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close this bookStrengthening the Family - Implications for International Development (United Nations University - UNU, 1991, 268 pages)
close this folderPerspectives from international development assistance and from family programmes
View the documentThe flagship role of early childhood development programmes
View the documentThe UNICEF conceptual framework
View the documentFamily factors and programmes that protect high-risk children
View the documentThe effects of early intervention programmes
View the documentImpacts on family functioning or social health
View the documentReferences

Impacts on family functioning or social health

Child-centred programmes with goals for family functioning

Although most programmes have targeted child outcomes only, Weiss (1988) lists four US programmes that have set goals for family economic selfsufficiency and one for life events stress. Evaluations of these programmes have measured educational advancement, employment and training, different sources of income, rate of subsequent births, quality of life, recent stressful experience, and high-risk status.

Programmes for handicapped children with special needs have pioneered the process of creating individualized family plans for meeting needs for nurturance and emotional support (Walker and Crocker 1988). Family preservation programmes that intervene with crisis counselling and programmes providing social support to teenage parents are models that need further investigation for international application. Weiss (1988) also calls for more investigation of the beneficial impact that family programmes have on service delivery systems, by increasing family-level demand for, and use of, a wide range of services.

Community-based interventions

In reviewing community-based early childhood interventions in the United States, Halpern (1990) concludes that community-based parenting programmes can influence maternal emotional responsiveness, affection, praise, appropriate control, and encouragement of child verbalization. The programmes are most effective when there is a strong focus on improving parenting knowledge and skills. When the focus is a more diffuse attempt to improve the parents' personal adjustment, there tend to be fewer significant gains for either the parent or the child. Halpern concludes that because the influence of these programmes on the child is indirect (mediated through the parent) there tend to be modest short-term effects on child development. We believe that this conclusion underestimates the potential for positive gain.

As noted above, the trend is towards community-based interventions, which most typically are neighbourhood based, employ workers from the local area, and attempt to improve overall family conditions to remove or decrease those circumstances known to be damaging to child development. To meet these goals, model programmes such as Parent-Child Center programs (PCC), the Parent-Child Development Centers (PCDs), and the Child and Family Resource Programs (CFRPs) have been run in the United States.

Myers (1992) looks at community-based programmes in developing countries, pointing out that general improvements in child survival and development hinge on improvements in the community that protects, nourishes, and challenges the young child. Community development approaches in developing countries tend to focus on improving family achievements in the basic task areas of income, food, health, shelter, and sanitation. Community development programmes favour the continuity and sustainability of programmes that are run for the community by the community. Such programmes also have the potential for improving life for everyone in the community, not just the children (Myers 1992).