Parenting support in Flanders
EXPOO is the Flemish Government’s expert centre for parenting support.
The decree on the organisation of parenting support in Flanders provides for the establishment of such a centre under the umbrella of the agency of 'Child and Family' and is the result of a previous co-operation agreement between the agencies of Youth Welfare and 'Child and Family'.
EXPOO wishes to provide practical assistance to the field of parenting support and to this end collects, enhances and disseminates the relevant knowledge and know-how on parenting support.
EXPOO is set up as a demand based open network that benefits from the input of relevant partners. Indeed, Flanders has quite some expertise to offer when it comes to parenting support. EXPOO wishes to be a forum within which this expertise can continue to grow.
Under the provisions of the decree, the tasks of EXPOO are:
- to develop basic information on childcare for different ages and to also contribute such basic information to parenting support consultation at local level and to education shops,
- to devise and disseminate textual and audio-visual materials,
- to develop and maintain a digital platform on parenting for different ages, in co-operation with education shops,
- to offer a telephone service in co-operation with one or several relevant partners,
- to build up a documentation and information centre,
- to ensure the continual monitoring of Flemish and international scientific research,
- to develop and disseminate parenting support methods,
- to organise education and continued training for local co-ordinators,
- to draw up a manual to be made available to local consultation on parenting support,
- to organise training sessions for professionals,
- to process the available data collection and report to the Flemish Government.
The word 'parenting support' would appear to be self-explanatory: to provide support to the upbringing of children and young people.
All parents at times have questions on the bringing up of their children. Often parents find their questions answered by the people around them: by grandparents, friends and acquaintances, at the school gate,...Alongside such informal support there is also ‘organised parenting support’. On a daily basis a great many parenting support workers are busy to support parents in varying childcare situations.
In Flanders a decree has been in force since July, 2007, to regulate the organisation of parenting support. This decree specifies parenting support as the ‘easily accessible, basic support to parents and persons with childrearing responsibilities in the upbringing of children’. “Bringing up” is seen in this connection as an ongoing process between a child and the individuals responsible for its upbringing within a well-defined context.
As a result of the Decree on Preventive Family Support (2013), a large number of the parenting support services are organised based on the cooperation partnerships of “Huizen van het Kind” (Houses for Children).
In the first instance, parenting support is for anyone who takes charge of children and young people. All parental figures, parents, grandparents and family members are therefore included.Parenting support is furthermore also aimed at specific groups, such as socially vulnerable families, one-parent families, newly set-up families, adoptive families and so on.As parenting support is aimed at every family, we speak of parenting support also as an “enhancement” for families who are not experiencing any problems.
Parenting support is aimed primarily at parents and other educators with the following objectives:
- to reinforce the competence, skills and ability of parents,
- to reduce the load of their task by early identification of problem issues and providing practical help or support,
- to reinforce the social network for children and families.
The overall objective is to broaden the available facilities and opportunities for families, on the one hand, and to prevent (more serious) problems, on the other hand.
By supporting parents in simple issues we aim to enhance their independence and parenting skills, thereby making parents better equipped in the face of any (more serious) issues that might arise in the future, and limiting the need for more targeted intervention.
Points of Departure
- Accessible support: easy access, not requiring any major financial outlay, to be free from stigma, to be mindful of cultural sensitivity, …
- To be demand oriented and participatory: based on parents’ questions and needs.
- Customised support: to take seriously any childcare question and to provide an appropriate response.
- Empowerment : to recognise parents’ knowledge and encouraging them to look for suitable solutions to their individual situation.
The functions of parenting support:
- Information and advice
- Practical pedagogic or instrumental support
- Emotional support
- Social support, promoting social cohesion and self-help
- highlighting, early identification and referral,
- pedagogic advice and simple peripatetic support
- more intensive, easily accessible help
There is a wide variety of parenting support services available in Flanders and Brussels: via both large and small initiatives, parents and other people responsible for child care receive support in the raising of their children.
As a result of the Decree on Preventive Family Support, a large number of the parenting support services are organised based on the cooperation partnerships of “Huizen van het Kind” (Houses for Children).
Parenting support services in Flanders and Brussels
Some initiatives receive certification from Kind en Gezin (Child and Family) to provide parenting support. The Decree on Preventive Family Support provides for the following types of services:
- Easily accessible parenting support services
The Opvoedingswinkel (Parenting Shop) and the Opvoedingslijn (Parenting Line) are designed to expand the services available to all people responsible for child care. Their task consists primarily of providing basic information, answering general parenting questions, providing pedagogic advice, ensuring early detection and targeted referrals, promoting social encounters, raising awareness and exchanging expertise.
- Opportunities for play and encounters
Places for play and encounters are aimed primarily at stimulating the socialisation and development of children, boosting the skills and support capacity of people responsible for child care, and strengthening social networks and social cohesion.
- Easily accessible mobile preventive family support
The IAPSC teams (Integraal Laagdrempelig OpvoedingsOndersteuningsPunt/Integrated and easily Accessible Parenting Support Centre) provide underprivileged families with preventive support for parenting.
This support is aimed specifically at underprivileged families with pregnant women and underprivileged families with children between the ages of 0 and 3 (or between 0 and 6 for children not attending school).
- Mobile preventive family support services
This service type is comprised of mobile support. This means that the support is mainly provided within, or is initially based on, the family context.
The services provided by Domo are an example of mobile preventive family support.
- Easily accessible preventive family support services aimed at boosting educational opportunities
These services are aimed at families with expectant mothers and those with socially vulnerable children. They mainly address the pre-school and early-school development of children (by stimulating play and language development), parent-child interaction and increased social cohesion.
Other initiatives also offer parenting support alongside their other tasks. Examples include the Kind en Gezin counselling centres, socio-cultural training, as well as child care facilities, pupil guidance centres and others.
Based on the new Decree, most parenting support services are organised based on the Huizen van het Kind cooperation partnerships.
The range of parenting support services is always changing, and as such, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive overview.