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Post 002 – November 2021

General Introduction on UNICEF Standards for Early Childhood Development Parenting Programmes

“I feel really guilty that I can’t do more. The families need so much support. I try to tell myself that it’s not my fault. It’s Covid and the cuts.”

Imagine if, as a Family Support Practitioner, at the end of a year in which vulnerable families could be “visited” only virtually via a screen, when emotional discussions were truncated by signal failure, when play activities were presented remotely over WhatsApp instead of being shared head to head on the rug, imagine that you received a report on your year’s work which declared that, despite these limitations, your work had met the UNICEF Standards for Early Childhood Development Parenting Programmes. What difference would that make to you?

The UNICEF Standards for Early Childhood Development Parenting Programmes are based on the recognition that, “Amidst the many influences on child development, parents are critical to children’s development, adjustment and success.”

Our hope at Parents As First Teachers is that this breadth of context will validate the practitioners and encourage them in their continuing commitment to families and children.

Here are a few examples of our comments on this year’s reports –

In Standard 3, “It is recommended that parenting programmes start as early as possible…… The extent and severity of problems in later life linked with early deprivations can be remediated through early interventions”. 44% of the children supported last year by your Parents As First Teachers practitioners were aged less than 1 year, and 53% of the families were first-time parents, near the start of their parenting journey, so you clearly met this standard.

Standard 5 states, “Programmes should make it clear that a father’s positive involvement directly benefits children”. Your team successfully involved 73% of fathers in the personal visits, plainly fulfilling this standard.

Despite the huge challenges of retaining family engagement, during the pandemic, your staff delivered 50 personal visits, using a combination of face to face, video and phone approaches, exemplifying Standard 8, which concludes, “The workforce and service providers are key to the success of a parenting programme. They are the ones who deliver the programme and work in direct contact with the targeted parents and caregivers, their children, families and communities. Their work should be recognised and acknowledged appropriately“.

Bringing the standards to life and using them as part of feedback certainly encourages practitioners and can also reassure funders. One supervisor sent our comments up the line to their Council’s Media Officer who quickly issued a positive press report. Cue civic smiles all around.

In future blog posts, members of the Parenting Programmes Alliance hope to illuminate specific standards and show how they are exemplified within our range of programmes.
(Janice Saunders, Parents as First Teachers)

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