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A parenting programme designed to help families in a north Dublin suburb, has gained international recognition and is the first and only Irish initiative of its kind endorsed by US authorities.
‘Preparing for Life’ is a plan produced by Northside Partnership, a development company working to improve the lives of people in north-east Dublin.
The early intervention model helps develop parenting skills and prepare children for school and was first rolled out in Darndale in 2007.
It serves families and children from pregnancy to school entry, supporting parents so the child, family and community can thrive.
It is delivered through regular home visits, along with wrap around supports including antenatal education, breastfeeding help and group sessions for parents.
Now, the US Department of Health and Human Services has officially recognised its “unique approach to supporting parents”.
It has been included on the Department’s ‘Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness’ (HomVEE) list, making it the only Irish initiative of its kind eligible for federal and state funding in the US.
“Being recognized by the US Department of Health and Human Services is like winning the World Cup,” said Professor Orla Doyle of UCD’s Geary Institute, which monitors the service and established its US credentials.
“It acknowledges the work of the implementation team and the high-quality research which underlies it.
“Being included in the HomVEE list will increase awareness and hopefully the adoption of Preparing for Life internationally.”
The selection of the programme ensures it is eligible to partner with local organisations in the US, who can apply for federal and state funding for it.
Its US recognition came about through contact between Professor Doyle and
Professor James Heckman, a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics at the University of Chicago.
In 2021, the University’s Centre for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD) selected Preparing for Life as its preferred option for a formal trial in the US.
A year later, the CEHD agreed to work with Preparing for Life to deliver the programme in a predominately Spanish speaking community in southside Chicago in partnership with Casa Central, a large community organisation in the area.
“This is a recognition of the wonderful parents and children in Darndale who have been part of this study,” said Preparing for Life programme manager, Niall Sexton.
“It is truly an honour to be in their lives and share their parenting journey.”
Eight other Irish organisations outside Darndale currently offer Preparing for Life – in Finglas and Balbriggan in Dublin, Bray, Co Wicklow; Athy and Newbridge, Co Kildare; Ballinasloe, Co Galway; Castlebar, Co Mayo and Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.
The initiative also offers a range of other services including baby massage, evidenced parenting courses, and speech and language programmes.
Alison Baulos, Executive Director of CEHD at the University of Chicago, said Preparing for Life had a unique approach to supporting parents through coaching and mentoring.
“There are strong, positive impacts on the lives of families. We look forward to continuing this great work and collaborating on rigorous research to guide evidence-based policy investments to promote opportunity for children and their care givers.”
Those interested in accessing the service should email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01 877-1509.