As part of our conference Whole Family Support: The Power of Prevention, held on 15 May 2023, we’re sharing examples of the positive impact family support can have.
The following case studies, videos and resources have been provided by CCPS member organisations Action for Children Scotland, Aberlour, Barnardo’s Scotland and Children 1st as part of the work of our Committee on Care and Support for Children and Young People.
Action for Children Scotland – Glasgow South Family support
(Names have been anonymised). When the Smith family, a mother and two children, were referred, they were facing difficulties following a parental separation. The father was estranged and ongoing investigations regarding domestic abuse were underway.
This caused trauma, especially for the children’s mother Sandra and daughter Zoe (11). The turmoil affected Sandra’s confidence and mental health.
The immediate referral ask was to support with routines and boundaries, to build upon existing relationships, while improving school attendance for Zoe in particular.
The family required support with everyday planning and prioritising calls to rearrange missed appointments. First discussions were general, which enabled a list to be drawn up of what the family hoped to achieve. This planning included establishing key appointments and exploring finance maximisation options.
The family support worker took each item on the list and discussed the required process to achieve this. The worker also brought games and toys each visit for the whole family to play to encourage participation. A funding application was made for sensory items for Connor (9) who has ASD and had no methods to engage his interest in light and drawing. Connor now has a sensory tent, lamp, and a drawing board.
The family support worker is in direct contact with Zoe’s high school to help with increased attendance.
The family engaged in discussions on boundaries and the need for these and detailing some small changes. For example, using words to express frustration, rather than hitting mum, as well as greater understanding of anger masking other emotions and the benefits of naming our emotions and working through these.
Sandra has noted that finances are more stable and she feels less concerned about managing day-to-day activities. “Things are much better; home life has improved and we are much happier.”
Sandra is also considering getting back into employment following many years at home.
Examples of family support in Barnardo’s Scotland
We know from our experience within Barnardo’s Scotland that it can take some time for families to find the right type and level of support, often only being able to access help once their situation has deteriorated and there is a risk of statutory intervention. That’s why we need to see a greater focus on early intervention.
We know that a child’s earliest years are critical, as our experience in this period starts to shape the way we relate to others. Our Perinatal Mental Health Service across Renfrewshire and Inverclyde provides a range of group work and one to one support for expectant parents, new parents and carers and infants up to three years old. We use the Five to Thrive method to provide parents with knowledge and skills about attachment and development, so they have lots of information about how their baby will grow and develop and how they can support them.
Many of the parents supported by ‘Growing Together’ are also care experienced. This is what Julie from our Threads service in Renfrewshire says about her role and the difference this can make: “I work with young families who are either expecting a baby or have a baby in that first year perinatal period. I work a lot with the Five to Thrive approach, giving parents more information about how their baby is developing and how their interactions have an impact on how their baby develops. I also work with families where I give a lot of emotional support, again through the peri-natal period, again young mums.”
Barnardo’s Scotland has a long history of working in partnership with schools and we deliver schools-based support to around 16% of the Scottish education estate and recognise the range of complex issues which can affect children and young people’s engagement in education. Our work often includes individual and group support to children, young people and their families using a family support approach.
Lesley, who works in our Barnardo’s Scotland Nurture service in Inverclyde, has said: “I support families with any sort of need, so it could be problems with their tenancy, problems with their finances, budgeting, getting their benefits straight, those sorts of immediate practical supports. But I also offer support emotionally, if they are going through tough times either because they have mental or physical health problems, or because someone in their family has mental or physical health problems, or relationship issues with kids, partner or other people in their family or community. It can also be they have problems implementing routines and boundaries with their kids and addressing this can make family life much better.
“I try and give support that’s appropriate to the level of their need, to come alongside them and not disempower them in any way. I want them to realise they have the power within themselves to get through whatever is going on for them and get out the other end. I always believe we can work together to get to a place where they no longer need me. Parents are the best people to know what’s going on in their family, they are the experts and it’s much better to support them to a place where they can deal with things on their own.”
Supporting families affected by disability
Across Barnardo’s Scotland we provide family support in partnership with children, young people and families, who experience a range of additional support needs, including disability. Our staff can provide practical support, including help understanding a diagnosis or condition, alongside listening and supporting parental self-care.
Reflecting on her role, Alison from our Dundee service said: “I work in a child and family service where we have a focus on children with disabilities. I predominantly work with parents. However, I use a whole family approach because a parent needs to be ok to be able to parent effectively.
“It can be supporting parents with their mental health, routines, structure, boundaries, understanding their child’s diagnosis, and sometimes it’s just being that person on the end of the phone, to listen and to say, ‘ok what solution can we come up with then?’. It’s about supporting parents to enjoy the uniqueness of their child and to learn and have the confidence to say what works for them and their child.”’
Supporting the transition to adulthood for young adults
For many young people the transition to adulthood and independent living can be challenging if they don’t have a positive support network to help them navigate the changes this brings.
Barnardo’s Scotland has a number of 16+, leaving care and housing support services who are able be alongside young people and offer practical and emotional help as they set off on their journey to independence.
Here is what Lucy from our Renfrewshire service said about her role: “I work mainly with young people who live in our Gap Homes, who are transitioning from a care setting to independent living. Initially it is a very high level of support but as they get more confident that eases off. The pandemic has had a big impact on mental health so we have been getting out for walks, lots of nature activities, support with cooking and cleaning, a lot of conflict resolution and anything else which can support their day to day lives.
“When they go on to independent living I carry on supporting them… Previously we’ve had families in the house too so that included supporting the parents and the babies, being there in the evenings helping with bedtime routines and popping in each morning to help with the morning routine. We’re always adapting to meet the needs of the young people; either reducing the support down or building it up depending on what they need.”
Case study and film from Aberlour
Read a case study and watch a short film about a family the charity has supported though its Aberlour Sustain Angus Service.
Stories and resources from Children 1st
Watch a short video about East Renfrewshire’ Family Wellbeing service on YouTube
Read Teresa’s story
Read about why family support is a right
Download a briefing for MSPs on Championing the Right to Holistic Family Support.