An impact evaluation of the Family Crisis Support Service
This evaluation of the Twins Trust Family Crisis Support (FCS) service evidences a service that successfully offers practical support to parents of multiples that have been identified as ‘in severe need or in crisis.’ The service exists for families who are in dire need – they are either struggling with mental health challenges, struggling with ill health, coping with a bereavement or other extreme extenuating circumstances. These families have exhausted all other avenues of help and have nowhere left to turn.
A sample of FCS case study family records (n=34), were analysed to identify: the demographics of parents; their needs; the services they accessed; the effects of FCS on parents’ levels of coping with daily family living; and their confidence as parents. Changes in levels of stress was also evaluated. Of the 34 families who were a case study in the evaluation, 30% were triplet families.
Extreme parenting challenges was given most frequently as the reason for requesting FCS. These are families who find themselves coping with raising twins, triplets or more as well as an unexpected change in the family’s circumstances.
Extreme parenting challenges could be one parent families with older children that have additional needs, families that have moved to a new area and the main wage earner has been made redundant or families that are living in accommodation that makes it extremely difficult to get out of the house – particularly when there is an older child that needs to get to school. These families do not have any other support, no family that can help and they are not financially able to access the support they so desperately need.
Anxiety and depression were also commonly cited in the evaluation, so needs were complex. All families received support in their home from family support practitioners, most frequently for 2 (range 1 to 14) days. The support offered varied depending on individual circumstances, but all practitioners worked with the families to devise an action plan. Other support was also offered to some families. This included access to phone support, Twins Trust factsheets and videos and online support. Some families were provided with toys, vital for healthy brain development and stimulation, clothes and equipment. These families would not otherwise have had access to these items, something many families would take for granted.
Parents using the service perceived FCS to be non-judgmental, level-headed and professional. FCS families reported statistically significant improvements in feeding, establishing a routine, getting out and about, sleep patterns and behaviour. Parental stress significantly reduced whilst coping levels increased as a result of the support. Even where stress levels remained high through the changing demands of caring for multiples and the complexity of family life, confidence in parenting ability significantly increased.
There is much to celebrate in this first evaluation of the FCS service, which through its support of parents of multiples and its contribution to child health and wellbeing is invaluable.
This service relies on funding trusts and individuals. It also relies on the very kind volunteers that give up their time to help these families. Without funding and volunteers these families would be left in despair with nowhere to turn.