Michele de la Coudray-Blake, left, and Alicia Collins describe how family counsellors interact with families, engaging in positive reinforcement of parenting skills.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –- Despite the challenges posed by family counselling, the Counselling Unit has witnessed successes in how families have benefited from its Family Matters Programme according to officials from the Counselling Unit within the Ministry of Social Development.

The Counselling Unit is piloting the Families Matters Programme, an evidence-based, parent-focused intervention programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This programme has been adapted and implemented in countries throughout the world and is designed to promote positive parenting and improve parent-child communication.

“Our first year was the most challenging year because it was a new approach,” explained Family Counsellor Alicia Collins, a member of the Counselling Unit. “No service provider (Counselling Unit staff) was entering into any home because families were sceptical of their new methods and did not trust their motives.”

“The training received from the USAID allowed staff members to change their perspectives on these challenges,” said Counselling Unit Director, Michele de la Coudray-Blake. “It enabled them to take steps in the right direction toward achieving their overall goal of reducing risk factors within the family so as to better protect children.”

As a result, families were more accepting of the message and welcomed counsellors into their space. The family counsellors interacted with the families, engaging in positive reinforcement of parenting skills.

“Children have seen parents who may not have spoken to each other for years, come together and work while developing a different relationship,” said Mrs. Coudray-Blake.

Another success highlighted was that of parents changing their strategy of discipline as “they moved it away from that punitive way to having more conversations that then yield results.”

“We’ve seen young children step up to the plate and be engaged in the household and what’s going on there as well,” said Mrs. Coudray-Blake. “These successes were a direct result of engagement through the Families Matters Programme.”