Newly published academic research has demonstrated that Home-Start’s volunteer support has a positive impact for parents who are struggling to cope with their young families. The research also shows that children whose parents have had the support of a Home-Start volunteer have a better start in life than those who don’t.
The three year research project, by Jo Hermanns and others at the Universities of Amsterdam and Uttrecht*, also reveals that children are still benefiting up to three years after their Home-Start volunteer has stopped visiting.
The study showed parents in the Home-Start group had more positive changes in parental wellbeing, competence and behaviour: they parented more consistently and there was less rejection of their children. At the three year follow up, the Home-Start group showed more improvements than the control groups: more responsive parenting, and children showing less temper and anger issues and less anxiety (“child externalizing and internalising behaviour problems”).
“Home-Start was particularly interested that this latest research backed up earlier studies (Eckenrode et al, 2000; McIntosh, Barlow, Davis & Stewart-Brown, 2009) showing that early interventions can have long lasting effects,” said Dr Young, director of policy and research at Home-Start UK . “The findings also seem to contradict views that ‘early years support should be focused, highly structured and delivered by professionals’ (Olds et al, 2009). These latest findings show that less structured and more need-oriented approaches [such as volunteer support] seem to be able to bring about change too.”
The charity will now be using the findings, which describe Home-Start as ‘attractive to professionals and policymakers because of its low-costs and easy accessibility’ to attract funding to help it continue and extend its service across the UK. Elizabeth Young said, “In these straightened financial times, it is crucial to show there is a cost-effective, local and efficacious solution to the problems being faced by families in communities across the country.”
*’Long term changes in parenting and child behavior after the Home-Start family support program’Jo M. A. Hermanns, Jessica J Ascher, Bonne J. H. Zijlstra, Peter J. Hoffenaar, Majaa Dekovic. University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.