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 early
years and parenting focused services. Parent Facilitators trained to work in
the EPEC program are employed, 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 2-11 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
10-day course. Parent Facilitators’ learning throughout EPEC can be assessed
and accredited against national VET competency units. Parent Facilitators also receive
payment when facilitating.
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
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,
co-reflectors and co-learners in partnership with professional workers. The
program brings practitioners and parents together as partners in a culture of
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.
reflective practice 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 practice 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.
Children’s Research Institute (Victoria) is the licensed Australian partner to
CPCS and has responsibility for providing all licencing, implementation support
and training for new EPEC sites in Australia. MCRI works closely with and
reports directly to CPCS in maintaining the quality and fidelity of all
Australian EPEC activity.
When a new EPEC
site is developed the following phases are likely to occur:
PHASE 1 –
Is the site fully informed and ready for EPEC?
PHASE 2 –
A decision has been made to progress with EPEC
PHASE 3 –
Establishing and implementing the new EPEC site over two years
PHASE 4 –
Maintaining the EPEC site
enable efficient and effective program implementation and development,
auspicing organisations will be required to make the following contributions:
Staff members who are
appropriately qualified and committed to the implementation and development
of a peer-led parenting intervention. These practitioners will be flexible,
adaptable, and demonstrate a capacity to enable parents to work alongside
them as team members.
organisations 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 assurance measures 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
supports auspicing organisations to implement and sustain EPEC in each
site. EPEC employs a tiered strategy which
builds the capacity of auspicing organisations to improve parenting skills and
confidence and empower parents to play a more active role in their local
a new EPEC site involves the following steps:
EPEC information sheet (PDF)
reach out to the Training and Development team via firstname.lastname@example.org for further
details regarding EPEC. A member of our team would be delighted to talk with
you about how EPEC might be established in your community.
The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.