Child Intervention Research Forum – Cracker Barrel Presentation from Dr. David McConnell

The Australian HealthyStart strategy: Building systems capacity to promote a healthy start to life for children of parents with learning difficulties On any given night, in high income countries around the world, an estimated one in five children residing in out-of-home care were taken from parents with intellectual/learning disabilities. There is now good evidence that, in most instances, the need to remove these children from their parent’s care could have been averted. One problem is that child and youth protection workers and family support practitioners are ill-equipped, in terms of knowledge, skills and suitable resources, to effectively engage and work with parents with intellectual/learning disabilities. In this presentation, I will discuss a world-first national strategy to build systems capacity to support parents with learning difficulties and promote a healthy start to life for their children. The strategy includes but is not limited to (a)developing local leaders and inter-agency networks to facilitate timely exchange and implementation of knowledge from research, and improve service planning and coordination; and, (b) widespread dissemination of research-proven strategies and resources, including parent training programs and materials specifically designed for this vulnerable, and seemingly “hard-to-help” population. On March 11, 2010, Canada became the 82nd nation to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities. Under Article 23, “Canada is bound to take effective action and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination..” and to “render appropriate assistance to persons with disabilities in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.” In this presentation, I will reflect on what we in Alberta (and Canada) must do to meet these obligations and in turn, improve the life chances of children born to parents with intellectual/learning disabilities. Presenter Biography David McConnell is Professor and Director of the Family and Disability Studies Initiative ( Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta. David has been conducting research in the field of parents and parenting with intellectual disability for over twenty years. In Australia, his research culminated in a world-first national strategy to build systems capacity to support parents with intellectual disabilities and their children ( David is currently the elected Chair of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Special Interest Research Group on Parenting with Intellectual Disability.

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