Volunteer Family Connect: Structured Social Support for Vulnerable Families with Young Children

presentation reports the results from an Australian study that examined the
effectiveness of Volunteer Family Connect, a structured social support early
intervention program for families with young children who experience social
isolation or a lack of parenting confidence and skills. Volunteer Family
Connect, a best practice model of structured social support in the form of
volunteer home visiting, was developed by a collaboration of three
not-for-profit service organisations, two universities, a corporate partner and
a private philanthropist. 

home visiting has been a critical part of the service context for many years,
both in Australia and internationally, performing a complementary and unique
role in the landscape of family support services. However, these programs have
come under threat in recent years because of the lack of methodologically
rigorous research providing evidence of effectiveness. 

randomised controlled trial and social return on investment of Volunteer Family
Connect was conducted in seven sites across four states of Australia with data
collected every three months for 15 months. Intervention families received the
program for between 3-12 months depending on their support needs. 

This research makes a significant contribution to the much-needed evidence-base relating to the continuum of services necessary to prevention and early intervention for vulnerable families, and provides an exemplary model of collaboration between volunteers, researchers, service organisations, and community members  .


Dr Rebekah
Grace is a Senior Researcher Fellow, School of Nursing and Midwifery Deputy
Director of the Translational Research and Social Innovation Group, University
of Western Sydney Rebekah’s research work has spanned the health, psychology
and education fields, focusing on understanding and addressing the support
needs of children and families who are vulnerable. Rebekah’s research is
multi-disciplinary in nature and is most often conducted in collaboration with
Government and NGO partners to support high quality, evidence-based, service

Grainne O’Loughlin has over 26 years’ experience in the
public healthcare sectors in the UK and Australia. Grainne has held a variety
of senior health executive roles and has extensive strategic and operational
management experience in acute, sub-acute and not-for-profit healthcare
settings. Having completed her Master of Business Administration in 2011
Grainne currently holds Non-Executive and Director appointments on two Boards:
the NSW Health Services Association Board (HSA), and the Australasian
Association of Parenting and Child Health.