- Family Support: Prevention, Early Intervention and Early Help by Nick Frost, Shaheen Abbott, and Tracey Race
This book is aimed for professionals working within the child welfare services, however the issues addressed in this book could be aligned to wider societal concerns. Through-out the book, the authors successfully argue the critical importance of considering family support as pivotal to a successful child welfare system. The book derives majority of its data from England while also reaching internationally including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. At the onset, the authors' explain terms such as "prevention," "family support," "early help" and "early intervention" are perceived differently in policy, practice and in literature that impact service delivery, practice and theoretical frameworks (pg. 17). Presenting the readers a historical glimpse of the beginnings of family support, the authors explain that previous perceptions of forming programs to "rescue" families experiencing social and family problems have now been replaced by terms such as "empowerment" and "partnership" (pg.149), however what remains constant is the idea of providing support to families in need.
The authors present that while prevention has always been an essential element to program planning, the way it is now inferred is impacting policy and program planning. Justifiable in this endeavour is an increasing tolerance towards an authoritarian approach to address emerging social and family problems. A reflection of the above is a shift in terminology that now understands family support as early intervention with an increased emphasis on risk assessment. This trend, the authors argue have devalued providing family support services and liaising with community networks while encouraging a regressive attitude towards emphasizing risk assessment and authoritarian interventions. The danger in continuing in such practices and not questioning them is that it encompasses a growing perception towards devaluing prevailing broader concerns of individual, institutional, and structural inequities. Towards this end, there is an attempt to differentiate how the differences that family is perceived theoretically and in practice impacts the way services are provided to those in need. Subsequently this imbalance impacts the way support is provided to families. It is to address this imbalance that the authors purport a strategy to develop a working definition of family support that is inclusive and would also address some of the inconsistencies of understanding prevention, early intervention and early help. In their effort to support the appropriateness of the term family support, it is suggested to continue to apply various research methods and emphasize on outcomes as well as the process equally.
The main theme is of encouraging a collaborative proactive approach to understand the importance of family support and derives its support from the theory of change. The authors [End Page 513] present an intellectual model called the Hardiker Model. This model demonstrates the differences in need for families and how policy and practice could support such a need. It involves liaising with available community supports including tapping into the strength of informal supports. As such the book is progressive in its approach. The authors continuously argue to create an inclusive dialogue that challenge discriminatory terms (mentioned earlier) while working with vulnerable populations. Asserting to make family support available to all families, this book addresses the stigma and fear that is often prevalent and prevent many families to reach out to available support services. Importantly it recognizes the critical need to include communities in the program planning process. While the above idea is worth applauding, and a step in the right direction, of equal importance, and as rightly noted by the authors is the need to be aware of a possibility of confusion and "frustration and lack of consistency" (p. 58) due to a lack of consensus among service provides on the definitions of family support. The authors recognize that home visits might be a critical way of supporting families. However, by proposing home visits as an important component of family support, the authors successfully raise relevant question if this approach might be considered as an extension of a form of a social control towards participating members.
The authors are...