Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare

Gary Hawker, from Dorset Community Health Services, UK, reviews SCIE guide 30: Think child, think parent, think family: a guide to parental mental health and child welfare, 2009, London, Social Care Institute for Excellence. Available from www.scie.org.uk

This guidance provides a welcome overview of policy and practice.

The link between parental mental health and the welfare of children has long been acknowledged by practitioners in both mental health and childcare specialisms. The issue, though, has always been about how to facilitate collaboration in a way that enables families rather than disables.

As the guidance echoes in its introduction, this is a complex area of work. Not all parents with a mental health problem require services but for some families support may be essential to keep the family together and to promote the child’s welfare. As well as summarising the main influences informing the current context, the guidance is rightly grounded on the views of parents and children.

Nine priority recommendations have been identified in the guidance which address the various levels of professional involvement from signposting and access, through assessment and care planning, to more strategic concerns such as workforce development and the need for more research. These recommendations arise from careful consideration of the outcomes of a growing body of research, more awareness of the lived experiences of children whose parents have mental health difficulties and the professional concerns around trying to focus on families as a whole. Yet no-one will be surprised at these recommendations. They imply that nothing less than a root and branch overhaul of services is essential if we are ever going to successfully help families in need.

All the recommendations are methodically developed in the guidance, highlighting the characteristics of an effective service. This detail not only informs practice but provides a constructive framework which affirms a positive approach to the development of appropriate services. The recommendations therefore explore the current problems in practice, recommend changes, and specify what managers and organisations need to do to achieve these changes. The second half of the guidance features examples of good practice in and around England. It is apparent that, given professional insight and enthusiasm and managerial blessing, innovation and improvement are realistic possibilities in practice.

In conclusion, this paper offers overdue but encouraging and practical guidance in which to frame future developments when dealing with families. In some aspects, its recommendations still seem aspirational as it remains generally true that childcare teams, usually managed by the local authority, and adult mental health teams, usually integrated teams managed by primary care trusts, have a long way to go before authentic collaboration can occur. However, this guidance clearly identifies what needs to be done. It provides good practice examples to support its recommendations, but more than this it endorses the concept that if we are to progress in this area of work, we can only do so by balancing the individual needs of children and parents with the needs of the family as a whole.

No

Want to share your thoughts about this?

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.