Home Visiting for At Risk Families Study Reveals Hope

Home Visiting for At Risk Families Study Reveals Hope

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A mixed-methods feasibility study of the Tweddle program, Home Parenting Education and Support Program (HoPES) for families at risk of child maltreatment and recurrence in Australia, has been published in the Science Direct journal, Child Abuse & Neglect.

The HoPES program is an intensive 8-week home-visiting intervention for families of infants and young children (0–4 years) receiving child protection services or welfare services.

The aims of the study, which involved 30 families and 8 Tweddle clinicians, were to explore parents’ and clinicians’ perceptions of the outcomes related to participation in HoPES, and to obtain preliminary data about potential intervention outcomes related to parent-child interactions, parent mental health, and parenting self-efficacy.

Efforts to prevent child maltreatment and its recurrence in infancy and early childhood are critical to disrupting pathways to poor physical and mental health and interpersonal relationships across the life course.

During the interviews, mothers reflected on what had changed for them since HoPES. They identified the main areas that had changed including increased parenting knowledge, skills and self-efficacy, improved mental health, and stronger parent-child relationships.

Many of the outcomes were interconnected and underpinned by mothers’ increased knowledge in child development and parenting, and the strengthening of their emotion-regulation skills to manage stressful parent-child interactions, general life stress, and frustration.

HoPES was perceived to decrease worry and anxiety about what’s normal in terms of parenting. Mothers reflected upon improved emotion-regulation resulting in decreased stress, frustration and anger.

HoPES clinicians facilitated referrals and connections to other community supports, and this was perceived as particularly beneficial. One mother said; “They brought my attention to services that I would have never known existed and that really helped shape my life as well as my daughter’s”

All mothers noted some improvement in their parenting since HoPES. As one mother poignantly reflected: “They say parenting doesn’t come with the manual, but I honestly felt like the staff at HoPES were that manual”.

“HoPES basically gave me the roadmap, how to develop that relationship and not fall into the same pattern as my parents” Another parent noted the connection between how changes in her parenting knowledge and confidence had led to changes in her relationship with her child. “It has been a huge shift in my thinking and by the end of it our relationship changed… By the end of that eight weeks, there was a confidence boost and a shift in my thinking.”

Mothers noticed changes in their ability to recognise and respond to their infants’ cues such as tired, hunger, engagement and disengagement signs. Relatedly, some mothers specifically reflected upon having more patience during their stressful parenting moments. All clinicians shared that HoPES was helping parents develop skills to identify their infants’ cues, perceived to have positive flow-on effects for the parent-child relationship, attachment and child development.

Study lead A/Prof Rebecca Giallo from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute said that the study highlighted the importance and value of intensive parenting education, parenting skills development, skills practice and practical assistance tailored to their physical, social and family environment.

“The findings of this study underscore the importance of strengths-based and trauma-informed approaches.” she said. “This helps to ensure that parents feel comfortable and are in an optimal state to try new parenting strategies and skills, receive timely feedback, and engage in problem-solving to persevere with new skills and strategies.”

The outcomes have important implications for further development of HoPES, and the design of a rigorous evaluation in the next stage of evaluation research.

Giallo, R., Rominov, H., Fisher, C., Jones, A., Evans, K., O’Brien, J. and Fogarty, A. (2021). A mixed-methods feasibility study of the Home Parenting Education and Support Program for families at risk of child maltreatment and recurrence in Australia. Child Abuse & Neglect, [online] 122, p.105356. 


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