In this section
High quality parenting programs are a proven way of intervening early to optimise children’s chances in life, and Empowering Parents Empowering Communities (EPEC) delivers a carefully structured program in a uniquely effective way. Parents talk to other
parents as a first choice when seeking information, and communication is more credible when presented by ‘someone like me’.
EPEC is a community-based program training local parents to run parenting groups (in pairs) through family focused parenting services. Parent facilitators are trained to work in the EPEC program and paid for their work. They are supported and supervised by a specially trained practitioner within a
local community organisation.
Developed and tested by the UK Centre for Parent and Child Support, EPEC encompasses the best of current theoretical and practical knowledge and provides an alternative model to practitioner-led parenting interventions. The basic course for all parents with children aged 2-12 is “Being a Parent”, with
8 x 2.5 hour sessions delivered according to a structured manual which employs attachment, social learning, structural, relational and cognitive behavioural theory. Childcare is provided for children up to age 5. After completing BAP, parents who are interested (about one fifth in recent trials) can continue to
become parent facilitators through a ten day course. Parent Facilitators’ learning throughout EPEC can be assessed and accredited against national VET competency units. Parent facilitators of BAP in Australian sites can also now receive extra training to facilitate the ‘Baby & Us’ course which focuses
on supporting parents with babies under 1 year of age.
Peer led parenting interventions are uncommon in the Australian context with the vast majority of parenting focused programs facilitated by practitioners. A UK randomised control trial found that EPEC significantly reduced children’s behavioural problems, and improved the competencies of
parents in a population that was considered to be disengaged from services. This trial and other UK research has shown peer-led parenting training groups have a much higher retention rate than conventional parenting group formats for disengaged parents (Day et al, 2012a; Hutchings et al, 2007; Scott et al,
2001). Following these promising results, EPEC was piloted and evaluated in Tasmania between 2011 and 2014. The Tasmanian evaluation found “parents and parent [peer] facilitators have reported increases in social, human and identity capital, and communities involved with EPEC demonstrated increased
social capacity around parenting skills” (Winter, 2013 p.38). Parents who completed the Being a Parent Course, the entry level of EPEC training, reported better listening and more thinking in their dealings with children, a more optimistic outlook on life, and improved parent-child relations. Parents who
continued to the next level of EPEC training, Peer Facilitator Training, reported increased confidence, optimism, educational and employment pathways, and improved ability to manage the challenges of daily life (Winter, 2013).
EPEC is not just another parenting program facilitated by professionals. It is an intervention facilitated by parents that requires practitioners, and services, to embrace a culture of practice that includes parents as co-workers and co-learners in partnership with professional workers. The program brings
practitioners and parents together as partners in a culture of shared practice.
EPEC is a model that challenges traditional hierarchical service constructs and levels the playing field to enable community members to work alongside practitioners in the co-delivery of a parenting intervention. The dynamic of local parents working within the system, alongside practitioners, spans
the boundary between services and families disengaged from the system. The active involvement of parent facilitators in EPEC gives credibility to the system in the eyes of families that have previously found services difficult to access.
Regular reflective supervision with parent facilitators, facilitated by practitioners, nurtures a respectful culture of shared learning and discovery. This models and reinforces for parent participants the ongoing nature of learning for professionals and parents. Through practitioner observations and
reflective supervision meetings, parent facilitators and the EPEC practitioners, unfold a more nuanced understanding of their own discoveries in relation to the impact of parenting behaviours on their children and their relationship with them.
When EPEC is provided through a service platform that encourages ongoing social and service focused interactions with each other (playgroups, other programs), parent participants, and practitioners continue to informally reflect on and practice key concepts
and language that arise from the BAP program. These encounters serve to keep learning alive and practiced in participants parenting.
EPEC is provided in local communities through partner agencies called ‘community partners’. Community partners, who enter into a licence agreement with the Centre for Parent & Child support (EPEC authors in the UK), must be locally credible services with a history of supporting families in the focus
community. Community partners must be able to demonstrate:
It is expected that community partners will assume responsibility for sustaining EPEC beyond the initial implementation phase. Community partners are provided with appropriate levels of ongoing support from MCRI to enable program development that adheres to the EPEC author’s quality standards benchmarks.
To enable efficient and effective program implementation and development, community partners are required to make the following contributions:
Assume responsibility for the financial and personnel resourcing necessary to implement and maintain the EPEC program. These costs vary according to scale.
Staff members who are appropriately qualified and committed to the implementation and development of a peer-led parenting intervention. These practitioners must be flexible, adaptable, and demonstrate a capacity to enable parents to work alongside them
as team members.
Community partners are also asked to nominate a representative from management who can invest time in familiarising themselves with EPEC, support the EPEC practitioners in the development of the program, and ensure all reporting and quality standards benchmarks are achieved.
Practitioners who will manage the EPEC program are required to undertake an initial training / induction, facilitated by MCRI. This training equips them with the tools and knowledge to develop the EPEC site, attract parents to the program, and deliver
the preliminary implementation BAP courses.
The same practitioners receive further training prior to facilitating the first parent facilitator course.
Once parents are trained and employed as EPEC facilitators, the EPEC practitioners provide ongoing oversight of the program including observation of the BAP sessions and provision of reflective supervision of the parent facilitators.
MCRI supports community partners to implement and sustain EPEC in each site. EPEC employs a tiered strategy which builds the capacity of community partner organisations to improve parents parenting skills and confidence, and empower parents to play a more active role in their local
Implementing an EPEC program involves the following steps:
The four tiers of EPEC training are summarised in the table below.
Being a Parent
EPEC information sheet (PDF)
If you would like more information on becoming an EPEC site, contact
Paul Prichard, CCCH Training and Development Manager.
EPEC is jointly funded
by John Barnes Foundation and the Tasmanian Government, Department of Education.
The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.