Volunteer Family Connect: Strengthening family relationships and wellbeing through social connection

Family wellbeing
Wednesday 25 July, 1420 – 1440

Presenters

Dr Kelly Baird
Western Sydney University

Dr Jayne Meyer Tucker
JMTinc

Hannah Francis
Save the Children Australia

Abstract
A sense of belonging and community connectedness is fundamental to wellbeing, and an important protective factor for children and families. Research indicates that there are increasing numbers of people who report social isolation, and this is particularly true for families with young children. The volunteer home visiting model has been widely implemented in Australia as a strategy for linking community members and providing support to parents of young children who experience isolation and/or low parenting confidence.

Volunteer Family Connect (VFC) is a volunteer home visiting program developed by a consortium of service organisations (The Benevolent Society; Save the Children Australia; Karitane), researchers from three Universities (Macquarie University; Western Sydney University; Birkbeck, University of London) and a corporate partner (Ernst & Young). It is built on principles of best practice, the practice wisdom of the partnering service organisations, and research evidence. VFC is being implemented with fidelity in 7 sites across 4 states of Australia.

A rigorous effectiveness trial of VFC is currently underway. This project will provide evidence of the impact of VFC on outcomes for families as well as evaluating the experience for the volunteers who deliver the program. The research also includes a social return on investment (SROI) analysis. This presentation will discuss the VFC service delivery model, preliminary findings from the RCT, and the predictive SROI findings. It will provide the basis for discussion on the nature and effectiveness of services available to vulnerable families, and how to conduct rigorous research in the social service context.