Year in review 2015-16: Informing policy and practice

The Parenting Research Centre (PRC) assists policymakers, organisational leaders and practitioners in effectively engaging with scientific knowledge of what works in parenting and family support.

Our 2015-16 achievements included:

1. Developing a quality framework for statutory out-of-home care

We were commissioned by the New South Wales Government Department of Family and Community Services to produce an outcomes-focused quality assurance framework. The framework uses valid and reliable methods to track, monitor and thus improve case planning to enhance the wellbeing of children in statutory out-of-home care.
The aim is to identify the impact of the framework on systems, processes and procedures and to develop the knowledge and skills of individuals. This project also aims to help the department implement the framework on a wider scale with local agencies.

  • With our partner, The University of Melbourne, we completed the NSW statutory Out‐of‐home care: Quality Assurance Framework. The document is an outcomes‐focused, child-centred framework that includes the safety and stability of care, but also extends to a focus on child wellbeing.
  • We were engaged to support a trial implementation of the framework in selected agencies. If successfully implemented, this will be the first initiative of its kind in Australia.

2. Conducting the survey Parenting Today in Victoria

In an exciting development, we completed a survey of 2600 Victorian parents to investigate parents’ views on their parenting practices, their relationships with their children, their engagement in their children’s learning, where and how they access parenting information, and how parents are coping.

The survey was funded by the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training, and drew on our expertise in research design and analysis. The findings will inform the government’s ongoing efforts to support Victoria’s families in raising children.

3. Mapping the gaps in perceptions of parenting

We commissioned the FrameWorks Institute to conduct research into mapping the gaps between expert and public understandings of parenting. The final report Perceptions of parenting was released in June 2016.

Findings confirmed a gap between assumptions by the general public that ‘parenting comes naturally’ and the evidence that parenting skills can be learned and improved.
The report attracted strong attention from stakeholders and media, and was downloaded 413 times in the 16 days before the end of the financial year 2016.

Download our summary of the findings.

4. Engaging parents in their children’s learning

We completed a significant research project for the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training on how to engage parents in their children’s learning. The research will benefit early childhood education and care workers who want to build a strong relationship with parents to improve outcomes for their children’s wellbeing, health and education.

We led a partnership that included the Centre for Community Child Health and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), conducting a literature review, data analysis, and qualitative research to complete the first stage of the project. These investigations helped us to:

  • identify family and parent factors associated with optimal learning outcomes in children
  • examine factors associated with parental engagement
  • explore parental engagement with parents and teachers.

5. Engaging parents across Australia in their children’s education

ARACY commissioned us to conduct a large-scale Australia-wide audit of information about parent engagement. We also consulted with education departments, schools and early education and care providers across the country to find out about their information needs regarding parent engagement. This work drew on our expertise in data analysis and qualitative research, and our strong relationships with partners across Australia.

Our work has been used to inform planning for the development of a nationally consistent approach to measuring and monitoring parent engagement in children's education. This approach aims to understand patterns in parent engagement practice and to track changes over time.

6. Assessment of campaigns with community awareness messages about parenting practices

In this project we reviewed community awareness campaigns that focus on effective parenting and on creating safe and supporting environments in the early years of a child’s life.

This project acknowledges how critical the early years are for enhancing a child’s learning and development. It aligns with our own focus on the importance of prioritising prevention and early intervention, and of minimising costly and less effective interventions later in life.

We conducted this research in partnership with the Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital. The project was the result of our successful tender for the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

7. Informing policy and practice to drive innovation

We specialise in producing scoping reviews, rapid evidence reviews and evidence briefs, and are commissioned by clients to investigate a broad range of topics. See the complete list with full details of the commissioned reports.

8. Sharing our expertise with a wide range of stakeholders

Supporting agencies in the United Kingdom

Parenting Research Centre CEO Warren Cann was invited by the Centre for Effective Services, a UK intermediary organisation based in Belfast, to be part of a project that supported 75 UK agencies delivering a range of family and community support services. These services are funded through the UK-based Big Lottery Fund. We anticipate further involvement with the Centre for Effective Services and their work with Big Lottery Fund in 2016-17.

Sharing our program success with Singapore

In April 2016, we hosted the Singaporean Minister for Social and Family Development, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, who was interested in learning more about our early childhood development programs smalltalk and Signposts as well as Raising Children Network.

Membership in advisory committees

Members of our executive and senior staff contribute to numerous advisory committees and expert reference groups. Our involvement in these influential committees and groups ensures that we can play a role in informing research, policy and practice communities on effective implementation of evidence-informed practice. Read the full list.

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