25 Years of Supporting Families at Home
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25 Years of Supporting Families at Home

The History of PIP

Since 1980 the Mothercraft Parent-Infant Program has been funded as a provincial Infant Development Program to provide home-based early intervention services to families with young children who face psychosocial risks to their development. The service is designed to promote child development through the enhancement of parent-child interactions and parenting skills, through the use of a combination of parent-child psychotherapeutic approaches, developmental guidance and advocacy to stabilize families' basic needs.

During the 1980s, families served by the Parent-Infant Program experienced a constellation of factors and stressors that were known to impact parenting, parent-child interactions, and child development. These factors included: parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, social isolation, low level of maternal education, housing and income insecurity, parental development handicap. Infants born into such high-risk psychosocial environments are at risk for disturbance in their social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as for maltreatment.

In the early 1990s, the factors which characterized the families involved in the Parent-Infant Program (PIP) reflected the heightened social problems emerging at that time. With the increasing shift to de-institutionalization of psychiatric patients, PIP provided support to more parents with mental health problems living in the community with their infants. In response to the long recession and the limited availability of social housing in Ontario, many more parents and infants in PIP were homeless or experiencing housing insecurity. The increased rates of drug and alcohol use among women of child-bearing age was confirmed by the numbers of families seen in PIP who were struggling with issues of pre and postnatal substance use. In fact, in the early 1990s, it was estimated that up to 75% of the families referred to PIP were struggling with substance abuse issues.

In response to the introduction of a number of provincial initiatives (incl. Healthy Babies Healthy Children) serving vulnerable young children and their parents in the mid-1990s, the Parent-Infant Program reviewed and revised its admission criteria in order to avoid duplication of service, and to ensure that its resources and expertise were allocated most efficiently to support the "highest-risk" families and young children. The services of the Parent-Infant Program were directed to:

  • families in which children may be affected by their parents' drug or alcohol use
  • families in which children may be affected by their parents' mental illness
  • families who have had previous parenting breakdowns resulting in losses of children (e.g. to foster care, adoption, etc.)

At the same time, the Parent-Infant Program worked to develop the most effective interventions and supports to families with infants who live in high risk situations. In response to the increased numbers of families being seen who were struggling with substance use problems, together with the increased number of substance-exposed infants, the Parent-Infant Program came into partnership with other agencies serving this population of families to design Breaking the Cycle.