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What does a parent support worker do?

Situations can arise where parents themselves need support to fulfil their parental role. Physical or mental illness, disability, dependency or addiction may mean that parents need support with the physical aspects of childcare, management of the home, or the emotional or safety aspects of caring for children. Sometimes parents may need support with self-care so they can parent children effectively and appropriately. The need for support may be short-lived or may last for several months.

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Demands of parenting

Parenting is a tough job. Babies can be demanding, parents often feel ill-equipped to deal with the challenges that parenthood brings. With little sleep and perhaps several children it can be physically and emotionally draining. Teenager behaviour can also be difficult to manage. For parents who have other problems to contend with, a parent support worker can help. He works with the parent to give practical or emotional support and ensure they and the children remain safe and healthy. Support workers will all have had a disclosure and barring service check.

Teaching parenting skills

Some parents have little experience of being parented themselves. They may have been brought up in care, or had parents who had problems and simply don't know how to parent effectively. People who have not experienced adequate parenting themselves may need to learn how to be nurturing. They may need to be shown how to care for their children or even learn themselves how to play with children. Other parents may need help with shopping, cooking, cleaning or budgeting. Parent or family support workers can work with parents until they learn these skills.

Parents with problems

Some parents struggle with a range of problems of their own and parent support workers work with them to overcome these. Helping them get to appointments and offering emotional support may fall within their remit. The parent support worker may work with very young parents, who may have no other support, or parents who are going through difficult times themselves. She liaises with other professionals and is often involved if there has been concern over the welfare of a child.

The role

Family support workers and parent support workers often fulfil a broadly similar role. They may work in the homes of families, family centres or other locations. Some parents gain access to a parent support worker because they ask for help. Others may be referred by a social worker, possibly because they are monitoring the quality of childcare. Parent support workers have a good general education, experience of working with families, often a level 3 care qualification and will receive supervision and training on the job.

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About the Author

Sheila Mulvenney has a career in health and education and has contributed to local and national publications, A qualified nurse, health visitor and teacher with an honors degree from the Open University, she has most recently qualified as an energy meridian therapist. Mulvenney enjoys hosting and teaching English language students from all over the world.

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