A preventive parenting program for family reunification

Out-of-home care accomodates children who face serious distruptions in their family environment, including severely impaired, abusive, and/or neglectful parenting, and elevated behavioural and emotional problems in children. The most common and desired goal for children in out-of-home care is to achieve a timely and safe family reunification (FR), i.e. the process of returning children to their families of origin. The risk for developing or exacerbating mental health problems that impacts behavioural conduct in these children increases relative to the number of significant disruptions (e.g. multiple placements) they experience while waiting for FR. There are two significant impediments to achieving a well-timed and stable FR: (1) children’s conduct problems and (2) parents’ lack of confidence or skills in managing their child’s behaviour. Though decades of research suggests that parent management training programs can significantly improve parenting skills and self-efficacy while effectively treating and/or preventing conduct problems in young children, there is no existing research investigating whether these programs may be effective with birth parents of children in out-of-home care, specifically for the purpose of FR.

Accordingly, Dave Pasalich’s research will examine the feasibility and efficacy of a parenting program for FR.

Through intervention, Pasalich will focus on improving parent-child interactions between young children (aged 3 to 7) in out-of-home care and their birth parents.

It is envisioned that the short-term effects of the parenting program on improving the quality of the parent-child relationship, parenting, and reducing conduct problems in children, will (1) increase the likelihood of achieving FR; (2) decrease the time taken to achieve FR; and (3) decrease the need for these children to re-enter the out-of-home care system at a later stage, or at least delay the need for re-entry.