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          Parent and Child Empowerment Programme

Programme training now open to wide range of para-professional staff.   The home visiting staff that can be trained within this new programme include community staff nurses, nursery nurses, family care workers, health care and health visitor assistants, outreach workers and others employed by health and social services, and possibly education care workers. A selection process identifies those staff members who are willing to adopt an empowering approach to parents, and who wish to be trained in the strategies needed to do this visiting. Like all home visitors involved in the programme, they will have access to the 200 cartoons and friendly recipes from which visitors make a small selection to give to parents on each programme visit.

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The new PCEmP, like the other forms of the Child Development Programme, cover a very wide range of parenting situations. Typical examples are:

•   a couple trying to handle a seriously misbehaving child,

•   a young single mother with few ideas of how to deal with her new baby,

•   a father obsessed with trying to achieve an impossibly high level of control over a normally active pre-schooler,

•   a couple with no awareness of good nutrition, who feed their children as badly as they feed themselves,

•   parents who use physical punishment to enforce good behaviour,

•   and a mother finding it hard to come to terms with her traumatic early history.

However difficult any of these problems, most parents do not want to be told how to deal with them, an experience that can leave them even more disempowered. They seek answers, but these have to be their own answers. The skilled and empathetic support and information help them to realise that the answer to most of their problems lies in their own insights and skills. Trained programme visitors work with the parents in awakening those insights and encourages them to take on the challenge of solving their own problems.

Other aspects of this new programme are:

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a. In particular, this approach does not regard families with problems as ‘problem families’ needing rescuing by others; it offers instead a human and effective form of empowerment that has been successfully used with well over 100,000 families in the past quarter century.

b. The new programme has been designed so that selected and trained para-professionals can form the core of the visiting staff in any area which adopts the PCEmP. Drawn from different backgrounds, they are chosen for their ability to work comfortably as the equals of a wide range of people from various communities. The visiting Programme staff are known as Programme Visitors (PVs).

c. The initial coordinator for a new PCEmP group could be an empowering health visitor or other professional who has had considerable experience of home visiting, and who is willing to be trained in the programme principles. Within a few years of starting a programme group, one of the newly trained PVs needs to be selected as the new coordinator and given training as the programme trainer for her own group.

d. The PCEmP also offers the opportunity for cooperation between health, social services and education in providing any additional support that might be needed by the families who are being visited. There will be close cooperation in particular with health visitors, in view of their clinical health work with parents and children.

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e. The programme provides a model for the constructive use of both Sure Start and Children’s Centre staff in parent support work. Existing and new Children’s Centre projects could adopt the PCEmP as their key parenting programme, offering clear guidelines and boundaries for para-professional staff in their work with parents, and providing a structured and effective means of organising parent outreach work. Individual Children’s Centres, in collaboration with other services, would decide how to coordinate the parenting support work, providing training and using a variety of talents and skills for working with parents within a focused PCEmP.

f. Whatever the administrative structures developed to support parents, it is essential that it remains a home visiting programme with parents in the driving seat. To allow it to become a visiting service dominated by the agendas of various professional services would be a denial of everything this programme represents, apart from guaranteeing its failure as an empowering support service.

g. One of the great advantages of this programme is that it can be used effectively with all parents, even the most troubled, in view of the intimacy and confidence-building that arise out of a form of home visiting in which the equality of visitors and parents is emphasised. The high dropout and limited uptake of many other parent support initiatives are often due to the unwillingness of parents to discuss their problems and worries in group situations. In the privacy of home visits the particular concerns of each parent about her children and any of her personal issues become the prime focus of the programme.

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h. The combination of Health’s focus on the 0 to 3s, and the Local Authority focus on the 3 to 5s, provides an ideal setting in which Sure Start and Children’s Centres can strengthen the parenting role, not only for those parents who care full-time for their children in the home, but also for the majority of other parents of pre-school children who work part-time.

i. Among the many significant contributions of the PCEmP is that it will also serve to identify child protection difficulties that may be developing in some homes - though the programme itself is known to be one of the best means of preventing such situations from arising. The PCEmP can also train staff to work closely with professional social, health and educational services in supporting parents after the ending of any formal child care proceedings that may be undertaken by the professionals.

Children's Centres, Sure Start projects, Health Trusts (PCTs and Foundation), Local Government bodies, Social Service Departments, Education and other authorities, as well as senior staff interested in the possibility of piloting the Parent and Child Empowerment Programme within their areas, are welcome to contact the Early Childhood Development Centre. Details are given on the Contact page in this website.

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