Nurturing Neighbourhoods: Parent Outreach Worker Program, Guelph, Ontario.
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The "Parent Outreach Worker Program" (POW program) aims to identify, reach out to, and assist families with children who may be isolated or otherwise struggling by providing them with increased access to services and support. The POW program is currently being piloted in two priority neighbourhoods of Guelph, Ontario. The POW program is part of a cross-sectoral, community-based "Nurturing Neighbourhoods" initiative that is grounded in the philosophies and principles related to the social determinants of health, health equity, and early help in child welfare. This report details the findings of an evaluation that was conducted in 2013-2014 to determine whether the POW program is being delivered as planned and the extent to which it is achieving its intended outcomes. Evidence used for the evaluation include program implementation data inputted by the Parent Outreach Workers (POWs) and a series of interviews and focus groups conducted with program stakeholders including the POWs, parents who use the POW program, and a variety of associated service providers and community resource people. This early evaluation evidence indicates clearly that the POW program is generating very significant outcomes for priority families as direct supports and as intermediaries between those families and the community resources they need. The POWs occupy an important space in marginalized communities, the evaluation evidence shows, between formal services, informal community supports, and the families most in need of support. Also emerging from the evaluation data are some key "Impact Pathways" through which the POW program is generating results. These Impact Pathways reflect many of the strategies found to be effective in research literature on other outreach programs, and as such may serve as a best practices framework for the establishment of similar programs in other neighbourhoods.