An IWK program is helping parents overcome common barriers in accessing health services. The Incredible Years, an evidence-based international program for parents, teaches techniques and strategies for improving social and emotional skills and reducing behaviour problems in children aged three to 12.
“We know that access to health services is a determinant that will affect the health outcome of an individual and three common barriers to accessing parenting programs are transportation, child care and timing of programs,” says Heather Beaton, a mental health and wellness coordinator. “The Incredible Years programs are offered in the community, close to home, in trusted spaces such as community centers, libraries, family resource centers and schools that are on bus routes. We also ensure they are offered both in the evening and daytime to accommodate different schedules with free child care offered through our community partners.”
The Incredible Years Program is offered in partnership with the Nova Scotia Health Authority through the Community Health Teams (CHT) and has helped hundreds of families since its inception in 2010. In the past nine years CHT has offered the program 75 times, a number that grows as new facilitators are trained to take the program into new communities.
“The IWK has been able to offer facilitator training to community organizations who would like to deliver the Incredible Years program,” says program coordinator Monique Yazbek. “We also offer mentorship of new facilitators, lending materials, and organizational support. This helps build capacity in the community by supporting community organizations, such as Schools Plus and family resource centres, to offer the Incredible Years program on their own. This increases access and reaches even more parents.”
Michelle Boudreau, a parent education facilitator, has delivered at least 40 programs in the past nine years.
“Parents often come into the program not realizing they already possess parenting skills,” says Boudreau. “After the program they have confidence in the skills they already had and are well on their way to having the same confidence in the new skills they learn. It is also important for families to know they are not alone in the struggles of parenting and that struggles are common in all families.”
“Incredible Years was more than both my husband and I expected,” says Sarah, a parent who has attended the program. “We valued the simple yet incredibly effective approach of this program and my children certainly benefited from our weekly homework assignments! We still have Incredible Years notes stuck to our fridge as friendly reminders when we are having a tough parenting day.”
“It excites me when I run into families in the community, often from years ago, and they are still very proud of the skills they learned and the changes they have made within their families,” says Boudreau. “In the beginning they often come to us in a state of chaos. They know something at home needs to change. They work hard, they trust the program and me as a facilitator, and they initiate change. That is powerful.”
For more information on the Incredible Years and other programs offered through the Community Health Teams please visit Community Health Teams.