The Lifestart Foundation hosted an International Seminar on Empowering Parents and Children’s Rights at St Columb’s Park House on the 15th-17th June 2016. The Foundation is an all-Ireland charity, with 30 years’ experience in the provision of high quality evidence-based parenting education and support.   It hosted the seminar on behalf of a Community of Practice and Knowledge made up of Family Support experts and practitioners from a number of different countries. The Practice Community is headed up by Apprentis d'Auteuil, a Paris based charity, which for 150 years has been working with international partners, to provide support, education, training and employment programmes for young people and their families. The event was funded by Foundation Dora, a Geneva based donor foundation that helps children and teenagers with ‘special needs’ and their families.

The Community of Practice has held two previous international seminars – one in Paris in 2014 and one in Marrakech in 2015. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Empowering Parents and Children’s Rights’. The three-day seminar included participants from France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Belgium, the Lebanon, Morocco, Canada, the Philippines, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  On the first day of the seminar the Lifestart Foundation show-cased its work in Ireland by taking delegates to visit two Lifestart service providers – the Dunluce Family Centre, Derry and Lifestart Services Ltd, County Donegal and delegates were informed about the local and national contexts of Lifestart practice through presentations made by: Mairéad McCafferty, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People; Pat Armstrong Head of Services, Adoption, Fostering, Independent Chairs and Early Years, the Western Health and Social Care Trust NI; and Anne McAteer, Health and Well-being Division, Health Service Executive, Republic of Ireland. 

The following two days of the seminar event focused on addressing issues of best practice in supporting and empowering parents to respond to children’s rights. Delegates discussed and shared knowledge and experience, drawn from their own socio-economic and political contexts and settings, and identified, collectively, key features of exemplary practice, including approaches, language, tools and technologies that support best practice in empowering parents, linking their discussions in very practical ways to the implementation of children’s rights in different societies and contexts.

Arising from these discussions, the Community of Practice and Knowledge is currently planning a number of shared study and training initiatives to further this work and delegates will meet again in Greece in 2017.

For further information about their approach to family support see ‘How to Work with Families’