The Evidence Portal

Improve parents’ informal support

Flexible activity

Families should be supported to build a network of long-term supportive relationships. This can come from family, friends and the community. 

An informal network of support can provide families with emotional and day-to-day support. Supportive family and friends can support parents when they need advice, help thinking through a problem, or practical assistance or care. This can also provide families with positive role models, advocates and friendship.

Parents often turn to their informal supports, before seeking help from a service provider. As such, a wide and growing network of informal support is key to keeping families feeling supported and safe. 

How can it be implemented?

This activity can be built into existing home visits. You should use your professional judgement to determine what is most appropriate for your client/s.  

Practitioners can work with families to:

  • Identify and reach out to important people in their lives: empower parents to ask for help and to articulate what they need.
  • Identify people who might be a risk factor: empower parents to recognise negative influences and the best way to manage them
  • connect with community: encourage families to attend community events and connect with other families
  • Connect with culture: encourage families to connect with people and places they feel comfortable in

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

Understanding structures and concepts that exist in Aboriginal families and communities is important in building relationships. Aboriginal people have strong family values. The family system has an extended family structure, as opposed to the nuclear or immediate family structure which is common in Western society (DCJ Practice Resource: Working with Aboriginal People) .

See the Cultural Safety and Wellbeing Evidence Review for further guidance on how to deliver culturally safe services and improve outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with a number of target groups. Key characteristics include:

  • Parents of at least one child 12 years of age or younger living in the home
  • Parents on methadone maintenance and had children aged between 2 and 8 years

What programs conduct this activity?

  • The Child First program is a home visitation program that works with families to build a network of supportive relationships. These relationships should continue to sustain the parent over the long term. 
  • The Parent Aide Services & Case Management program identified and reached out to supportive family or friends of parents.
  • The Parents Under Pressure program delivers a module encouraging parents to connect with their family, community and culture. It encourages parents to extend their support networks by identifying potential sources of support and pursuing these opportunities. This module addresses interpersonal deficits that may underlie problems of social isolation.

What else should I consider?

This activity could be adapted to group sessions or community events.  Informal support can be provided by being around other people, participating in shared experiences and by asking peers for assistance. Practitioners should support families to develop and maintain relationships with other people in their community.

Informal support networks may be even more important from some groups of people. For example, people unable to communicate effectively and confidently in English may be less likely to access formal support and as such, will turn to their informal networks for assistance.

Further resources

Last updated:

20 Feb 2023

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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