Empowering vulnerable parents through a family mentoring program

Darshini Ayton, Nerida Joss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence suggests that mentoring programs can foster positive relationships through role modelling, social support and opportunities to develop new skills. Home visiting programs, where a health professional or volunteer provides parenting support and companionship to at-risk families, have received attention from the health and welfare sector. These programs tend to focus on new mothers and immediate parenting concerns, and do not address broader social determinants of health that impact on the well being and functionality of the family. Herein we report on an evaluation of the Creating Opportunities and Casting Hope (COACH) program, a family mentoring program for vulnerable parents. COACH seeks to break cycles of generational poverty by addressing social determinants, such as housing, employment, health, finances and social support. A mixed-methods approach was used to evaluate the program, involving semistructured interviews with parents (n≤12), surveys with mentors (n≤27) and client case report review (n≤27). Parents experienced improvements in their housing and employment situations, family dynamics, social support and mental health, and decreased drug and alcohol use. Mentors described providing guidance on parenting strategies, financial management and domestic skills. Partnerships with local schools, health services and welfare agencies were vital in the referral processes for families, thereby building a community network of support and care. The COACH model of mentoring highlights the benefits of a flexible and long-standing program to address the social determinants of child health through the family environment and wider social and economic factors.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberPY14174
Pages (from-to)320-326
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • church
  • disadvantaged families
  • social determinants of health

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