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Harnessing Enthusiasm


One of the things that has struck me since launching the International Journal of Birth & Parent Education is the amount of enthusiasm that infuses the Early Intervention and Early Years environments. I was struck by this again last week when I attended the launch of the NSPCC’s ‘Baby Steps’ perinatal education programme.

The people who came to participate at the launch – professionals from statutory services for families, academics and members of the charitable sector - were EXCITED about their own work and that being done by the NSPCC. The three keynote speakers, Graham Allen, MP, Kate Billingham, Global Director of the Family Nurse Partnership and Chris Cuthbert, Head of Services for the Under 1s at the NSPCC, spoke with such strong commitment and ENERGY that you couldn’t help but feel proud to be a part, however small, of this dedicated movement to ensure that every baby, every toddler has as good a start in life as we can manage for them.

I’ve met the same commitment when I’ve asked both Very Important People to write for the Journal and people who would describe themselves as ‘Ordinary’ practitioners. So I wrote a short while ago to an eminent doctor in Australia whom I have never met because I had heard that he was passionate about the Early Intervention agenda and I asked him if he would write an Editorial for the Journal. The Editorial – infused with a wonderful commitment - turned up a short while later with his very best wishes.

Academics have responded eagerly to my request for articles  - many of them stating how much work they know needs to be done to ensure that the latest research in fields such as neuroscience and developmental psychology are brought to the attention of the practitioners who can actually make use of it in their day-to-day encounters with families.

Family practitioners, too, and birth and parent educators have responded with equal alacrity, even when very nervous about their ability to write an article!
Such dedication and energy needs to be harnessed to achieve as much as it possibly can. This requires all of us, whether health and social care professionals, parent educators, academics or campaigners, to collaborate with each other. Too often I hear of brilliant work going on in one part of the country, or one part of the world, that is being undertaken simultaneously in another part of the country or another part of the world.  Wasted energy. It’s also a waste of energy to devote resources, whether these are intellectual, practice-based or political, to targeting just one member of the family that comprises the social world around the baby. The family that impacts the baby’s critical 1001 days is not just the mother, or just the grandmother, or just the father – it’s the group of key people who care for him or her. Looking after the baby means looking after that group. And the group itself exists within a social context of housing, employment, health and social care. So all of these factors have to be part of our joined-up thinking when we are giving our enthusiasm to the Early Intervention and Early Years agendas.

If it seems a big ask to embrace the whole family and the social conditions that determine the baby’s earliest experiences in our work, I think those of us who don’t consider ourselves to be radical movers and shakers have to look to the people whom we can see do have the understanding, skills and what we call in my native Lancashire, the ‘nouse’ to move forward the whole family agenda. This means identifying the political and professional leaders who are saying what needs to be said, the academics who are undertaking research that seeks to understand the social world around the baby, and the practitioners who are innovative in moving away from a limited focus on the mother, or the baby, or the mother-baby dyad, and seeking to meet the needs of the whole family in the context of its socio-economic environment.

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