ChildLinks Issue 1: Changing Families

Barnardos. (2004). ChildLinks Issue 1: Changing Families.
This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of the Family and this edition of ChildLinks is devoted to the theme of “Changing Families”. The structure and demography of the family in Ireland have changed dramatically in recent years. Irish family life has been affected by many social changes including greater economic prosperity, growing inequality and the widening gap between the rich and poor, the increased labour force participation of women, the arrival of growing numbers of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers and the increasing birth rate. In her article “Family Change in Ireland over the Past Decade” Dr Finola Kennedy sets out the significant demographic changes that have contributed to the changing profile of the family and family life. The topic of developments in family policy in the context of changing socio-economic conditions Is explored by Dr Valerie Richardson. The question of family well-being, what contributes to the well-being of children and families, is addressed by Dr Kieran McKeown in his article “Family Well-Being: What Makes a Difference?” Reporting on a study published in 2003, he concludes ‘that the physical and psychological well-being of parents and children are shaped primarily by family processes, particularly processes involving the ability to resolve conflicts and arguments and by the personality traits of the parents”. The Barnardos approach to family support is described by Suzanne Connolly, including the principles underlying Barnardos’ family work practice, as well as the range of interventions provided, Services include universal services such as information, resources and training provided by the National Children’s Resource Centre, to the more targeted interventions Family Welfare Conference projects and early years work. The issue of work/life balance is relevant to policy makers, employees and employers alike. Caoimhe Gleeson in her article has shared the learning arising from the Tipping the Scales project which has focused on implementing work/life balance policies and practices in three local authority agencies in the North West. The final article by Bill O'Dea sets out the role and strategy of the Family Support Agency which was established in 2003. The changing nature of the family and family life in Ireland is reflected in the recent report compiled by Professor Mary Daly on the public consultation fora organised by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The key themes which emerged from the for a were: Definition of Family in Irish Society; Parenting and Childhood; Reconciliation of Employment and Family Life; Relationship Difficulties; Family as Carer; and_ finally Addressing and Changing Policy. The commitment by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to draw up a “clear, comprehensive, integrated strategy for strengthening families” by the end of 2004 is to be welcomed.