Inquiry submission: supporting new parents and babies in NSW

Parenting is a skill that can be learned and the vast majority of parents are capable of parenting well, given the right support, our submission to the NSW Government inquiry on support for new parents and babies says.

By the ‘right’ support we mean effective, accessible parenting support. We argue this kind of support is central to creating widespread improvements in outcomes for new Australian parents and their children.

The NSW inquiry – currently being conducted by the Legislative Assembly Committee on Community Services – will focus on ways to improve physical health, mental health and child protection outcomes for new parents and babies. Models of support for new parents in other jurisdictions and the role of technology in enhancing support services will also be examined.

Parenting vs parent support

In our submission, the Parenting Research Centre makes the distinction between parent support – which aims to improve children’s outcomes by enhancing parent wellbeing – and parenting support, which aims to improve child outcomes by influencing the nature and quality of parent-child interactions and relationships.

“Although parenting has a profound impact on child development, parenting support is often overlooked when considering how to improve child outcomes,” the submission says.

We contend that by building parents’ capacity, they become more empowered, confident and autonomous – and capable of dealing with future challenges. And our submission highlights a way forward to ensuring that parenting support is both effective and accessible.

Parenting research

“In the context of finite resources – and considering the potential for harm from ineffective interventions – it is important that all forms of parenting support are informed by the best available evidence,” the submission says.

It also notes that there is a mismatch between what the research says about parenting and what the public generally thinks about parenting. While much of the public discourse about parenting is based on the assumption that parents are ‘born not made’, research shows the opposite is true and that, in fact, parenting is a learned set of skills.