Building resilience in children and families

Building resilience in children and families

To meet a growing need in mental health services for children and families, three local agencies came together to launch the Stronger Families – Building Resilience project.
child with therapist

Lead partners, Blue Smile, a children’s charity and Relate Cambridge, working with Cambridge Family Mediation Service, bid for two years’ funding from the Evelyn Trust to help local children and families tackle the many challenges in their lives and improve their resilience.

The project was devised in response to alarming statistics about the growth of self harm among children and young people in Cambridgeshire, which is reported to be well above the national average. Poor mental health is often linked to a disadvantaged background and there are high levels of deprivation in some parts of the county, with significant numbers of children living in the poorest 20% of households.

With the funding in place, the partners devised a project delivered in three local primary schools in disadvantaged areas, supporting children with 1:1 therapy, complemented by therapeutic parenting groups for their families. Parents were offered the chance to learn about self care, parenting styles, family dynamics, communications, positive parenting, the importance of play, etc. The schools were chosen from those which are already working with Blue Smile and these established links have helped the project to run smoothly.

“What has been critical to our success is that the focus of the parenting groups has been agreed by the parents: they drive the agenda so that it meets their immediate needs. This has helped to ensure good attendance - which is often a challenge with parenting groups - and has meant that parents feel engaged and empowered. Towards the end of the project we will produce a ‘manual’ of advice and guidance developed with input from parents,” explains Amanda Langford, founder of Blue Smile and service lead on the project. 

“We are hoping to share the learning – and the manual – with other agencies to spread the benefits of the project.”

Parents have largely stayed the course, which is a tribute to the project. They appreciate the non-judgemental support, they enjoy helping each other and sharing experiences. They feel less anxious and more able to cope.

The team can already show some very positive outcomes and will be working on the formal evaluation at the end of the project. They will be looking at data for both parents and children to establish if parallel support can improve family functioning and increase therapeutic benefits for children.

Comments from parents:

“I still find it tremendously challenging, but I feel like I am doing all the right things and that I can access further help.”

“It’s been a huge relief to have time and space where people will listen and not judge me.”

"I am a lot more calm. I enjoy every day rather than coping through the day."


To find out more about the vital work of these local organisations, visit their websites:


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