Paper short abstract:
This paper illustrates, with a particular focus on the interface between mothers and mentors, how an ethnographic approach can illuminate the responses of families enrolled in an early intervention programme aimed at improving parenting skills, school readiness, and child development in North Dublin.
Paper long abstract:
Preparing For Life (PFL) is a community-led initiative (funded by the Irish Department of Children and Youth Affairs and The Atlantic Philanthropies) that seeks to improve the lives of children in Dublin 5 and 17. It provides local families with a set of early intervention services ranging from antenatal care to home visiting, covering the children's first five years of life. In this paper, I concentrate on the Home Visiting Programme (HVP), in which mentors help families with parenting, child development, and school readiness.
The PFL Evaluation Team at the UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy reported that the initiative had a moderately positive impact. Interestingly, it appears that PFL is delivering better results if compared with home visiting programmes in other places and times. However, 35% of families dropped out of the study due to attrition or disengagement. Why are these families responding in this way? How do they understand the initiative? How does their ideal of a 'good mother interact with the values inspiring the PFL programme, its managers, and mentors?
My aim in this paper is to illustrate how an ethnographic approach can illuminate the response of these families. This early intervention programme, though intended to improve the life of their children, can be perceived in different and unexpected ways. I argue that important insights can be collected with a focus on how parenting values are concretised and negotiated in the everyday interaction between family members, as well as at the interface between mothers and mentors.
Raising Europe: managing parents and the production of good citizens