The Benefits

By sharing their time and friendship, volunteers offer families the opportunity to develop new relationships, fresh ideas and enhanced skills and capabilities. Home-Start's gentle method of early intervention with families helps to prevent difficulties from escalating into crises and family breakdown.

Some of the benefits that have been reported by previous Home-Start families include, but are by no means limited to: a renewed interest by parents in their children and an increased ability to respond to their children's needs. Parents also gain a greater understanding of their children and feel better equipped to foster their children's development. The parents also gain confidence in their own parenting abilities.

Parents felt energized and were able to spend more time with their children. The parents also became more affectionate towards their young children. The parents also noted a positive change in their children's behaviour and felt that they had the skills to appropriately deal with their young children's misbehaviour.

Parents have greater ability to sort out their own, and their children's, problems. The parents feel that they have been able to regain control over their lives and are better able to cope with life's challenges.

Another benefit as reported by parents, is that they feel empowered to take advantage of the resources available in the community.

The Home-Start Approach

Once a referral is received, Home-Start will try to ascertain whether the family has willingly chosen Home-Start and if the referral falls within the remit of Home-start. The organization will also determine if they have the necessary resources to be able to assist the family.

If it is determined that Home-Start is able to help the family, the co-ordinator of the scheme will visit with the family in their own home. This initial meeting is informal and aims to put the family at ease. This meeting also gives the family the opportunity to discuss their particular needs and to get further information about the approach of Home-Start and the services that the organization is able to offer to struggling families.

Home-Start then carefully matches a suitable volunteer with the family, taking the following factors into consideration: the needs of the family; the commitment required; the volunteer's motivation; the volunteer's aptitudes, skills and experience; the ability of the volunteer to be open and accepting of the situation; practical issues such as location, transport and time.

The co-ordinator will accompany the volunteer on the first visit to the family to introduce the family to the volunteer and set the ground rules for visiting. During this meeting it will be necessary to clarify when and at what times the volunteer will visit; what the focus of the visits will be and what the family can expect from the volunteer as well as when and how the support will be reviewed.

Following the introductory meeting, the volunteer will offer regular support to the family. The volunteer also receives support from the co-ordinator in the form of individual and group supervision as well as on-going training as needed. The co-ordinator and volunteer will also meet with the family quarterly to monitor the services.

The success of the Home-Start method is dependent on the relationship that develops between the family and the volunteer. The sharing of the parenting experience is often the common factor from which the family and volunteer develop the relationship.

Through this caring relationship, families may feel confident to share their concerns and express their needs for support. The information that is shared between the families, volunteers and Home-Start will be treated as confidential unless there are concerns about the welfare of the children.

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Final Thoughts

Home-Start is a friend to parents with young children.

Introducing a volunteer friend to a parent who has never had a real friend, or who desperately needs one, is possibly one of Home-Start's greatest gifts!