European Commission, 2013). Family and parenting support is increasingly included in national policies, but many European countries have faced challenges to provide a comprehensive system of assistance, and policies to address poverty and social exclusion (Daly, 2011; Daly et al., 2015). Despite valuable research, gaps remain in our understanding of the characteristics and core components of family and parenting support services/programmes associated with successful engagement and improved outcomes (Cadima et al, 2017).
In Ireland, current family and parenting support policies highlight the importance of prevention and early intervention, inter-agency working, and provision of a continuum of support, from universal to targeted (Department of Children and Youth Affairs, 2015; Government of Ireland, 2018). Family and parenting support services and evidenced-based programmes have been recently mapped in the Irish context (e.g. Brocklesby, 2019; Connolly & Devaney, 2017; Kennedy et al., 2019). However, information on what enables and inhibits effective implementation, evidence-based professional development, and on-site mentoring is still limited, contributing to a policy-practice gap.
The analysis of family and parenting support across European countries can contribute to our understanding of what works, under which conditions, and for whom. Previous reviews on family and parenting support in Europe examined Irish policies and examples of services/programmes (e.g. Grohs et al., 2020; Molinuevo, 2013). However, a comparative analysis of successful Irish and European parenting support programmes does not appear to have been conducted. The present literature review was built on the research conducted by Cadima and colleagues (2017), who examined evidence-based and promising parent- and family-focused support programmes in seven European countries. According to the authors, parenting support in England, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway is marked by an emphasis on prevention and early intervention, which is aligned to Irish policy.
The objectives of the current literature review were (1) to provide an overview of evidence-based and promising parenting support programmes for parents with children up to six years old in Ireland; and (2) to examine commonalities and differences between the identified programmes in Ireland and programmes in England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. The questions focused on what conditions were associated to successful implementation and delivery. The ultimate goal of this review was to contribute to the development of effective policies and practices aiming to promote children’s learning, development, and well-being.
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) underpinned this literature review. The interconnectedness of systems where children are embedded was considered in the analysis of the parenting support provision, namely national policies, services/programmes, and family’s needs and resources.
This study was a review of literature. The search and selection of evidence-based and promising parenting support programmes in Ireland was adapted from the protocol used by Cadima and colleagues (2017). Evidence-based programmes referred to those subjected to RCTs or quasi-experimental studies in Ireland. Promising programmes referred to those that were not subjected to these types of studies in the national context, but which met one or more of the following criteria: evidence in unpublished or grey literature; innovative character; highly considered among academics, personnel and/or communities; able to reach groups less often included; integrated into the community network; considered a response to a particular challenge; and/or subjected to high quality studies conducted outside Ireland. Inclusion criteria followed PICOS (Participants, Interventions, Comparisons and Outcomes) approach (Higgins & Green, 2008). Regarding participants, programmes needed to be aimed at parents with children in the prenatal-six years old range, and could be aimed at the general population or targeted. In terms of intervention, selected programmes needed to work directly with parents, being primarily a parenting/family programme, and implemented within the last 10 years. Regarding the comparison group, it could mean no treatment or a reference treatment, but it was not required in the case of single-case designs or promising programmes. Outcomes should include those that fit the definition of a parenting support programmes (e.g. Quality of learning home environment; Parental attachment). The search protocol involved searching in university and national databases, scientific journals, governmental and non-governmental websites or publications, and general search engines (e.g., Google), and consulting with national experts. After the identification of programmes, each was described regarding level of implementation, sector(s), eligibility and recruitment, and delivery mode.
Preliminary findings indicated the identification, in Ireland, of both evidenced-based and promising parenting support programmes (which were selected based on their goal to reach families who were considered outside the mainstream). Regarding the level of implementation, coverage of programmes seemed to differ among areas in the national context. The prevailing sectors were health and/or education. In terms of eligibility and recruitment, the majority of programmes were available to all parents, but particularly targeting parents and families facing poverty and/or social exclusion. In regard to the delivery mode, the majority of programmes included home-visits, and some programmes provided centre- and group-based activities. The identified programmes included elements that have been considered effective in parenting support, and that were also found in England, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway (Cadima et al, 2017). These included a focus on more than one area of need, easily accessible services, continuity between universal and targeted provision, and the availability of a wide range of services (Molinuevo, 2013; Moran et al., 2004). Common aspects with the other European countries included having a dimension of family support within health services, a focus on measures fostering good parenting practices and promoting home learning environments, and the use of programmes originally developed outside the country (Cadima et al., 2017). Recommendations for policy and practice will be drawn based on the findings.
Brofenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Harvard University Press. Cadima, J., Nata, G., Evangelou, M., Anders, Y., & Parental Support ISOTIS Team. (2017). Inventory and analysis of promising and evidence-based parent- and family- focused support programs. ISOTIS. http://www.isotis.org/resources/publications/isotis-publications Connolly, N., & Devaney, C. (2017). Parenting support: Policy and practice in the Irish context. Child Care in Practice, 24(1), 15-28. https://doi.org/10.1080/13575279.2016.1264365 Daly, M. (2011). Building a coordinated strategy for parenting support. Synthesis report. Peer review on social protection and social inclusion. http://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=7987&langId=en Daly, M., Bray, R., Bruckauf, Z., Byrne, J., Margaria, A., Pecnik, N., & Samms-Vaughan, M. (2015). Family and parenting support: Policy and provision in a global context. UNICEF Office of Research. Department of Children and Youth Affairs. (2015). High-level policy statement on supporting parents and families. https://assets.gov.ie/37254/771e0d95117b4b9096e902a2697a338d.pdf European Commission. (2013). Parenting support policy brief. https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=15978&langId=en Government of Ireland (2018). First 5: A whole-of-government strategy for babies, young children and their families. https://assets.gov.ie/31184/62acc54f4bdf4405b74e53a4afb8e71b.pdf Grohs,S., Beinborn, N, & Ullrich, N. (2020). Making prevention work. Preventive structures and policies for children, youth and families - Comprehensive report. https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/en/publications/publication/did/making-prevention-work-all-4 Higgins, J. P., & Green, S. (2008). Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Kennedy, F., & Prevention & Early Intervention Unit. (2019). Prevention & early intervention series. Focussed policy assessment no.7. Programmatic interventions for children, young people and their parents. https://igees.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/PEIU_FPA_Programmatic-Interventions-for-Children-Young-People-and-their-Parents.pdf Molinuevo, D. (2013). Parenting support in Europe. https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef1270en.pdf Moran, P., Ghate, D., Van Der Merwe, A., & Policy Research Bureau. (2004). What works in parenting support? A review of the international evidence. Department for Education and Skills. http://www.prb.org.uk/wwiparenting/RR574.pdf Brocklesby, S. (2019). A national review of the Community Mothers Programme. Katharine Howard Foundation. http://www.khf.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/National-Review-of-the-Community-Mothers-Programme-Full-Report-FINAL-18-_04_19.pdf
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