The Tender Shoot™ school for parents is an early stage innovation designed as a response to our nation's shameful child abuse record. It's purpose is to support confident parents, who understand their changing child, respond with respect, guided by universal principles of care. It plans to support parents during three periods of a child's development with 'First Baby', 'First Toddler' and 'First Teen' programmes. These are the times when development is more rapid, parents more challenged and abuse more likely.
The 'First Baby' programme is up and running with almost 100 people enrolled to date. Its design has been influenced by evidence from research on preventing maltreatment in children, that group sessions, individualised follow-up and home visits are three important elements for effectiveness. Design has also been influenced by the finding that, as with any good education, including all three attributes of developing knowledge, attitude and skills, is best. Underpinning the programme are the twin goals of a confident start for parents and a respected start their child.
In July 1985, the family of director Stephanie Cowan, lost a baby daughter and sister to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). In her search for understanding, Stephanie learned so much about the normal development and needs of babies that she wished she had known as a mother; information that was trapped in medical journals and known mainly to health professionals. She saw a need to share such information more widely with parents since they were the group most able to act on the information and benefit the child. To Stephanie, it seemed she had found the pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow, a pot of knowledge that gave such meaning to the care of a child, and fulfillment. To understand the 'why' of raising a child and not just the 'what' embeds the experience in principle and empowerment. The parent school is an idea whose time has come. It is a way to share the pot of gold more widely.