The “IV Piano Nazionale d’azione e di interventi per la tutela dei diritti e lo sviluppo dei soggetti in età evolutiva” (“4th National Action Plan for the protection of children’s rights and their development”, issued by the Italian National Childhood and Adolescence Centre, adopted by Presidential Decree on 31.08.2016) and the “Linee di Indirizzo nazionali sull’intervento con le famiglie in situazione di vulnerabilità” (“National Guide-Lines on supporting vulnerable families”) state that a continuum of services and actions – based on the concept of “children’s development needs” – is needed. This set of services and actions is addressed both to “normal” parents and families (but “up close nobody is normal” as written on Trieste’s hospital at the time of Franco Basaglia) and to parents and families who need more specific actions – e.g. looked after children and eligible for adoption/adopted children.
More specifically, these services and actions are based on the “three Ps” of Family Education: Promotion, Prevention, Protection. These three concepts highlight the importance of ensuring families wellbeing and the quality of children’s growth, as well as preventing any form of children abuse. The “three Ps” can be described as follows:
1. Actions based on Promotion: ensuring a good start. They are addressed to every family, through direct or indirect measures, aimed at promoting adequate conditions for the development of every child, regardless of birth conditions, such as information campaigns and action plans.
2. Actions based on Prevention: guaranteeing an early identification of obstacles to children’s development. They intend to stimulate early interventions (with particular attention to the first 1000 days of life) regarding issues already present in specific segment of population that can affect children’s development.
3. Actions based on Protection: ensuring a solution for critical situations. They intend to protect children’s health and security through intensive actions.
The protection of children living in vulnerable families (namely the “third P”) has recently gained more and more relevance, implying educational and social actions aimed at respecting children’s rights to live and grow within their own families (Italian Law no. 149/2001, art. 1). The right of children to live with their families overcomes the dichotomy between two conventional approaches, either protecting the child or taking care of the relationship with their families, in favour of a third one providing support to children by enhancing their parents’ relational skills and competences.
Helping vulnerable parents implies supporting social workers and professionals in the implementation of the planned actions. According to the principle “to each child his project”, every professional could design effective projects and actions together with children and families, with defined time limits and able to generate effective and measurable achievements. For those reasons, issues like the quality of public services and the assessment of procedures lead our research and approach.
We believe in this statement: practice and research are closely related. Research, especially pedagogical research, is inextricably linked to actions. We learn from actions. Thanks to this approach, it is possible to achieve the genuine aim of any research: changing and improving the real world.
Research, teaching, practice, service: these are the four pillars of our strategy. Even if it’s difficult, our approach must combine them in our everyday activities.