Posted on June 27, 2017
The Community Foundation for Ireland has partnered and co-funded the Parenting Support Initiative (PSI) together with the Katharine Howard Foundation since 2014.
Following extensive consultation and building on both Foundations’ experience, it was agreed that the biggest gap in the area of Children in terms of policy and practice was in the pre-birth to end of age two. At the time it was agreed to focus on this age group as the available research emphatically pointed out that the earlier that young children and their families avail of support the better. The focus shifted from early learning to include child health and well-being – a much broader concept. The PSI aimed to target vulnerable families in particular.
The PSI was designed to support prevention and early intervention evidence informed or evidenced-based programmes, practices and approaches that would:
- Support parents in meeting their children’s developmental needs – physical, social – emotional and cognitive;
- Support parents as their children’s primary educators in creating a positive home learning environment;
- Support informal learning of parents with a particular emphasis on parent literacy;
- Increase parental self-efficacy and confidence in their parenting role;
- Increase parenting skills and capacity;
- Reduce parental stress;
- Promote positive parent child interaction and attachments.
Organisations were selected based on their performance against the following criteria:
- Applicants had to be community based initiatives, responding to identified local need
- Experience of working with parents and children
- Creative collaborative approach
- Providing training in evidence based/informed programmes and/or delivering evidence based programmes
- Targeting most disadvantaged
- Understanding of evaluation and outcomes focus
- Working on strengthening links between community and statutory Services, in particular Health Services
A broad range of projects were supported:
- Ballinasloe Social Services, Galway
- Barnardos, Dublin
- Co-Operative Housing Ireland, Dublin
- Dublin South City Partnership
- Bessborough Centre, Cork
- Chatterbox Cavan and Monaghan
- Cork City Partnership
- Downstrands FRC, Donegal
- Kerry Children & Young People’s Services Committee
- Lifestart, Donegal
- Longford Community Resources (funded for Year (1) only)
- Monaghan Integrated Development
- Bedford Row, Limerick
- Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, Dublin
- Southside Partnership, Dublin
- North West Area Partnership, Dublin
There were three priority components particularly evident in the work of the 15 PSI projects. These were training, collaborative working and engaging parents. There was a combination of evidence based and evidence informed programmes used, while some of the projects were more organic and had not hitherto been formally evaluated . Almost 3,000 families engaged with the PSI. There were direct engagements with 2,934 parents and 2,253 with children. Additionally, there were unquantifiable indirect benefits to siblings. Significantly, the PSI upskilled staff in many childcare organisations, with this benefitting many children and communities.
A recent review of the PSI was undertaken by Marie Carroll. The review strongly commended the initiative, including the collaboration by both Foundations and the excellent administration by KHF. The review also points to the approach taken having given the projects the opportunity to focus on collaborative practice.
Various approaches were used to target the most vulnerable families and there was no “one size fits all”. The PSI engaged with many statutory partners over its duration. This type of independent funding can often play a vital role in piloting and measuring programmes that have not been previously state supported. It allowed the funded projects and state bodies to have a new relationship which was different has the ‘funding’ element had been removed. However, to quote Marie Carroll’s review: “No single stakeholder can address the complex needs of parents and children aged 0-3 on its own. High quality comprehensive service provision requires all stakeholders in particular, parents/ community/voluntary organisations and statutory bodies to work together”.
For The Community Foundation for Ireland, the PSI has been of immense value. The funding The Community Foundation provided was a contribution of €300,000 over three years. While not a small sum, in the scheme of things in the Children’s and Early years sector, it is relatively minor. However the level of impact- to have supported 3,000 families for a small grants scheme- is really significant. The diverse projects supported and the demonstrated impact have informed The Foundation’s own staff, donors and ultimately some of our future grant-making. It has also proven the value of independent funding, albeit conservative, to enable impact that would not otherwise have taken place. The administration of PSI by the Katharine Howard Foundation has been wonderful and it has also shown that collaborations by funders works very well.