Family strengthening programmes

Families represent a critical aspect of child protection, often representing children’s primary source of safety, support and protection; however, parents are often under increased stress and pressure in an emergency and so support to strengthen the family could be critical in keeping children safe. The breakdown of infrastructure and social networks in conflict and disaster settings diminishes the capacity of caregivers to provide adequate care and protection for children, and parents and caregivers’ own experiences of conflict and disaster can further affect their ability to care for their children.

When should we implement a family strengthening programme?

  • After the immediate phase of the emergency
  • Where parents and caregivers are under pressure and struggling to care for children
  • Where livelihoods have been damaged by the impact of the emergency

How to develop a family strengthening programme

Ensure that you have carried out a needs assessment including information on how families are coping and meeting their basic needs, and risks faced by children at home. A family strengthening programme should be based on working with families to identify risks and vulnerabilities and finding ways to overcome these.

Family strengthening programmes may specifically target especially vulnerable children identified in the needs assessment.

Elements that may be included in a family support programme:

Parenting support

Provide support to parents and caregivers to give them the opportunity to share concerns and challenges and provide peer support, as well as training workhops on relevant issues.

See parent support groups for more information on setting up parents groups.

Family mentoring

Train mentors to deliver parenting support training workshops and to carry out regular family visits to targeted families to listen and provide advice, and to provide information about referrals to relevant additional services that could help the family. Mentors should monitor the situation of children and support efforts to keep them safe and return to school if possible, referring to other services as needed.

Economic strengthening and livelihoods support

Conflict and displacement often drastically limit livelihood strategies, so support should be given to vocational training and livelihoods creation for parents. These programmes should not be undertaken without expertise and experience as it is important to ensure that your response takes account of the context and risks and resources available, and provides appropriate systems and support.

Examples of economic strengthening programmes

  • Cash transfers
  • Cash and/or food for work
  • Individual savings
  • Savings groups
  • Income generating activities
  • Job placements
  • Small enterprise development
  • Apprenticeships
  • Vocational and technical training
  • Small loans or grants for business
  • Provision of access to land
  • Provision of practical assets

If seeking to implement a livelihoods programme, it is especially important to be aware of the context and the practical realities around income generating projects. For example, be aware of:

  • Rules and restrictions around work, e.g. for refugees
  • The market – ensure that your programmes take into account opportunities and gaps available
  • Ensure that an intervention will not introduce risk of harm, e.g. providing an incentive for children to change their routines in dangerous ways

Additional tools and resources

CPC, The Impacts of Economic Strengthening Programs on Children  (2011)

Better Care Network, Strengthening Families and Preventing Separation (2019)

Australian Aid, Strengthening Families for better Childhood Outcomes (2012)

Unicef, Strengthening Vulnerable Families Windows of Opportunity (2018)


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