Early intervention is about taking action as soon as possible to tackle problems for children and families before they become more difficult to reverse.
We focus on conception to early adulthood because intervention is not just about the early years but also about preventing adolescents and young adults from developing problems.
When a young person is developing and growing up, this is a crucial opportunity to provide them with the skills and support they need. It is much more difficult if they have dropped out of school, become involved with youth crime or developed a serious mental health problem.
Early intervention involves identifying children and families that may be at risk of running into difficulties and providing timely and effective support.
We want every family to develop an intergenerational cycle of positive parenting, relationships and behaviour.
Early intervention is about enhancing the capabilities of every parent to provide a supportive and enriching environment for their children to grow up in. Then the next generation has the best chance to flourish with the skills to engage in positive parenting themselves.
Its purpose is to improve the life chances of children and families and benefit society at large, whilst being cost-effective.
What does early intervention look like?
Early intervention covers an array of different sectors including education, health, and crime. It can take the form of a parenting programme for a pregnant mother and her partner or a behaviour class for adolescents who are at risk of being involved in crime.
Because a child or family can experience an array of problems all at once, early intervention requires a multilevel, holistic approach. For example, in a local area early intervention may involve health visitors and a youth offending team working together to get to the root of a family’s issues and refer them to the best support for their particular situation.
Early intervention is about working with children and families to help them. It is a collaborative approach to providing effective support.
Joel is 10. His father died five years ago. His mother Cathy has found Joel’s grief difficult to manage.
At times Joel’s behaviour is very difficult. Cathy joined an Incredible Years group with Barnardo’s Child Bereavement Service to help her understand how to manage Joel’s behaviour. During the programme, Cathy was made redundant. In spite of these difficulties Cathy regained her confidence and uses the ‘attention’ and ‘ignoring’ principles she has learned to help her with Joel. She says that she has a tool kit now to help manage the many challenges that being a parent brings. As a result of the programme Cathy now feels more in control and has secured a part time job which allows her to spend quality time with her children.
At 22 months Tyler was put into voluntary care. He was placed with a foster family until he was three.
He returned to the care of his father but this lasted only six months. His behaviour became increasingly challenging for his carers meaning he changed foster care provider three more times. At school, his tantrums and violent outbursts alternated with extreme quietness and refusal to cooperate became a major barrier to learning.
When Tyler was six he took part in Reading Recovery – a one-to-one reading intervention. He could only read the simplest of books with support. He could barely write his name. When asked to read he used avoidance tactics. He soon began to enjoy the routine of daily half hour sessions and quickly realised he could solve his own reading problems. He became focused and motivated.
After 15 weeks he could read at the level expected of his age group and write 100 words. His teacher says his behaviour has improved, he looks happy and is on the path to success at school.
Sarah is 5. Her mum recently left her abusive partner of 10 years and is suffering from depression.
Sarah has been a victim of her step-father’s abuse. She started to show signs of difficult behaviour at school and a lack of confidence.
A support worker referred Sarah and her mum to Stronger Families. The children’s group built Sarah’s self-esteem, helping her to deal with her emotions and understand that the violence was not her fault. Her mother’s group sessions gave her a better understanding about her daughter’s feelings and they can now talk in a more open way. Sarah’s teacher says her confidence is improving massively which is having a positive effect in all aspects of school life.
The James Family
Family Intervention Project
The James Family were referred to the Family Intervention Project (FIP) following reports of anti-social behaviour, non-school attendance and concerns of child neglect.
The father has acute mental health difficulties and the mother is alcohol dependent and suffers from depression. The four eldest children had not been in school for the past 18 months. The two youngest children were at risk of permanent exclusion from school due to their very challenging and aggressive behaviour. They were all in danger of homelessness.
The FIP identified what was required and coordinated the services involved. They visited daily ensuring the children went to bed and got up at appropriate times. The parents were subject to ‘parenting contracts’ and the children to ‘acceptable behaviour contracts’. The mother was supported to attend alcohol counselling. Education and training provision was put in place for all the children. Tenancy support and debt management were also provided. A multi-agency team met every six weeks to review the family’s progress.
As a result, in the last nine months there have been no further complaints of anti-social behaviour. All school age children are now in full time education with over 90% attendance. One child has just achieved five A-C grade GCSEs. The mother has benefitted from specialist counselling support and is attending employment training. So far the James family have sustained their positive changes.