Engaging disadvantaged and socially isolated families with young children in child and family services

24 June 2010

Research has demonstrated that involvement in high-quality early childhood and parenting support programs benefits children and families, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents with young children can also benefit from programs, such as parenting support activities, that enable them to socialise with other families, develop support networks and gain confidence in their parenting skills.

Although these programs and activities are clearly beneficial, service providers can find it challenging to engage families and often those families who are the most difficult to engage are also the families experiencing disadvantage and/or social isolation. Similarly, in some cases families may find it challenging to engage with services and many of these factors can also be related back to disadvantage and social isolation. The reasons behind these difficulties with engagement are explored further below.

Due to the negative impact of disadvantage upon children's development and family functioning, and the relationship between disadvantage, social isolation and lack of engagement, there is a strong incentive for reducing the barriers that inhibit the engagement of families with child and family services.