Making family outreach a priority to tackle social inequalities in Europe

Authors: Sofia Guichard, Gil Nata, & Joana Cadima, University of Porto

Ensuring outreach and making it a priority is one of the central recommendations of the recent inventory of proven or potentially effective approaches to family and parenting support in tackling social inequalities, developed by members of the ISOTIS teams from Czech Republic, England, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and Portugal.

The inventory defines parenting support as all services aimed at improving how parents approach and fulfil their role as parents. Parenting support also includes services that are designed to increase resources and competencies that parents employ in child rearing, including information, knowledge, skills and social support. Therefore, parenting support measures can include both direct support to parents and families, but also wider policies such as parental leaves, health care services or Early Childhood Education and Care measures. Parenting support services developed for and with children and families with a migrant background (or non-native speakers), Roma/ethnic minority background, or who were in a situation of final hardship or general social risk were selected for the inventory.

The inventory suggest that although it is visible in the 7 participating countries that family and parenting support includes a broad range of services across several sectors (such as education, social/welfare, and health), there are important differences in how services are implemented across countries. In four countries, parenting support is part of a clear strategic framework that integrates a broad range of early intervention and prevention universal services for families. This is the case for England, Germany, Netherlands, and Norway. In the three other countries - Czech Republic and Portugal, and up to a certain extent in Poland, particularly for children under 3 -, the main approach taken in parenting support is focused on the most vulnerable families, through targeted specialist support. The aim in these targeted programs is to address the most basic needs first with a focus on child protection and families in adverse social circumstances. Countries also show differing priorities and approaches to parental leaves and ECEC services for children under three.

In addition to a broad investment in outreach, other recommendations to existing challenges include:
• Be adapted to the country needs and existing services;
• Be designed and adapted to the target-group characteristics and degree of disaffection and distrust in the country’s institutions;
• Address parents’ specific needs while maintaining high-quality standards;
• Be continuously monitored and evaluated against its aims;
• Target the needs of multicultural groups, fostering multicultural beliefs;
• Address and promote the first languages of migrants;
• Take advantage of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools to build communities of trust, overcome challenges, foster outreach and integrate first language of migrants.

Read the full inventory: