Improving parenting, improving practice Helping parents struggling to care for their children

This service is no longer being delivered, but we have carried out an evaluation. On these pages you can find out how the service worked and what we've learnt.

Helping parents who are struggling to care for their children can make a big difference, both now and in the future.

Children are neglected when their parents can't or won't meet their needs. Problems in parents' lives can make it harder for them to care for their children, these include:

  • past abuse
  • domestic violence
  • mental illness
  • disability
  • poverty
  • a drug or alcohol problem.

Helping children get the support they need

We've tested 2 different ways to reduce neglect through helping parents of children aged between 2 and 12 develop a better bond with their child and understand what they need. These are Video Interaction Guidance and Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P).

Video Interaction Guidance 

Using a filmed clip to show parents their strengths, this builds their confidence and encourages them to think about how they respond to their child.

A mum sitting with her daughter on her lap reading to her and laughing

How it worked

  1. We would visit a family at home (or occasionally somewhere else) and film the children playing a game or doing another activity with their parents.
  2. We edited the film to highlight what's gone well.
  3. We watched the film with the parents.
  4. We highlighted the positive things the parents have done, helping to build their confidence in their parenting.
  5. We helped parents to find ways they could do things even better.

Visits normally took place over 8 weeks and at the end, we gave the family a film to keep which shows how their relationship with their child had improved. We'd also discuss how they can keep on track in the future.

Video Interaction Guidance was developed in the Netherlands in the 1980s by Harrie Biemans and colleagues. It was adapted and brought to the UK by Hilary Kennedy at Dundee University.

Positive Parenting Programme

Also known as Pathways Triple P, Positive Parenting Programme helps parents to:

  • manage stress, anger and mood swings
  • improve how they communicate with their child
  • improve their parenting skills (including how to handle challenging behaviour)
  • increase confidence in their parenting.

We would visit a family at home and help parents agree some goals to aim for. We'd help parents to reach their goals both during the visits and in the future. Normally, we'd visit a family for 10 weeks but this can be longer if they need extra help. Parents would practice what they learned between sessions.

Triple P was originally developed in the 1980s by the University of Queensland, Australia. Pathways Triple P is a further development of this.

Children's stories

"I was concerned that the NSPCC would judge me and potentially take my daughter off me for being a bad parent."

Read Mel's story

Evaluating the impact

Find out how we evaluated Improving Parenting, Improving Practice.

Learn more

Graded Care Profile 2

Assessing the care of children and identifying neglect.
Graded Care Profile service

Evidence Based Decisions

Reviewing family situations to protect children at risk of harm.
Evidence Based Decisions service


Encouraging, informing and promoting better parenting to protect young children from harm.
SafeCare service

Donate now

Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.

Make a donation


Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child's basic needs. It's dangerous and children can suffer serious and long-term harm.
Read more about neglect

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns or cuts.
Read more about physical abuse

Emotional abuse

Children who are emotionally abused suffer emotional maltreatment or neglect. It's sometimes called psychological abuse and can cause children serious harm.
Read more about emotional abuse

Child abuse and neglect

Find out what child abuse is, how to spot the signs, who is affected and what you should do if you're worried about a child
More on abuse and neglect

Donate now

Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.

Donate now

Are You There?

We're calling on the government to help our Childline service be there for every child dealing with meantal health issues. 

Learn more