Dr Kelly Baird is an Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Translational Research and Social Innovation, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Western Sydney University. Kelly takes a collaborative, applied and community-embedded approach to research, partnering with organisations delivering support services to children, young people and families. She has a particular research interest in addressing the service and support needs of those within our communities who are most vulnerable
Volunteer Family Connect: A structured social support early intervention for vulnerable families with young children (Resource Table)
This presentation reports results from a large Australian study that examined the effectiveness of Volunteer Family Connect, a structured social support, early intervention for families with young children who experience social isolation or a lack of parenting confidence and skills. Volunteer Family Connect, a best practice model of structured social support in the form of volunteer home visiting, was developed by a collaboration of three non-government organisations, two universities, a corporate partner and a private philanthropist.
A randomized controlled trial was conducted in seven sites across four states of Australia (N = 305). Intervention families received the program for between 3-12 months, depending on their support needs. Participating families completed the research survey every three months for 15 months. Primary outcomes were community connectedness and parenting competence. Results demonstrated the program’s effectiveness with positive outcomes found for both primary outcome variables. Intervention families were significantly more likely than control families to report improvements in the guidance available to them (F = 4.07, p = 0.04), their parenting sense of competence (F = 11.2, p = 0.003), and their general wellbeing (F = 4.10, p = 0.04). Qualitative findings also identified the value of creating structured social relationships for improving outcomes for families.
This research makes a significant contribution to the much-needed evidence base relating to the continuum of services necessary to prevention and early intervention for vulnerable families and provides an exemplary model of collaboration and joint service investment between researchers, community members and service organisations.