Child health clinics are the key place that practically every parent takes their baby or toddler to *, even parents who don't use any other services. They can ask the health visitor or community nursery nurse any questions, and get reassurance about their baby's weight. The clinics are therefore an ideal place for Peep practitioners to get to know a wide range of families, while they wait. The practitioners chat and share child development ideas and activities with them, providing a rug and toys for their baby to play with, and can invite them to attend a Peep Early Explorers group.
Professor Jane Barlow and Chris Coe at the University of Warwick carried out a two-year evaluation into this joint work: ‘Early Explorers: Integrating partner professionals to support parents with their children’s development from birth’ (2011) .
The study reported that this process of joint working provided a positive way of:
promoting positive infant mental health and development
working together to reach those most in need – identifying and supporting vulnerable groups
over-coming barriers and building relationships, trust and confidence
improving and extending the service offered to families, by working with a family support practitioner from another organisation.
In this study, the Peep practitioners worked for the charity Peeple, but since then Peep-trained practitioners working in child health clinics have worked for children's/ family centres or family hubs etc, and health practitioners such as community nursery nurses also use Peep within their clinic sessions.
There were also positive outcomes in engaging families who access services infrequently, in supporting their children’s development.
The Early Explorers clinics promote maternal mental health - supporting parents that they may support their infants.
The child health clinic offers a unique opportunity to meet and forge relationships with parents in a non-stigmatising, non-threatening environment, in a place where they already go.
The opportunities for social engagement created by an Early Explorers clinic offer an important opportunity to increase parental confidence and reduce social isolation.
Parents reported spending more time in the clinic when the practitioners are there, learning new skills and having a better appreciation of infant development.
Families can be sign-posted on to Peep and other local services.
"And I just thought, I’m going to go in there and everybody will judge you because all your baby did was cry… just going to say ‘well, have you fed her, have you done her nappy, have you done this…?’. And that’s what you used to get from people walking round the shops. But it didn’t bother nobody. And I thought Oh my god [laughs]! I’m in a place where nobody’s staring - because all she does is cry.... Because I didn’t know what to expect at first.…
But then when we went to the first class they had duvets down and things, with treasure baskets. And when they actually start singing the children are just… it’s amazing sort of thing to them. Their little faces [laughs].... she loved it!
She cried a lot for the first five months and then when we seemed to go to Peep she came out of her shell a lot more. She was more calm. More willing to be more patient in doing things. And she used to have trouble socialising, because I don’t know many people with children her age… but she was gone.… It was always calm and they always got parents talking to each other. Because when I first went I thought Oh nobody will want to talk to me because… but no, they sit down and they introduce you and everything. And when we have the group discussion it was more that you feel like you’ve known people for a long time… we talked about the textures and things and how they help children learn and everything like that. It’s… I don’t know how to word it really.… you feel more confident when you know you’re not the only one going through what you’ve been through sort of thing." (Parent L)
Peep-trained practitioners from any professional background can use the Learning Together programme with families in any context or setting. Follow the links for more information about our Learning Together Programme and Training.
* In May 2022, the Parent Infant Foundation and @first1001days campaign published a report 'Why health visitors matter', which makes a compelling case for the government to reverse the decline in public health funding - since 2015 there has been an estimated 30% decline in the number of health visitors, with significant negative consequences for babies and their families.