Action for Children gets results through 'assertive' approach to parents

Janaki Mahadevan
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The ability to challenge both parents and other service providers can enable professionals to achieve the best results for vulnerable children, a report commissioned by Action for Children has found.

Action for Children challenge parents to understand the consequences of their behaviour. Image: Action for Children
Action for Children challenge parents to understand the consequences of their behaviour. Image: Action for Children

York Consulting, which undertook the research, examined the way practitioners worked in five Action for Children services catering for vulnerable families.

As well as a final report the authors produced a framework outlining the skills staff should develop to improve relationships with parents and therefore bolster children’s wellbeing. A guide for organisations working with families was also published.

The report concluded that staff at the charity’s five centres offering intensive family support, achieved a balance of challenge and support with parents. By persistently challenging parents staff were able to encourage them to understand the consequences of their behaviour and enable them to recognise the areas they needed most support in.

The report states: "Achieving an effective balance of support and challenge that takes account of children, young people and family needs, service context and engagement is integral to the development of good relationships between practitioners and parents.

"Assertiveness and persistence is central to the approach taken by Action for Children intensive family support practitioners. Persistently challenging parents’ behaviour encourages them to take ownership of the issues that need to be addressed, whilst ensuring they are clear about the implications of their behaviours."

The report also concluded that the most vulnerable families must be able to access a range of services and practitioners must take the lead on ensuring other providers meet the needs of families.

"A strong focus on developing links with other agencies helps increase family accessibility to other services," the report said. "Action for Children practitioners play a central role in effectively co-ordinating support with other agencies, facilitating multi-agency meetings, and adopting a lead professional or key worker role. Practitioners challenge other services, where necessary, to ensure they meet agreed actions and responsibilities."

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