Leaping Forward in early child and family support # 6: A fresh look at families

Parents and other family members are mostly treated as second class citizens

My starting point for this Leaping Forward series of articles is my experience that parents and other family members are mostly treated as second class citizens. This impacts on their self-esteem and coping strategies and prevents them playing a full part in decision-making.

Families suffer prejudice and discrimination in both their communities and within early child and family support organisations. I am putting this as my first leaping forward topic because I feel it is by far the most important issue. 

How families are side-lined by early support organisations

For example, the venerable International Society on Early Childhood Intervention (ISEI) website tells us:

Issues relevant to early intervention transcend national boundaries. The rapidly expanding knowledge base of early intervention is the product of contributions from researchers, clinicians, program developers, and policy-makers from numerous countries. https://www.isei.washington.edu/purpose/

No mention of families here and no recognition of their knowledge. Is this not disgraceful?

Preci is a much younger organisation in Australia and describes itself as ‘professionals and researchers in early childhood intervention’. It then adds:

Current Committee Members include professionals with significant experience in the early childhood intervention field, with both a research and practice focus. https://www.preci.org.au/who-we-are/

Again, no mention of families. This is sad and surprising because much good work in early child and family support is happening in Australia: Collaborating to deliver excellence and equity for children with disability and their families - Preci in Australia

It is refreshing to see that EURLYAID has caught up with the times. We learn from its website:

Eurlyaid – The European Association on Early Childhood Intervention (EAECI) is

    • a participative association of persons, interested in issues of early childhood intervention.
    • a working party made up of representatives of parents’ associations, professionals and researchers, from various countries of the European Union. https://www.eurlyaid.eu/about/

So parents have their right and proper place here. (Now if they could drop the term ‘early childhood intervention’ they would avoid the trap of seeming dated and authoritative. ‘Early child and family support’ is much more family-friendly, less threatening and suggests equal partnership.)

I wonder if any parents are genuinely powerful in the planning of the Portugal 2025 conference: Early child and family support conference in Portugal (September 2025) by ISEI and Eurlyaid. An opportunity for an evolutionary leap forward. 1

I hope so because there is always the danger of parents and family members being given a token presence in conferences as 'gap fillers' between important scientists.

In summary, early child and family support cannot leap forward while parents and other family members are held powerless as second class citizens.

The discussion of disempowered parents and family members will continue in Leaping Forward #7 on the theme of Us and Them (or Them and Us).

Peter Limbrick, Interconnections. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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