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Understanding Family Support

Understanding Family Support

John Pinkerton | Pat Dolan | John Canavan


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Understanding Family Support provides a definition of family support and a clear perspective on the role that it has in promoting the welfare of children and their families.

Family support is a concept that has been used in a range of ways to describe various aspects of child welfare policy and practice. The authors argue that this weakens family support as an overarching child welfare paradigm. They present a unifying definition of family support along with ten principles and a series of reflective practice questions applicable to: legislation and policy; organisation, management and planning; direct work with children and families; and research and evaluation.

This is an important resource for any professional engaged in policy development, service design, delivering or evaluation of family support, including social workers, residential care staff, community development workers, teachers, community police, human services managers, evaluators and policy makers.

The authors of this important book have been central to keeping family support on the policy agenda for many years now. As part of this project they have produced an excellent text which is relevant to all those with an interest in family support. A major strength of the text is that it is simultaneously both theoretically well-informed and practically relevant. The elegant use of theory means that the book forms a coherent and consistent whole. This book is a must read for policy makers, practitioners, academics and students alike - highly recommended!
Nick Frost, Professor of Social Work (Childhood, Children and Families), Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University
Particularly noteworthy are the ten principles of family support practice, which could serve as a checklist for practitioners, administrators, policy-makers, and those who wish to extend high-quality family support services globally. The book argues for the importance of theory as the foundation for family support and for rigor, with sensitivity to the needs of individual families, in evaluation. The authors offer sound advice for practitioners and administrators who plan for the future and make decisions about asset allocation in social service agencies. They stress the importance of teamwork across agencies, flexibility in meeting families' needs, and providing a supportive work environment for family support providers. Looking to the future, the authors offer a vision of expanding the model of family support globally, after careful analysis of the cultural and political factors that must be considered in this effort. The book will be useful for students, practitioners, managers, and those who craft policy that influences the lives of children and families.
Dr. Carolyn Cutrona, Chair of the Department of Psychology, Iowa State University

John Canavan is Associate Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, a research and policy centre for which Family Support is a major area of interest. He has over 20 years' experience in undertaking project evaluations and providing policy advice to statutory and voluntary agencies, and to government. Over the last seven years he has led a series of major evaluations on a programme of investment in children's services in Ireland. He teaches on the post qualifying Diploma/MA in Family Support Studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway and co-directs the Structured Ph.D. in Child and Youth Research at the university. His academic writing covers Family Support and related topics, and Evidence Informed Practice.
John Pinkerton is an established academic known for his research and writing in the area of family support. His work is heavily influenced by an international perspective. For the last 15 years he has been an international advisor to the Children's Institute, University of Cape Town. In preparation for legislative change in the 1990s he led a research team from Queen's University Belfast in producing a base line study of family support in Northern Ireland. He has advised government on family support in both the North and South of Ireland. His teaching covers both qualifying and post qualifying training in social work. He is Co-Editor of the British Journal of Social Work, leading on its family and child care content.
Pat Dolan holds a UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He leads the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre and directs the MA in Family Support Studies, which for over 15 years has had the development of family support as a major goal. At different times in his career he has been a successful practitioner and senior manager in the area of family support. Apart from his extensive research experience in the field, he has provided policy advice on family support to national statutory and voluntary agencies and to international organisations. Pat is widely published on Family Support.

This book makes a significant contribution to theory, policy and practice of family support. By attempting to develop a clear definition of what is (and what is not) family support, the book clarifies and opens up an important debate about the nature and context of family support. The book also situates family support within global developments in policies which increasingly recognise the importance of state support for families. Policy makers, academics and practitioners will all benefit from its important insights and discussions.
Professor Ilan Katz, Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia
The authors of this very accessible book have made a significant and lasting contribution to theory, policy and practice on family support. They have established the field internationally and promoted comparative research-led thinking amongst academics, policymakers, managers and practitioners. This book provides principles, tools, methods and a critical foundation from which to evaluate, question and review the way we work. Key issues include: boundary-spanning, strength-based working, post-modern management and global analysis. At the heart of this text is an aspiration to develop family support from children and parent's perspectives and the book successfully provides detailed advice on how we can collaboratively ensure better outcomes for children, families and communities.
John Davis, Professor of Childhood Inclusion, The University of Edinburgh

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Understanding Family Support - Policy, Practice and Theory by John Canavan, John Pinkerton and Pat Dolan 3
Chapter One - Introduction:: Taking a Position of Family Support 7
Chapter Two - The Policy and Politics of Family Support 27
Chapter Three - Managing and Leading in Family Support 51
Chapter Four - Direct Work with Children, Parents and Communities 71
Chapter Five - Family Support Evaluation 95
Chapter Six - Conclusion 117
References 143
Subject Index 155
Author Index 158
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