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Facilitating parent/toddler interaction within the local community

FROM: Kristan Hopkins Burke

What NEED does this meet?
This project is aimed at helping 'new' parents. Parent/toddler groups are often the only way to make contact with other parents. Parenthood can be extremely isolating, especially for those who are 'new' to an area and those who have no family/support network around them. Attending parent toddler groups provides social contact for both parents and their babies/toddlers. In turn, they provide access to support, information and a basic human need for sociability. However, finding out where these groups are etc. isn't necessarily easy. I think that greater knowledge of and access to these groups could help prevent a large amount of post-natal depression (I think isolation is a key factor) and also maybe even help to prevent negative/abusive treatment of children in certain situations. Afterall, access to other human beings in the same situation can provide all sorts of information, education and support!

What is the APPROACH?
Within local communities there are many 'voluntary' parent/toddler groups. However, they usually rely upon voluntary helpers and are non-profit making etc. Parents (and other child carers)attend such places to 'make contact' with other people in the same position as themselves. Such parents can be very isolated within their own communities, especially in the absence of family and/or friends. Such parent/toddler groups are often the only 'adult' contact that 'isolated' and 'new' parents have. Many 'new' parents find themselves outside of the world of work (even if temporarily) and inside the world of 'babies'and 'toddlers'. This can be a rollercoaster ride and everybody needs support. Moreover, such groups also provide opportunities for babies and toddlers to 'play' and learn to socialise with other human beings.

However, it is often difficult to find out where these places exist. When I was in this situation myself, I received a list from the health visitor which was out of date. Such parent/toddler groups do not find it easy to advertise themselves. They are self-funding and voluntary.

My idea is that we could set up a web site which provides information to all parents and child carers of the many national parent/toddler groups which exist within their local communities(similar to upmystreet.com). This could be a life-saver for a great many parents and their children too. So, really this idea is about facilitating human interaction amongst a socially isolated group of people (mostly women). This site would obviously need updating by the parent/toddler groups themselves (?) but it could provide a 'free' and relatively 'easy' way to make their services known. It could also (though not necessarily) provide additional information (perhaps from parents) about other issues: transport, parking, the way in which the group is run, times and days, the structure of the sessions etc.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
My idea will primarily help 'parents'/child carers (and their children). However, it will obviously be more helpful to those who have access to the internet. Nevertheless, more and more people do have such access (even if not at home!). It will provide them with invaluable information which will help to reduce their social isolation (I write from past experience). Having somewhere to go and 'getting out of the house' are so important to 'new' parents who are not in paid employment. Imagine the situation where you are new to an area, your husband or partner is at work all day and you have no 'real' friends or family in the community. Add to this a 'crying' or 'colicky' baby and very little sleep! Being part of a wider community and making friends is invaluable. Finding out where these groups are on-line would serve a great many people.

What is the COMPETITION?
I don't know of any! Until children start playgroup, nursery or school, they require the care of either their parents or child-minders or nannies. All groups of child-carers require support within the community. This information made so easily available could be a great support to a great many people, for a very small cost! Once they have access to the correct information, they have access to the places themselves, and the opportunity to meet people and make friends.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I think this could be a 'cheap' and relatively easy idea to develop. It would require the necessary research to find 'upto date' details of these groups and post these details on to the relevant site. Once it was set up, the actual parent/toddler groups (which exist 'nationally') could be asked to update their details, if, for example they move or stop providing the service. Keeping the information upto date would be the most important thing!

November 20, 2003 | Permalink

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