In this guest blog, Meave Darroux, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise at Brilliant Parents, talks about their innovative approach to supporting parents of children at risk of criminal exploitation through Parent Champions, earning them a place as a finalist for the Butler Trust Kathy Biggar Trophy.
As Chief Executive of Social Enterprise, I am often asked what makes a Brilliant Parent? The answers of which are numerous. However, one key aspect is the ability to empathise and show compassion not just to our children, but also to ourselves. Society expects parents to have all the answers, however we know that most parents will face challenges with their child at some stage, whether that be when they are a toddler or teenager. All challenges are relative depending on the parent, their background, culture, and perception.
Brilliant Parents is commissioned by the London Borough of Hillingdon and supports Hillingdon parents who can self-refer or are referred by statutory bodies. There are some parents whose teenage children may be on that trajectory of being exploited and this can be particularly difficult for all those concerned. Parents are often at a loss as to what to do and who to turn to. They often feel judged by family members, schools and of course the self-judgement and feeling of shame can be overwhelming. Do they keep things 'hush hush' and ignore the situation hoping it will go away, or do they reach out for help risking as they see it, the possibility of their child going into an alternative school or worst still into care?
Working in partnership with the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment at The London Borough of Hillingdon, Brilliant Parents facilitates access to parents and explores any barriers to engagement or programme delivery. By using the Hillingdon AXIS analytical database to identify families, localities, and communities at risk of criminal exploitation, we enable the effective targeting of resources.
In turn, the London Borough of Hillingdon Youth Justice and Adolescent Services:
Brilliant Parents provide both a traditional method of parent support and an innovative method of peer-to-peer support. The latter came about from research by the MOPAC’s Violence Reduction Unit which concluded that parents preferred peer-to-peer support by people who looked like them and spoke their language in more ways than one!
Brilliant Parents enlisted the support of fifteen Parent Champions in Hillingdon and have matched them with two families each to connect in a way that many of these families have not experienced before. Testimonials have confirmed that they no longer have feelings of being treated like a tick box exercise, but are supported by people who they feel are genuine, empathic and on their side.
Parents are contacted once a week, whether that be by phone or virtually over a six-to-eight-week period for support with the parent’s concerns. Sometimes, it may be more important to discuss unemployment or mounting debt and other times it may be their concerns about their child’s disappearance. Whatever it is, our Parent Champions are trained in a variety of relevant skills including Positive Parenting principles, Soft Counselling Skills and Trauma Informed Practice to name a few so that they can offer a non-judgemental listening ear for the parent. They can also assist that parent to engage with the schools and/or council services if needs be, which many families are hesitant to do.
Brilliant Parents have recently launched their five key principles and Parent Champions are encouraged to discuss these with the families they support:
If, as an organisation we can help our families to implement these concepts, they will in turn feel more confident and competent in their parenting skills and identify with the Brilliant Parent within them who is just waiting to appear.
Julie Kelly, Director of Service Delivery, Children and Young Peoples Services at Hillingdon Council said “We commissioned parenting organisation ‘Brilliant Parents’ to deliver family support services in Hillingdon in 2015, and since then they’ve established a detailed understanding of our borough and its communities. Through the delivery of targeted online and place-based sessions, Meave and her team have worked with hundreds of families to empower them and their children to make positive changes. Brilliant Parents has proven itself to be a dynamic and responsive organisation, adapting programme content and delivery to emerging themes such as child criminal exploitation with the introduction of Volunteer Parent Champions.”
For more information on Brilliant Parents see www.brilliantparents.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org