Year in review 2016-17: Supporting families
Providing practical support to help families raise their children is a key plank of our work. In 2016-17 we looked at new ways to reach and engage with parents and carers and harnessed the potential of technology to provide quality, trusted information to busy families. Our key achievements are outlined below.
1. Raising Children Network achievements
Raising Children Network is our online platform produced in collaboration with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.
Funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services, the site provides free, evidence-based, easy-to-access information about parenting issues from pregnancy to adolescence.
In 2016-17 the Singaporean Government sought our expertise in developing a parenting portal for Singaporean families. This three-year, $1.7 million initiative will provide training, consultancy and specifically tailored content, drawing on expertise from both partnering institutions.
VISITORS TO RAISINGCHILDREN.NET.AU
Trust in raisingchildren.net.au among families is well-established after a decade of operation, and engagement continues to grow. During 2016-17:
- 48,000 people each day accessed over 2300 videos, apps and articles – an increase of 20% over the previous year
- 14.9 million visitors viewed 24.3 million pages – a 15% increase
- 170,000+ people followed Raising Children Network on Facebook as at June 2017 – 37% more than the same time last year
- More than 60% of visitors to the site came via a mobile device, compared with 45% of visitors the previous year.
We continued our focus on publishing new and updated high-quality content, producing 58 new content resources and updating 623 existing resources. New content features included:
- online videos and articles in partnership with the National Disability Insurance Agency and launched for the National Disability Insurance Scheme in July 2016
- new digital entertainment and technology content for pre-teens and teens, covering topics such as social media and sexting; these resources were produced in partnership with researchers from the Western Sydney University and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, and promoted through radio and print media
- Parenting in Pictures – updated illustrated resources on safety, newborn care and cyber safety and designed for use on mobile devices.
Acknowledging the important role that grandparents play, we developed new content for grandparents who care for their grandchildren. In collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Social Services and a range of service providers, we conducted forums and held consultations in five states across Australia. Attracting an average of 60 grandparents per session, the forums focused on connecting carers with each other and other supports. Valuable discussions were held on the needs and experiences of grandparent and kinship carers. An outreach campaign to promote the resources to grandparents was conducted via local radio and print and social media.
Our resources continued to attract interest from organisations wishing to source good-quality content for parents. We assisted:
- The Goshen Project, an Israeli parenting website, to licence 338 articles that will be translated to Hebrew and Arabic
- Goodstart Early Learning to use 20 Raising Children Network articles which we customised for their website.
2. MyTime achievements
MyTime is a unique national program we created in 2006 to support parents of children with a disability, developmental delay or chronic medical condition. Coordinated across Australia with 12 agency partners who deliver services in their communities, MyTime is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.
During the year we made a concerted effort to engage parents online. Our successful social media strategy used Facebook as the key channel to communicate with parents and increase recruitment to the program. As a result we saw a 62% increase in both Facebook followers and likes over the previous year. During 2016-17:
- 5617 sessions took place across the country
- 7318 attendances
- 2830 Facebook followers
- 2884 Facebook likes
- 9921 unique users saw our promotional video animation on Facebook.
We also established a new and robust process of continuous quality improvement to engage members and group facilitators in providing regular feedback. We are using this feedback to help us evaluate the program. And we created resources for both practitioners and parents on topics such as dealing with grief and loss.
3. Information resources for same-sex and gender-diverse parents
In this multidisciplinary project, we combined our expertise in knowledge synthesis and knowledge translation to create evidence-based information resources for same-sex and gender-diverse Australian parents.
Our synthesis of the literature identified the latest and most rigorous national and international reviews of the scientific evidence related to social and emotional outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents.
This analysis informed the development of new online resources for the general public that provide easy-to-understand overviews of the evidence. Promoted via Raising Children Network, the take-home message of the resources is: It’s what parents do that matters.
This project was funded by the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet.
4. Driving digital engagement
Technology continues to be a key vehicle that helps us meet our commitment to supporting parents. The following projects are examples of how we used digital platforms to drive parent engagement in 2016-17.
LIVE INTERACTIVE WEBINARS
A series of free, live and interactive webinars we offered during the year gave parents an opportunity to engage with qualified parenting experts in real time, ask questions and give instant feedback.
This unique delivery format is a first in parenting support. And it can be used by practitioners to supplement their face-to-face work with parents to help build parenting skills.
The webinars were funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training and are aimed at parents of children aged 2-12, including children with additional or complex needs. More than 600 participants have attended 27 webinars since we piloted the project in 2016. Topics to date have covered sleep, behaviour (tantrums), and self-care (stress and management).
Our evaluation of this project is based on the action research model, allowing us to adapt the content and delivery mode based on participant feedback. Evaluation also helps us examine the feasibility and impact of the webinars.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH TO PROMOTING GOOD SLEEP
In a project commissioned by Hunter New England Population Health and the University of Newcastle, we developed a short video and follow-up intervention to help parents with good sleep management of children aged 2-5. The video, Healthy Sleeping, explained how much sleep young children need, why sleep is important, and basic strategies to improve child sleep.
The project was the intervention arm of a larger study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). This study is examining the effect of increased opportunities for outdoor play periods on physical activity and sleep duration among children attending childcare centres.
About 40 parents participating in the study were randomly selected to watch the video and receive a 30-minute phone call from a psychologist from the Parenting Research Centre to discuss ways to implement the strategies. Parents also received two follow-up text messages to encourage use of the strategies.
The NHMRC-funded study is the first randomised controlled trial reporting on the impact of a sleep intervention on physical activity and sleep in preschool-age children. Its findings will inform future research and interventions examining the impact of sleep on children.