The founders of the Parents as Partners programme reflect on their recent UK visit, including seeing it being delivered in local authorites
We have just returned from a whirlwind two weeks in the UK, which we found exciting and reassuring. Our goal was to visit the Parents as Partners programme offered by TCCR and Family Action, and to meet with officials who are concerned with strengthening families – enhancing couple relationships and helping men and women to be more effective parents, all to the benefit of their children. As we have written in a earlier blog, the Parents as Partners programme is based on a collaboration with Drs. Kyle and Marsha Pruett and on our 40 years of working with American couples who are parents of young children. It is a particularly exciting time in the UK, now that Prime Minister Cameron has declared his intention to increase funding for couple support and parenting support in a time of daunting cuts to funding in other areas of the social sector.
We were happy to see that under the devoted stewardship of Lucy Draper, the Programme Manager, Parents as Partners has expanded its reach to work with couples in low-income vulnerable families in many London boroughs and in towns in the northwest and northeast where local authorities are encouraging their staff to take advantage of the trainings offered by TCCR. We are encouraged too by new trials of Parents as Partners for adoptive, separated, and gay and lesbian parents. We visited the Manchester/Stockport and Hartlepool/Gateshead sites where couples groups are now being offered, and met with the enthusiastic, talented staff about the ideas behind this program. Parenting and couples support programmes have tended to be planned, conducted, and funded in separate silos, with some focusing on parenting, others focusing on couple relationships, with little overlap between the two and few parent programs involving fathers. By contrast, Parents as Partners is an integrated approach to these key factors in parents’ and children’s development and well-being.
We were invited by Baroness Phillipa Stroud to a meeting with her colleagues in the House of Lords and the staff of the Centre for Social Justice. We talked with officials in the Department of Mental Health for Adults and Children. We met at 10 Downing Street with Christian Guy and his colleagues who are concerned with family policy. In each of these meetings, we were impressed with the receptiveness and questions of officials who are striving to find programmes that will address the links we find between the health and mental health of parents and children, particularly those whose lives are challenged by inadequate financial resources in a strained economy - many of whom are coping with serious health and behavioural difficulties.
We were thrilled to learn that the evaluations of the first families who have taken advantage of the Parents as Partners programme show positive results: increasing signs of parents’ mental health and collaborative parenting, declines in parenting stress and violent problem solving, and reductions in children’s troubling behaviours. We are excited that this work with mothers and fathers together is leading to positive shifts in UK families from varied backgrounds and social circumstances, just as it has in the US and Canada. We look forward to the results of longer-term follow-ups of the UK families, which are in progress now.
Professors Philip and Carolyn Pape Cowan, University of California, Berkeley