An Evaluation of the Sligo Springboard Resource House Project
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Foreword Springboard Evaluation Report This evaluation of the Springboard Resource House Project in Sligo, undertaken by the Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, is both timely and welcome. It will contribute greatly to the development of family support initiatives in Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan. In this area, the HSE and before it the NWHB, has been at the forefront of investment in community led family support programmes. This is wholly consistent with government policy as reflected by the National Children's Strategy - Our Children, Their Lives 2000 - 2010 and the Agenda for Children's Services (2007). The Springboard model is focused on the needs of children, their parents and their relationships, which are so important in undertaking the difficult task of parenting in today's world. The model helps families and children utilize their own as well as community resources in overcoming adversity. Historically, it was taken for granted that they could rely on community networks for support and assistance. In recent years, however, this has become a rarer feature of life in Ireland. The Springboard philosophy is based on compelling evidence that children and families do best where there are strong inter-familial and community links. It is this focus so clearly outlined in this evaluation that the HSE has been determined to encourage. The evaluation details the impressive breadth of work undertaken by the Project. In addition, service users and partner agencies testify to its value in supporting families and children. The outcomes which were measured as part of the evaluation confirm that social support and self-esteem are positively impacted by the work of the Project. Looking forward, a number of issues are pinpointed relevant to the consideration of policy development in the family support area generally. These may best be illustrated when applied to the Project's after-school programme which rightly, is given particular priority. There is strong international evidence, that maximizing educational opportunities can create possibilities for a child allowing escape from adversity in adulthood; conversely, failure to grasp such opportunities can confirm and accelerate a cycle of disadvantage spanning successive generations. Applied to this area, questions that the evaluation poses are: 4 1. How can parents be helped develop the confidence to take responsibility themselves in exercising their right and duty to positively influence their child's educational development? 2. How can the structure of Springboard Resource House Project be adapted to ensure that parents have greater representation and opportunity to influence educational programmes designed to meet their and their children's needs? 3. In ensuring that the parents and children identify with and can influence the Project, what is the balance to be achieved by on the one hand, targeting services at a specific community or area and on the other, their being available to the wider community? Are there implications for instance, if some children attending the same school have access to educational supports, not available to others? If available more widely would that impact negatively on parent's willingness to take responsibility for their children's educational well-being? These and other questions are now to be addressed. The fact the Project has developed so that it is embraced by the local community and the agencies with which it works on a day-to-day basis, is an impressive achievement and a tribute to all involved. In its continuing commitment to the Project, the HSE will work jointly and enthusiastically with its partners on the Board of Directors in utilising the direction charted by the evaluation to build on the progress achieved to date. Pat Dolan Local Health Manager, HSE West, Sligo, Leitrim and West Cavan, Local Health Office, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim August 2008
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