Eurochild has recently published a compilation of inspiring practices in the area of early childhood intervention in family and parenting support in light of the financial strain facing childhood and family services in Europe. The authors have collected practices which have delivered positive impacts for children and families, and have developed 12 case studies based on five years of exchange across European Union Member States. They formulate three core recommendations: parenting support should be part of a broader strategy to tackle the causes of poverty; family and parenting support services should be empowering and based on child-rights approaches; finally, the report emphasises the importance of adopting a balanced and critical perspective on evidence rather than a focus on specific methodologies.
As family and children services in Europe face a difficult moment, evidence-based and informed decision making in family policy is crucial. This work is directed towards those involved in frontline delivery, policymakers and academics, and provides examples of practices to facilitate the transfer of effective prevention and early intervention for parents and families. The goal is to support the diffusion of policies enabling families to flourish, thus preventing social exclusion through the development of a cohesive society. Throughout the five years of exchange leading to the publication of the compendium, Eurochild members developed and reflected upon five principles which the authors argue should underpin family and parenting support policies. These principles include recognising the importance of children’s rights and ensuring that the views of children are heard, respecting diversity in family structure, and focusing policies on the empowerment of parents by taking a universal and inclusive approach. The compendium reviews in detail 12 case studies from across Europe: in each case, key information in five areas is provided. The first is the theoretical insights on the approach, as well as details on the history of the practice, its target groups, its objectives and the activities entailed. Secondly, the stakeholders and organisations involved in the activity are examined and data on delivery partners at local level is presented. The third section details the political context within which the policy is rolled out. The fourth area covered by reviews presents lessons learned: there, the authors explain how the evaluation was structured, what it found, and present evidence on the cost effectiveness of the practice described. Finally, the potential for transferability of each practice is analysed also highlighting specific obstacles to the effective transfer of the practice abroad.
The 12 case studies cover a range of countries in Eastern and Western Europe, from Spain and the United Kingdom to Romania and Bulgaria. Authors provide a basic classification of case studies by area of emphasis: whereas a first cluster of practices aims to strengthen families and communities to promote social cohesion, a second set focuses on supporting parents with parenting duties; the final group consists of practices seeking to minimise the risk of children being separated from their families. Overlap between the categories de facto occurs: for instance, the ‘Family Support Hubs’ set up in Northern Ireland in 2011 to combine existing services and to avoid duplication of efforts towards vulnerable families straddle support to parents in parenting and the reduction of family fragmentation. The report formulates three core policy recommendations. First, parenting interventions should be part of a broader strategy to support families and children’s rights and welfare. Secondly, all services for family and parenting support should focus on empowerment rather than charity, and be participatory and inclusive. Finally, considering the variety of evaluations, authors suggest to maintain a balanced perspective in evidence-based approaches and to reflect critically on all types of evidence, whether qualitative or quantitative.