Family centres pilot Strengthening Families Programme in Kilkenny

Ten families of parents and their children have spent one evening a week over 14 weeks in Newpark Close Family Resource Centre and completed the final Kilkenny pilot of the Strengthening Families Programme.

Ten families of parents and their children have spent one evening a week over 14 weeks in Newpark Close Family Resource Centre and completed the final Kilkenny pilot of the Strengthening Families Programme.

A partnership between the HSE, Newpark and the Fr. McGrath Family Resource Centre has undertaken two pilot programmes that saw more than one hundred members of twenty one families undertake and complete the family support programme over the last year.

More than fifty members of ten families met in the Newpark Centre one evening a week where their hosts provided a sit-down family meal before starting a series of workshops for parents, children and teenagers on building communication skills within families.

Sheila Donnelly, manager of Newpark Close Family Centre, thanked the many agencies in Kilkenny who gave staff hours and financial support to run the major training programme over the last three and a half months.

She said: ‘A programme like this one that can get all the members of this many families to sit down one evening a week for fourteen weeks to look at how they can communicate better and strengthen their family relationships speaks for itself.’

‘This programme is fast becoming recognised as one of the most effective support programmes for families in the country and this pilot has confirmed our view that a way must be found between Kilkenny agencies to mainstream this programme for many more families in Kilkenny. She added

The programme works with every member of the family and provides crèche support at their centres on the evening for infants to allow older children, teenagers and parents time to explore how they communicate and relate to each other.

It also teaches parents, teenagers and children ways to deal with issues and help avoid stress and conflict within their families while helping families develop techniques for weekly ‘family time’ sessions where the family gets to sit down and talk about issues that affect them.

Sheila said: ‘As a mother myself, I regret that there was not a programme like this available to me and my late husband when my children were growing up.’

Wendy Taylor, Family Support Manager at the Fr. McGrath Centre supported Sheila’s appeal to Kilkenny agencies to find a way to keep it running. She said that when the first pilot was run last year in the Fr. McGrath Centre teenagers wrote notes to us thanking us for the programme and said it had changed their family completely and that they had now stopped shouting at each other and starting talking.

Community and HSE Partnership Approach:

The Strengthening Families Programme is now internationally recognised as one of the best family programmes for encouraging positive child development and preventing children and teenagers from abusing drugs or alcohol.

At the graduation ceremony this week, Marie Kennedy, HSE Childcare manager, thanked the many agencies who had come together to support the Family Centres to run these pilots.

She said: ‘While recognising the impact of the programme I also have to recognise that this is a very resource intensive programme and it is not cheap to run.’

She complimented the Family Centres for their resourcefulness in getting the programme off the ground and in particular the other major financial sponsors who added to the HSE grant to make the programme possible – Co. Council’s RAPID programme, Kilkenny Leader, and the Fr. McGrath Centre for their generous financial support.

Many other City agencies from Ossory Youth, The Drugs Task Force, School Completion Programme, HSE Childcare teams, Foraige, Community Garda, Framework and the Family Support Network donated staff who were trained as facilitators or volunteered hours to support the fourteen week programme.

Marie said that the HSE was facing very difficult times and having to cut or reduce many services to vulnerable families but that the community statutory partnership approach developed by both Family Centres in Kilkenny was showing the way forward to ensure that a way could be found to keep programmes like this one running for families in Carlow and Kilkenny in the years to come.

Both Family Centres made a special thanks to Maurice Casey who, as site coordinator, played a pivotal role in the success of the programme by coordinating the families, agencies, trainers and facilitators and organising the family meal and venue each week.


Details – Sheila Donnelly

Newpark Close FRC