Support and services

The "Parent to Parent" Model in Australia (1992)

Llewellyn, G., Griffin, S., & Sacco, M. (1992). The "Parent to Parent" Model in Australia Australian Disability Review, 3, 42 - 50.


With increasing numbers of children with disabilities now being cared for at home, support for both the child and family is critical. Support may be either formal, by way of professionals and service agencies, or informal, from the immediate family, relatives, friends, neighbours and social or other groups.

The importance of mutual support groups for parents of disabled children is well recognized. Being able to share feelings and experiences, access direct services, and exchange information are just some of the benefits parents are able to gain from such networks.

Australian parent support groups have recently begun using the Parent to Parent model. This model is defined as one in which:

  • a 'veteran' parent who is experienced in caring for a family member who has a disability is matched, in a one to one relationship, with a 'referred' parent who is new to the role, and
  • information and emotional support is provided to the referred parent through this match.


The aim of this phase of the Parent to Parent Australian National Survey Project was to identify, describe and evaluate Australian parent support programs using the Parent to Parent model.


US National Parent to Parent Survey protocols from the Beach Center for Families and Disabilities were used and modified for the Australian context. Of the 98 responses received from support groups throughout Australia, 25 were based on Parent to Parent programs.


The picture gained of a typical Parent to Parent program was one that:

  • is sponsored by another organization
  • receives most money from fund raising activities
  • operates in a large city
  • receives a majority of referrals from health, social or welfare practitioners
  • contacts referred parents within 24 hours
  • most frequently refers parents to early intervention services
  • promotes the program through person to person contact
  • provides information packages to referred parents
  • regards the most important form of support as having someone to listen to and understand
  • matches families with family members who can respond within 24 hours

Parents in this typical program generally maintain contact by phone. Services received, beginning with the most common, include a support person who just listens; information about living and caring for a family member with a disability; information about community resources and services; training and advocacy; problem solving support; group activities for support; referrals to other agencies; and group activities for fun.

Parents served are generally Australian born non-Aboriginal with English as their first language. The family member has a specific disability, and most commonly is a pre-school aged child with a severe disability in a family with two adults in the parent role. Developmental delay, intellectual disability and multiple disabilities were heavily represented.

Experienced parents receive ongoing orientation and initially, orientation about helping parents adjust to a diagnosis and learning listening skills. Support is provided to family members as well as to the person with a disability.

It is critical that professionals are familiar with consumer based activities such as programs using the Parent to Parent model. The typical Parent to Parent program presented here offers some insight into the demography of families who seek this kind of parent support. The ways in which parent matches are determined and the type or orientation provided to parents allows professionals to see what parents regard as important. Listening to the insider perspective helps professionals as outsiders to better understand and subsequently assist parents of children with a disability in ways that are truly client centred and family focused.