Research Report shows significant development of Child Care and Family Support S

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Social services providing family support, child protection and out-of-home care, have developed significantly in recent years and there are now many models of good practice to be found in health board areas throughout the country. That's according to a new study carried out by the Western Health Board/NUI Galway Child and Family Research and Policy Unit.

The report, entitled "Working with Children and Families – Exploring Good Practice," will be launched by Mr. Brian Lenihan, TD, Minister for State at the Department of Health and Children, with special responsibility for children, in the Oranmore Lodge Hotel, Oranmore, today (Tuesday).

The report provides a snapshot of some of the models and approaches currently being implemented in child and family services throughout Ireland. Each Health Board was asked to nominate examples of good practice of service provision in their areas. The 26 profiles nominated and discussed in this report, will enable policy makers and practitioners to see examples of good work and learn from the experience of others.

Dr Pat Dolan, one of the researchers on the project said: "The wide range of projects demonstrates that interventions with families can be effective in many different ways and across service settings from early years day care to residential care." He added that a number of the case studies "advocated greater partnership with children and families as key to good practice." The report shows that the most effective and successful services are those provided in consultation with the recipients, whether they are teenagers or parents of children at risk.

Among the examples of best practice cited in the report are:

  • Pre-school childcare services that combine provision of childcare with support for the parents, such as parenting skills courses and vocational educational programmes that enable the parents and children function better as a family.

  • Drop-in Centres for teenagers where trained staff provide additional support for adolescents in difficulty. The young people are also involved in the design and set-up of the centre which gives them a sense of ownership of the project
  • Community-based projects to assist children at risk of expulsion from school. The child-led model agrees steps with the parents, child, teachers and local youth workers and as it is the child who determines what is likely to work, there is a greater likelihood that the child will remain in school.
  • Residential care model that keeps children in care in their own community, where they continue to attend their local school, have regular contact with their family and friends, thus retaining their social network

Mr. Brian Lenihan, TD, Minister for State at the Department of Health and Children said: "This Government is committed to strengthening policies and enhancing services to support families and children. I am confident that this report will prove to be of enormous benefit to both policy makers and practitioners and will play an important part in the ongoing quest to improve the quality of services provided for families and children."

The report is not intended as an evaluation of services but focuses on strengths in child and family care practices which can be replicated nationally and internationally. The research was commissioned by the Child Care Policy Unit of the Department of Health and Children.

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