Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare
Putting it into practice - what the sites did: England
The key areas focused on in the English sites can be grouped into a number of broad categories.
All sites worked to raise awareness of the ‘Think child, think parent, think family’ agenda and project among the wider staff group and among management. They did so in a variety of ways:
- A monthly ebulletin to all staff. The ebulletin had a distinctive Think Family branding and was compiled by a local authority communications officer who sat on the project steering group. The ebulletin was recognised as being extremely good, and won the Association of Social Care Communicators Award. See Practice example 2.
- a dedicated web page about the project
- consultation and awareness-raising events with frontline staff, managers and service users. The aim was to inform people about the project, raise awareness of whole-family approaches, and to consult on the content of implementation plans
- a series of lunchtime learning sessions. See Practice example 15.
- presentations at Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards and other relevant meetings
- a Think Family conference, covering a number of strands of work (for example, parental mental health, substance misuse etc.)
- liaison with key staff groups such as those working in statutory children’s services or community mental health teams. The purpose of this was to promote working practices that support whole-family working, for example completing Child in Need risk screens. In some sites, members of staff, such as safeguarding leads, routinely did this as part of their job. See Practice example 14.
Making strategic links
The English sites in particular worked to link the implementation of the guide to other policies, such as:
- Children and Young People’s Plans
- Parenting Strategies
- Young Carers’ Strategies
- The Hidden Harm agenda, for example by having the Hidden Harm Coordinator on the project steering group
- wider Think Family agendas, covering learning disability, offenders, drug and alcohol misuse and domestic violence. See Practice example 20.
The steering groups in the sites also made contact with other similar initiatives in their areas such as Family Improvement Partnerships.
Many sites took specific actions to develop staff knowledge and skills. These were more in-depth than the awareness-raising activities listed above, providing a theoretical basis for whole-family working, and how this may affect their practice.
Some sites amended existing training opportunities, such as staff inductions or safeguarding training, to ensure that they included Think Family principles.
The sites also commissioned additional training activities. One site ran a theatre-based training session for around 100 staff from various agencies about the principles of ‘Think child, think parent, think family’. See Practice example 15. Scenarios illustrating some of the challenges involved in working with families affected by parental mental ill health were dramatised by a professional theatre group, forming the basis of the training and discussion. In another site, Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) staff were given training using the Family Partnership Model. See Practice example 16. A third site commissioned a local voluntary organisation to provide introductory Think Family training. See Practice example 15.
Working with families
Direct family work was relatively infrequent, but was developed in some sites. A therapeutic family play group ran in one site. See Practice example 11. In others, family therapists worked in children’s centres. See Practice example 10.
Reviewing current tools and ways of working
A number of sites reviewed their existing ways of working to assess the extent to which they complied with the guide and to see what changes needed to be made. This included:
- reviewing existing joint working protocols between adult mental health and children’s services. See Practice example 13.
- reviewing screening and assessment tools, such as the Child in Need risk screen
- revisions to the Care Pathway for young carers. See Practice example 7.
- developing practitioner ‘champion’ groups to promote shared professional understanding and joint working with families. See Practice example 3.
- the introduction of family mental health workers to children’s centres. See Practice example 10.
- identifying trigger levels at which to make contact with other services. See Practice example 5.
- developing the use of the pre-CAF as a way into children’s services. See Practice example 9.
- establishing a forum for professionals to come together to discuss complex family cases. See Practice example 8.
- seeking to alter working practices to promote young carer involvement in their parents’ care planning.. See Practice example 12.