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New key to effective support of parents?

For many decades the health and social services in the UK and a few other Western countries have endeavoured to assist parents who cannot cope with the challenge of rearing their children. This is artly because the structures of modern society no longer enfold young parents within an extended family network where grandparents or other relatives can take over when parenting becomes too difficult. Instead most of today’s young parents are living on their own - many of them as single parents.

Billions of pounds have been spent on trying to rectify this situation, with only limited results as seen by the increasing disintegration of communities and the rising tide of alienation, social and educational failure.

In the UK the concept of the welfare state has become entangled with the concept of charitable help for parents who are seen as inadequate and unable to cope. The more help and advice that have been offered, the less the troubled parents have been able to cope. Well-meaning charitable instincts obstruct the more difficult approach of empowering the seemingly failing parents; it is only the latter that could enable most parents to resolve their own problems, with a minimum of skilled backing from sympathetic support workers.

This is a more difficult approach than relying on the advice and help of a well-meaning adviser and guide. It demands much more from the parents, and challenges them to work out their own answers. It demands from the support worker the determination to hold back from prescribing solutions, and the patience to wait while the parent or parents work out their own way forward. The encouragement of that co-worker is there to offer added support when the task seems impossible, but even then there is no takeover, but rather ‘I know you can do it - let’s talk more so that you can think up other solutions’.

There will always be those very few situations where the child-rearing and caring are so hopeless and the parents are so lost in their own psychological prison that they cannot move out of it. Then care workers need to take over, sometimes even to call in the professionals to take the children into care. But those should be rare events and ended as soon as the parents start moving forward.

More usually there is a good parent struggling to get out of the morass of past failure and the present seeming impossibilities. An aware support worker can show the parent that she (or he, or they) have in themselves great potential, but they need to work at realising that potential themselves.

The approach described in this website is one that can be followed by parent support workers, whether they are based in the community, in children’s centres, in community health or social service departments, in educational welfare or probation services - wherever families have been identified who are struggling with the challenge of modern parenting.

Other pages on this website describe some of the strategies that can be followed in this approach to parents. It is an approach that has been developed by the Early Childhood Development Centre in the UK and a few other countries over the past decades. It has taken various forms. The latest initiative, the Parent and Child Empowerment Programme, may be the most appropriate, based as it is on para-professionals working within teams of support workers, with their own coordinators and trainers, and liaising where necessary with the professional services.

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