The Translation of Principles into Practice in Family Resource Centres

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Saunders, Elizabeth Jean
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Family resource centres contribute to a strong social infrastructure by recognizing the possible long-term negative impact of familial stress on the family unit, particularly those which involve young children, and attempting to reduce these stresses through the provision of familial support. Family support centres view parenting as a developmental process in which parents' skills, knowledge and insights develop in concert with their children's development. Family resource centres are guided by a number of principles that reflect the philosophy, goals, objectives, and desired outcomes of family support practice. Despite the anecdotal evidence supporting the effectiveness of family resource programs, there is very little known about how or why they can be effective. Without an investigation of how programs function, we are significantly limited in our understanding of how to improve them. Using Malcolmson's (2002) conceptual framework for family support practice and Bronfenbrenner's Ecological theory, this research addresses this issue through an exploration of how the principles of family resource centres are translated into practice, how these translations vary across centres, and how this variance impacts on participant outcomes. Principles were utilized differently at various stages of program development and program design. Although all principles were deemed equally valuable to practice, three themes reflect the most frequently cited principles: community-centered approach, participants' voices, and partnerships. Factors most likely to affect outcomes are quality of staff, the atmosphere of a centre, and trust between participants and practitioners, while ideological barriers remain a constant barrier to positive participant outcomes. Family resource centres would benefit from a public relations strategy that would educate and inform the public of the work that takes place within the centres. Family resource centres are not solely open to low-income, single parent families; parental education would be beneficial to families from a broad range of backgrounds. A Provincial family resource association may be able to take on this PR task and raise the visibility of FRCs, as well implant standards as act as an information centre. The role of such an association may be especially useful in ensuring that FRCs have a voice and advocate their perspective instrumental role in initiatives such as the new NS Department of Community Services Family and Youth Services Division, whose development stemmed from a recommendation of the recently released Nunn Inquiry. The Inquiry, much like family resource centres, advocates for focus on two key areas: early intervention and prevention. A collaborative effort between family resource centres and the DCS could be key to ensuring that more families are able to take advantage of programming that focuses on early intervention and prevention.
Family services -- Nova Scotia , Social workers -- attitudes , Community-based family services , Family social work