International Conference on Family Support

Wednesday, 6 June 2001

Release date: 6 June, 2001

International Conference highlights the benefits of Supporting Parents in helping troubled children

New evidence that direct support to parents is a key ingredient in helping children who are experiencing problems, will be presented at the first International Conference on Family Support Evaluation to be held in Ireland. The two-day conference, which will take place in NUI, Galway tomorrow and Friday (7 and 8 June), will be officially opened by Mary Banotti, MEP. One of the keynote speakers, Dr Kieran McKeown, will deliver a paper on the evaluation of the Irish National Springboard Family Support Programme, a nation-wide set of 15 community based family support projects. Dr. McKeown says that "preventive community based programmes are not just beneficial to the children who attend but also act as a strong source of support to parents". His evaluation report will demonstrate how the Springboard Projects work with children, adolescents and parents, who are experiencing or are likely to experience personal difficulties such as financial problems, early school leaving, parenting problems, and young people with challenging behaviours. Dr McKeown emphasises the importance of early intervention and professionals as key sources of support to families.

Speakers from the EU, South Africa, USA and the UK will all echo the importance of more comprehensive research into what works for families in adversity. Dr. Heather Weiss, of the Harvard Family Research Project will speak on Principles of Family Support Evaluation , while Professor Marian Jacobs of South Africa s Child Health Unit, will speak on Making Evaluation central to Building Family Support Provision

The conference is particularly timely for the Western Health Board in that Family Support has become a central part of its services, with the number of Family Support projects growing from two in 1995 to twenty two in 2001. Commitment to family support has also been included in the Board s forthcoming strategic plan for children and families.

The conference is jointly organised by the Western Health Board; National University of Ireland, Galway; and Family Support Evaluation Network International. "If there is to be a real shift in government policy toward preventative, family support approaches, it will require a commitment to evaluation of all such projects and programmes, said John Canavan, NUI Galway . "Policy change requires strong evidence - this conference is about the means of generating the evidence".

"In order to help families and to lessen the cost of expensive forms of care for children, not alone is there a need for more family support services, but also clearer research into how best to support families in ways that make a difference for them," said Pat Dolan, Western Health Board. "This conference is a forum for discovering ways in which best practice in working with children and families can be identified and validated," he said.

More than 250 delegates, including a wide range of professionals who work with families, policy makers, researchers and evaluators in Ireland and abroad, are expected to attend the conference.

Ends

Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI, Galway. Tel. 091 750418

Miriam Stack, Director of Communications, Western Health Board. Tel. 091 775474

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