The family centre model refers to the integrated whole of services for children and families. Family centre comprise services, which enhance wellbeing and health and promote growth and development, as well as provide early support, care and rehabiliation.
Open meeting place is an integrated part of the family centre. The meeting place strengthens participation, interaction, peer support and sense of community of children, families and volunteers. Meeting place offers communal peer activities and low-threshold support and services. Meeting place, being always a physical space, may co-locate same facilities with family centre services or in different locations.
In order to promote the development of diverse meeting places a specific quality criteria were agreed on in the national network of meeting place actors. The criteria guide co-operation of local family center services and meeting place actors in order to build integrated low-threshold services for all children and families with children.
Ambition and goals
The quality criteria guide different meeting place actors to negotiate and agree on practices to enhance accessibility of services for families with children. Quality criteria help to build management, coordination and planning structures and processes of open meeting places. Criteria cover the following topics: 1) Integration with the Family centre services, 2) Systematic operation, planning and evaluation, 3) Coordination, 4) Accessibility, 5) Building togetherness and community, 6) Promotion of encounters and support, 7) Information about activities, 8) Competence and professional guidance.
Target group of the meeting place criteria are local actors and services, which provide open meeting place activities. The network of open meeting place actors may include professionals, managers and coordinators from open daycare centre /ECEC –centre, NGO’s family house or family cafe, local parishes’ family clubs, a residents’ parks or playgrounds and meeting points for adolescents.
End users of open meeting places are small children, parents, families with children, volunteers and stakeholders.
Evaluation – lessons learned
Criteria were co-created together with NGOs, representatives from parishes and open kindergarten services as well as with social- and health services of families with children. Development of criteria took place in the national Programme to Address Reform in Child and Family Services (2016-2019). Criteria for open meeting places were created as part of the family centre sub- project.
By involving professionals and managers from the municipalities, NGOs and parishdes a more adequate picture was created about needs and possible models of open places as well as on the content of the criteria. Co-creation was a key element in development of the criteria.
By producing criteria for a Meeting places make these services and actors more visible among policy makers and managers. Criteria are frequently used as a tool for local development steps in municipalities and regions. Criteria function as guidelines and help diverse meeting places connect together as a network and coordinate activities along the same principles.
On the basis of the THL criteria NGO Central Union for Child Welfare created a more detailed Assessment tool for family meeting places.The peer assessment tool is used by professionals and managers as a benchmarking model.
Meeting place at the Family Centre