At the Parenting Research Centre we seek better outcomes for children by increasing effectiveness and fostering innovation in the way families are supported in their parenting.
This vision has been at the core of our organisation since we officially began as the Victorian Parenting Centre (VPC) in August 1996. At that time we were part of a state-wide strategy announced in 1995 by the Victorian Government that recognised the importance of parenting in improving outcomes for children.
Our early work focused on coordinating and supporting the delivery of evidence-based parenting programs in the community. We also began a program of research and development, focusing on parents of children with a disability (in partnership with RMIT) and delivering parenting services in the northern metropolitan region of Melbourne.
In the new millennium we began research and development in new areas:
- parent-school partnerships
- parenting young adolescents
- parenting capacity-building strategy within adult services
- parent wellbeing and fatigue.
This work culminated in the launch of two major projects:
- Healthy Start: a national network of professionals to support parents with intellectual disabilities
- Signposts for Building Better Behaviour: an evidence-based program to help parents manage the difficult behaviour of children with a disability.
Name change to Parenting Research Centre
In 2006 we changed our name to the Parenting Research Centre to acknowledge our growing national reach. In this year we also began two significant parenting resources:
- Raising Children Network: a federally funded website providing evidence-based parenting information which now attracts 30,000 visitors every day
- MyTime: a major national initiative of peer-support groups for parents and carers of children with a disability which we coordinate with agencies that deliver groups across Australia; over 6000 people have attended over the life of the program.
Knowledge translation and exchange
Our focus also turned to the transfer of knowledge between parenting researchers and service providers as well as the effectiveness of parenting support. In 2009 our partnerships with projects such as MyTime and Signposts doubled to almost 300 community-based agencies both in Australia and overseas. We also began coordinating Early Days, a national workshop program for parents of young children with autism which is now accessible via raisingchildren.net.au.
Our increasing prominence in parenting research and implementation led to the Early Home Learning Study, a $9 million research project funded by the Victorian Government from 2010-13. In this pioneering project, we examined how to best support parents in disadvantaged families to provide a high-quality home-learning environment. The government provided further funding to offer the smalltalk parenting strategies in a playgroup setting. We are now providing ongoing implementation support to local councils and community-service organisations delivering smalltalk to help parents enhance their children’s learning at home.
In 2011 the Australian Government provided funding for us to work on the Intensive Family Support Service project in the Northern Territory. We worked collaboratively with services to develop, implement and use evidence-informed interventions. Our continuing input supports workers to help families develop skills and confidence in providing a safe and supportive home to their children.
Influencing the policy environment
In more recent years, we have been sharpening our focus on social policy and service system settings that have an impact on the effectiveness of support provided to families. Our strategic goals are:
- supporting families in parenting their children
- enhancing the capacity of child and family services
- informing policy and practice
- building scientific knowledge of parenting to drive innovation.
We assist policymakers, organisational leaders and practitioners in overcoming the challenge to effectively use research in policy formulation. We do this by conducting evidence reviews and scoping reviews of programs targeted at a range of issues such as child trauma and out-of-home care. We have also been commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to conduct a number of reviews to inform the Commission’s work.
Building capacity at an organisational level
We continue to build the capacity of child and family services to improve child outcomes by implementing effective parenting support in projects across Australia. In 2015 we partnered with the National SafeCare Training and Research Center (NSTRC) of Georgia State University, USA, to conduct the first ever SafeCare training in New South Wales.
Other projects include:
- Transport Accident Commission and VicRoads campaign on how to engage parents in supporting their young drivers
- research into preventing childhood obesity in disadvantaged areas
- research into how to support parents of children with serious childhood illness/injury
- research into parental fear and independent child mobility.
Implementation and research expertise
We have secured Australian Government funding till 2020 to continue our work for Raising Children Network, MyTime and our implementation support for the Intensive Family Support Service project.
Our future plans include applying our expertise in a range of areas:
- acting in an intermediary role in implementation processes
- evaluation and analysis of implementation practices
- evaluation and analysis of the evidence base for a range of practices
- conducting research into helping parents and early childhood providers collaborate more effectively
- conducting research into engaging parents of school-aged children to improve educational outcomes.
We are also involved in the Australasian Implementation Network. Our activities connect us with leading researchers, academics and practitioners and broaden our own capacity to embed innovative thinking in our work with the ultimate mission of helping parents raise happy healthy children.