Baby Steps: perspectives of parents from a minority ethnic background Evaluation of a relationships-based perinatal education programme

Man and baby

Pregnancy and the first few months of life are an important time for families. Baby Steps is an NSPCC antenatal programme that continues after the baby is born. It is designed to attract and engage 'hard-to-reach' parents, including parents in prison and parents from ethnic minorities. It helps prepare them for their new role in caring and supporting their baby.


This report summarises qualitative findings from in-depth interviews with parents from a minority ethnic background.

This is one of several reports from the evaluation of our Baby Steps programme. This is part of our Impact and evidence series.

Authors: Helen Brookes and Denise Coster
Published: 2015

  • The Baby Steps programme worked well for parents from minority ethnic groups. They found the information provided about birth and parenting relevant and helpful.
  • For parents with few other support networks, Baby Steps provided a vital level of support and could be their first positive engagement with UK society. For some parents, the effect of attending the programme was transformative.
  • There was evidence that Baby Steps could play a role in helping to prevent harsh parenting and abuse; providing alternative strategies to physical punishment and convincing parents that female genital mutilation was wrong.
  • The programme played an important role in providing insight into appropriate behaviour within relationships. Parents attending the programme described learning about and accepting the idea of equality between male and female partners, which could have a profound impact on their interpersonal relationships.
  • In order to successfully deliver the programme to parents from minority ethnic groups, a degree of tailoring was necessary in order to respond to these parents’ additional needs. This included providing an interpreter, engaging with immigration issues or discussing cultural practices that do not accord with UK law.
  • Parents’ experience of the programme and the outcomes that they reported were affected both by cultural factors, and by their level of integration into the local community.  The level of integration did not always reflect the length of time that parents had lived in the UK, as some had been living in the UK for many years but had remained socially isolated.
  • Parents acquired new knowledge relating to pregnancy, labour, birth and parenting, what services are available to them in the UK and how to access these. They learnt new communication and baby care skills.
  • Baby Steps was seen as a particularly important source of information for parents who were not well integrated into the community because:
    • they were less familiar with what perinatal healthcare provision exists in the UK and how to access it
    • there were significant cultural differences between parenting practices in the UK and in their home countries
    • they were less likely to have other sources of information to draw on, either because of the language barrier, or because they were less likely to have family and friends in the UK
    • parents who had recently migrated from countries where the prevailing attitude towards the rights of women and children is different from that of the UK, found that that the knowledge that they had acquired on the programme had led to changes in their attitudes towards children’s rights and towards gender roles.
Acknowledgements 4
Key findings: Young people's version 5
Key findings 6
Executive summary 7
Main report 10
Chapter 1: Background and method 10
Chapter 2: Outcomes for parents from minority ethnic backgrounds 13
Chapter 3: What worked well and suggested improvements 20
Chapter 4: Conclusion 23
Appendix 1 24

"The course is the best thing that has happened to us since we arrived in the UK. We don't know anything about this country or its laws, we don't know how to look after a child here because it is all totally different from where we lived before. But they helped us and they became a bridge you know, you cross over it to your new life in England. Without them it would have been so difficult for us."

Please cite as: Brookes, H. and Coster, D. (2015) Baby Steps: perspectives of parents from a minority ethnic background. London: NSPCC.

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