Family by Family

| Helen Sharp

“Family by Family is one of the most inspiring approaches to assisting families going through tough times that I’ve come across in four decades.”

Professor Emeritus Dorothy Scott

Family by Family isn’t rocket science – in fact, it makes a lot of sense but when you’re locked in a risk-averse environment such as child protection: the idea that families could help each other is almost unthinkable. I experienced a lot of resistance towards co-production from the social care sector but Family by Family is an excellent example of this happening in reality. The only problem is it’s happening in Australia which is a long way from here!

Family by Family is a social venture which links ‘seeking families’ (families who are struggling day to day and want something in their lives to be different) with ‘sharing families’ (families who have been through crisis and are now thriving despite living in circumstances that might be described as disadvantaged).

“It looks deceptively simple, but behind it is a very sophisticated understanding of what families need.”

Link-ups last a specific period of time and all families set goals for their involvement in the programme. Pairs of seeking and sharing families then organise the things that they will do together and these are specifically designed to assist, primarily the seeking families but the sharing families never stop learning themselves. Importantly, seeking families can in turn become sharing families once they feel able and sharing families are supported by professional coaches.

The amazing thing about Family by Family is its commitment to co-production. The original programme was co-designed and prototyped by families and many aspects were changed until they felt they had the right fit. When the programme was introduced to a new locality, the programme was revised with the local people to ensure it was relevant and made the most of the local resources. Family by Family’s ability and willingness to adapt is quite unique in my experience.

I wish a social care department somewhere in the UK would look at adopting this approach to complement the professionals and services. Watch their video – it really will inspire you…

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