Archways came into being as a result of work carried out by the Education Working Group of Clondalkin Partnerhip. Initially this work focused on young people at risk of exclusion from school in the Clondalkin area. However, after considerable analysis the work concentrated on emotional and behavioural difficulties among children and examined a number of early interventions aimed at dealing with this problem. The Incredible Years programme stood out as one proven to be effective in reducing aggression and behavioural problems and was also shown to improve social competence at home and in school.
The Education Coordinator of Clondalkin Partnership consulted with the local Health Board, the Lucena clinic, NEPS and the Vocational Educational Psychological Service regarding programme relevance and effectiveness in the Irish context. A commitment was secured from 8 schools and 11 community organisations to implement the intervention programme. Having established significant levels of support for the intervention strategy suitable staff were trained as Parent programme and Small Group Dina programme facilitators.
A pilot programme was then introduced in 5 locations. In total 67 parents were referred from Health Board, community and educational organisations. Parents were selected on the basis of their child having moderate to extreme levels of maladjusted behaviour. The 12 week parent training programme was introduced with parent assessments at 4 week intervals. In addition, trainer and organisation assessments were also carried out. The initial results far exceeded expectations:
- Parent involvement was maintained over the duration of the course;
- Parent engagement was higher than for other programmes;
- Parents indicated significant improvement in the child’s behaviour;
- Perception of their ability to cope with child’s behaviour was heightened.
Recognising the potential of the programme to bring about real and verifiable change a conference Against the Odds was organised to create awareness of the programme. This conference generated a lot of interest and many attendees sought assistance in introducing the programme.
In Spring 2006, the National University of Ireland Maynooth concluded a research study into the effects of the Basic Parent Programme in Clondalkin, which demonstrated positive results. The study charted the progress of some 32 parents with children who demonstrated clinically significant levels of emotional and behavioural difficulty and a range of additional difficulties such as Aspergers Syndrome and ADD/ADHD. The research highlighted:
- significant clinical changes in the behaviour of the children and their parents;
- demonstrated significant improvements in coping skills, family supports and communication;
- and significant improvements in stress and anger control.
These results confirmed the capacity of the programme to bring about significant levels of change for troubled children. With this realisation it was decided to develop a process which would enable the programme to be made available to children outside the Clondalkin area.
The Atlantic Philanthropies showed interest in the project early in it’s development and piloting phase. As well as providing valuable funding they provided a wealth of insight and guidance and linked the initiative with the Dartington Social Research Unit. In order to assist service providers who planned to implement the programme in an Irish context and to avoid any haphazard approach to programme implementation Dartington suggested that a Service Manual be prepared. Dartington also provided guidance in the development of the new organisation, Archways, which would spearhead the mainstreaming process for the Incredible Years programme in Ireland.