There was a stellar line up of researchers, policy makers and practitioners at the packed to capacity Young Knocknaheeny Inaugural Conference on Monday in Cork City Hall. Presentations were delivered, ideas discussed, frustrations vented and hopes shared for an improved, co-ordinated delivery of services to families and children across the state.
One contributor suggested that the State’s Child and Family Support services could be described as suffering from “Implementation Deficit Disorder” whilst many others described collaborative community based programmes in place, or on the cusp of being launched, that were shifting the focus from crisis management to early intervention, prevention and breaking the cycle of intergenerational cycles of poverty, inequality and inequity.
Since 2014, the Young Knocknaheeny project has engaged with 2,500 children, 450 parents, 310 practitioners, and worked in partnership with over 40 services. Despite its reach, joined-up thinking and clear positive results the project remains on a precarious footing in terms of its funding. Collaborative, successful projects like this and others such as Young Ballymun require long-term funding in order for their visions to be realised, through appropriate strategic planning and consistent delivery and evaluation.
Dr. Aisling Gillen of Tusla, applauded the work of the Young Knocknaheeny collaborative project and talked about Tusla’s new Child and Family Support Networks and the 17 senior managers across four regions charged with rolling out these networks. Dr. Gillen stated that projects such as Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Programme, community based Family Resource Centres and other such locally established support services will be at the heart of Tusla’s Child and Family Support Networks. She went on to outline that there are “102 Champions embedded in practices around the country” to ensure provision of support services in the communities where the need arises and provision of support services in a timely, prevention oriented fashion. “No door should be the wrong door” for a child or family to come to in terms of seeking support.
We were delighted to be there because we work with frontline practitioners who support families. In Ag Eisteacht we deliver evidence informed training which equips practitioners to support family relationships, when their “door is knocked on”. Our work brings us into regular contact with practitioners such as the 350 engaged in the YK project and our aim is to make relational wellbeing within families, a routine part of practice. We aim to raise awareness of the factors that help build and sustain supportive relationships and to ensure that relationalhealth becomes a topic of conversation, just as mental health has thankfully become. Human beings are social creatures and are primed to relate to one another even from before birth. Research shows that the effects of supportive and not so supportive relationships are real and significant, so it is critical we understand and talk about the fact that “the quality of our relationships is a key determinant of our health and wellbeing”. The research shows relational wellbeing is not Rocket Science – but it is Brain Science”
Infant Mental Health Specialist and Senior Clinical Psychologist, Catherine Maguire and a member of the Young Knocknaheeny Area Based Childhood programme, shared exciting research showing that though genetics lay down the brain’s blueprint it is the experiences and circumstances, from before birth and through childhood, which shape the brain’s development. Take a look here
Thanks to Katherine Harford, Programme Manager and the Young Knocknaheeny team for a wonderful conference.