Volunteer Parent Support Worker Handbook

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					      Volunteer Home Visiting Program
City of Victor Harbor, PO Box 11, VICTOR HARBOR SA 5211
              Phone: 8551 0543 Fax: 8551 0501

Dear Volunteer,

Thank you for your interest in becoming a Parent Support Worker with
the Fleurieu Families Home Visiting Program.

This Handbook has been put together to give you a thorough
understanding of the Program, to answer many of your questions and,
perhaps, to prompt you to think of others. As the Volunteer Coordinator
I will be involved in your initial interview and training, and in your on-going
support in your role as a Parent Support Worker. I hope we can work
together to make your commitment a valuable and rewarding experience.

I have lived and worked in the Southern Fleurieu region for twenty years.
As a local parent I am familiar with both the services available here and
the needs and challenges facing local families.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of becoming a Parent Support
Worker, please feel free to ring me on (08) 8551 0543. If I am
unavailable please leave a message so I can return your call.

I wish you well in your future as a volunteer with Families First, and look
forward to our continued contact.

Kindest regards,

Wendy Kruger

Fleurieu Families Home Visiting Program

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1.      Background.                                                       4

2.      Volunteering – What is it?                                       4

3.      Role of Parent Support Workers in the Home Visiting Program.     5

4.      Who can be a volunteer.                                          6

5.      Basic Ingredients.                                               7

6.      How will I be matched with a family?                             8

 7.      What may I do once matched?                                     8

8.      On-going training and support.                                   9

9.      Rights of the client.                                           10

10. Rights of the volunteer.                                            11

11. Responsibilities of the volunteer.                                  11

12. Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.                         13

13. Confidentiality Policy                                              15

14. Forms.                                                              16

15. Insurance.                                                          17

16. Reimbursement.                                                      17

17. Withdrawing from the Program.                                       18

18. Conclusion.                                                         18

19. Appendixes                                                          19

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What is now the Fleurieu Families Home Visiting Program has a long (and confusing!)
history. The original Strengthening Families project was developed at the Port Adelaide
Central Mission, funded by the State Department of Family and Community Services.

The success of their Parent Support Program, which is a home visiting program for
families, using trained volunteers, led to Families First putting forward a proposal to
develop a similar program for the Southern Fleurieu.

Community Benefit SA funded a 12 month pilot project from October 1997 to October
1998, auspiced and actively supported by the Southern Fleurieu Councils. Parenting SA
then funded the project until July 2000, when the Strengthening Families Home Visiting
Program received funding by becoming part of a twelve month project – the Family Links
Project - piloted by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services,
changing its name to the Southern Fleurieu Family Links Home Visiting Program.

When the Family Links Project entered into its second year, the Volunteer Program section
of the Project received separate funding from the Commonwealth Department of Family
and Community Services, and from the three Southern Fleurieu Councils, and a meeting
of the volunteers decided to change our name back to Families First!

Recently there has been yet another development to our name. Due to confusion in the
community about which family project does what (i.e. Family Links – linking families to
services and developing links between families and early childhood services; Families First
– parenting courses and information; Families First Volunteer Program – parent support
through home visiting), we decided to run a competition for a new name that covers all
three programs – what we refer to as the Family Team. On 10th September 2004, the
Family Team’s reference group selected our winner, giving us a new name: Fleurieu
Families – Parenting Connections. So please read on and learn more about Fleurieu
Families Home Visiting… and join us!

                            VOLUNTEERING – WHAT IS IT?

Formal volunteering is an activity that always takes place through not-for-profit
organisations or projects and is -:

•   Of benefit to the community and the volunteer.

•   Undertaken of the volunteer’s own free will and without coercion.

•   For no financial payment.

•   Underpinned by the Australian Council for Volunteering ‘Principles of Volunteering’.
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The Fleurieu Families Home Visiting Program conforms to the ‘Principles of Volunteering’
as identified by the Australian Council for Volunteering as follows -:

•   Volunteering benefits the community and the volunteer.

•   Volunteering is always a matter of choice.

•   Volunteering should not be connected to the receipt of pensions or government

•   Volunteering is a legitimate way in which citizens can participate in the activities of their

•   Volunteering is a vehicle for individuals or groups to address human, environmental
    and social needs.

•   Volunteering is an activity performed in the not-for-profit organisation sector only.

•   Volunteering is not a substitute for paid work.

•   Volunteers do not replace paid workers nor constitute a threat to the job security of
    paid workers.

•   Volunteering respects the rights, dignity and culture of others.

•   Volunteering promotes human rights and equality.


Volunteers have a unique and essential contribution to make to Fleurieu Families Home
Visiting. A volunteer Parent Support Worker’s role in befriending a family - their
commitment and time spent in listening and talking with their companion - is invaluable
work, and work which could not be provided by a paid worker. A paid worker could not
spend a couple of hours a week chatting over a cuppa, helping with the washing, strolling
on the beach and building sandcastles with the kids or driving mum and three kids to
Woolies to help with a fortnightly shopping expedition. And even if a paid worker could do
all these things, it probably wouldn’t feel the same as having someone who is there solely
because they want to be there, not because they’re paid to be there, and who can connect
as another parent who has also ‘been there’ themselves.

A friend or family member to help with these everyday activities is something some
families can take for granted, and even so they often say “What would I do without you?”

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Fleurieu Families Home Visiting brings together volunteers who have the freedom and the
commitment to make this time on a weekly basis, with families who don’t have a friend
who can listen and respond to their needs at this time.

Most volunteer Parent Support Workers are matched with individual families, but Fleurieu
Families receives a number of requests for volunteers to support families in other ways,
such as being an ‘extra pair of hands’ (and eyes!) for a playgroup, or working more directly
with children, perhaps with speech or exercise programs. In short, Fleurieu Families
probably has a role waiting that would suit you!

                               WHO CAN BE A VOLUNTEER?

In this program volunteers are usually parents – and sometimes grandparents - from all
areas of the Southern and Eastern Fleurieu who set aside some time on a regular basis to
take part in the aims of Fleurieu Families Home Visiting.

Volunteers always bring a wealth of experience and knowledge into programs like this,
which reflects the diversity and interests of our local people. Your age group, gender,
education, work history, parenting/grandparenting experiences, cultural background,
interests and hobbies will all be valuable and will no doubt add depth to the outcomes of
this program.

There are a few characteristics that you will need. These include:

•   Respect and appreciation for the valuable contribution that parents make to their
    families and to our society.
•   Understanding of how difficult parenting can be.
•   Compassion for and acceptance of families’ individual circumstances, and willingness
    to learn any relevant skills/knowledge.
•   A desire to participate in training and ongoing support sessions.
•   Respect for a family’s right for confidentiality.
•   Ability to set aside a mutually designated amount of time on a weekly basis.

Volunteers are people who have a genuine interest in giving something back to their
community at a stage in their lives that allows them to give of time and energy. In return
they receive enormous satisfaction, new friends and an added dimension to their lives.

Volunteers are from the towns, the coast, from all backgrounds, income brackets and
ages, and with varying levels of fitness and health!

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                                        BASIC INGREDIENTS

From time to time you will need to ask yourself if you are addressing some fundamental
requirements of the Fleurieu Families Home Visiting Program. Many of these attributes
will come naturally whilst some others may very well provide you with some thought and

                   •   Do the things I do and say show that I care?
                   •   Do I have a genuine interest in parents and children?
                   •   Am I able to respect differences in abilities, cultures and backgrounds?

           • Am I prepared to listen attentively?
           • Am I willing to spend time to get to know that person with whom I have
              been matched?
           • Am I happy for my companion to get to know me?
           • Am I willing to acknowledge and validate parents’ strengths and abilities
              and success?
           • Will I accept the opportunity to discuss successes and concerns with the
              co-ordinator and other volunteers where appropriate?

              •      Am I aware that my companion’s feelings and thoughts need to be
                     respected to build trust in the relationship?
                   • Will I be constantly vigilant in appreciating the confidential nature of my
                     Fleurieu Families role?
                   • Do I recognise that there is a difference between sharing experiences in a
                     meeting of volunteers and ‘gossiping’ about my companion at home or
                     with friends?

                   •   Do I have time to make a genuine and realistic commitment to the Home
                       Visiting program?
                   •   Will I be available to work at the mutually agreeable times set by myself,
                       the coordinator and parent?
                   •   Am I prepared to advise the parent if unable to keep to schedule?
                   •   Am I prepared to attend informal volunteer meetings about once a

                   •   Am I prepared to work in conjunction with other volunteers, the co-
                       ordinator and referring agencies when necessary?

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The answer to this question will depend entirely on you as an individual and the families
referred to the program.

In the first instance, the co-ordinator will take time to meet with you, to answer any of your
questions and to ensure that you have a clear understanding of Fleurieu Families Home
Visiting. We will have a general discussion about your background interests, your
previous experience with families and your reasons for wanting to participate in the project.

The next step is to participate in an orientation training program for one day a week over 6
weeks. This will generally be run annually, so you may begin work in the program before
you have done your orientation training. You will, however, be expected to complete the
training next time it becomes available.

Next begins the process of a successful match. I will be able to give you an outline of a
number of potential clients that I think you will be happy to meet. For example, I might
say, there is a mother of 3 children under five years of age, living at Port Elliott. She has
no transport during the day, no extended family nearby and is feeling very alone and

As a volunteer you may be asked to take her to Victor Harbor once a fortnight to help with
a big shopping outing and to visit on the alternate week just for company – coffee and a

Of course, every scenario will be different. The ages and gender of parents and children,
their family and circumstances, culture, lifestyle, location, needs and interests will differ
from one referral to another.

The matching process will be undertaken with care and sensitivity and as a volunteer your
personal requests will be taken into consideration.

                         WHAT MAY I DO ONCE MATCHED?

The most important role is that of friendship, so the sorts of things that you do with the
parent and his/her family are the sorts of things that you would do with a friend. Just
saying “Hello, how are you?” and “What do you need today?” and then listening is
probably the most important thing you could ever do. Allow what you do to be lead by how
your companion feels and what he/she needs on any given day.

Some activities that you may do together are-:

Having a cuppa and talking, listening and sharing.

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Chatting over a shared household job e.g. hanging out the clothes, doing the dishes.

Taking the parent(s) and the kids to a playground or the beach.

Spending some time playing with the children, or reading a story.

Going to playgroup or a doctor’s appointment.

Walking along the beach or following some walking path around your district.

Going to Adelaide to share in a special event i.e. pageants, festivals, galleries, museums,
fairs, multicultural events, art promotions, markets etc.

Shopping for clothes, food or special gift and stopping for a cuppa and a chat.

Visiting the library, become members and use the variety of resources available.

Over time volunteers may well want to get involved in training new volunteers.

                      ON-GOING TRAINING AND SUPPORT

Through your involvement in Fleurieu Families Home Visiting you will participate in an
initial 6 week training program (one day per week) and then in on-going training and
development each month.

The 6 week training program will cover the following -:

    •    An introduction to Volunteer Home Visiting
    •    Listening without judging
    •    Being affirming, flexible and assertive
    •    Modelling self care (includes hearing from a panel of experienced volunteers)
    •    Working within guidelines and as a team member (including confidentiality)

    •    Early childhood development
    •    Domestic violence awareness
    •    Mandated Notification – reporting child abuse and neglect
During this training we aim to address all your questions and concerns while placing a high
value on contributions from the whole group. Participants will also learn more about local
family resources and services and when to recommend or refer.

Ongoing monthly meetings of volunteers with the co-ordinator aim to achieve these
outcomes -:

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•   The volunteers get to know each other.
•   The volunteers have opportunities to debrief and share their experiences of home

•   Volunteers receive ongoing training and development as requested/initiated by their

•   The co-ordinator has a regular overview of how the whole program is going and a
    forum to discuss and address the concerns and issues as well as celebrate the

Other forms of support will be available either by

•   The co-ordinator joining you in your first few visits until you feel comfortable with your
    volunteer role.

•   The co-ordinator phoning the volunteer from time to time, and volunteers being able to
    phone the co-ordinator whenever necessary.

•   The volunteer indicating his/her interest in attending a workshop through another

•   Reading and contributing to the monthly Volunteers Newsletter.

                                     RIGHTS OF THE CLIENT

All parents have the right to :

1. have choices about how they are supported in their parenting;

2. be treated with dignity and respect and to live without exploitation, abuse neglect,
   discrimination or victimisation;

3. personal privacy;

4. live in a safe and secure environment;

5. be treated and accepted as an individual;

6. continue his or her cultural or religious practices;

7. practice freedom of speech;

8. have access to services and activities which are available in the community;

9. have access to advocates and other avenues of redress.
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                                RIGHTS OF THE VOLUNTEER

As a volunteer you will be treated with respect and appreciation. Some of your rights are
listed below.

  1.     To be given suitable tasks and to refuse unsuitable tasks;

  2.     To give and receive feedback on progress in the task you, as a volunteer, are

  3.     To be provided with support from the co-ordinator;

  4.     To have your suggestions and ideas listened to;

  5.     To be able to talk to the co-ordinator if there are problems or queries;

  6.     To be covered by accident insurance;

  7.     To get enjoyment and satisfaction from volunteer work;

  8.     To take a break or go on holidays;

  9.     To say NO and have this respected;

  10. The right to be treated as a co-worker, not just free help or un-paid work.


1. To believe in the value of what you are doing.

2. To be regular in attending to the agreed duties (e.g. training, weekly visits to your
   companion, their family, carers and meeting with other volunteers.)

3. To respect confidentiality in personal issues of your companion, their family, carers and
   other volunteers.

4. As a friend – to be an active, compassionate listener, demonstrating empathy and
   acceptance and a provider of acknowledgment and validation of parents’ strengths and

5. To have local knowledge of parents’ and children’s resources, community services and
   information and to pass this on to the parents, as relevant to their circumstances.

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6. To accept direction and supervision from the co-ordinator, and/or support worker.
7. To be realistic about the time you have available. (Avoid being over-committed.)

8. To report accidents immediately and on the day that they happen. (See section 14 on
   Occupational Health & Safety as well as the Appendix at the back of this handbook)

9. To use a sense of humour.

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This is a BIG topic and one that needs to be given special consideration.

In a nut shell, the co-ordinator is responsible for making sure that your health and safety is
accounted for. On the other hand, you will be responsible for letting me know if anything
occurs that jeopardises your health and safety during the course of your volunteer role.

I have included a copy of the Alexandrina Council’s Health and Safety Policy.
Home visiting as a Parent Support Worker is a job which requires particular attention to
aspects of health and safety, which are not specified in the generic Alexandrina Council
Policy and are outlined here as follows:

1.     The co-ordinator’s responsibilities include:
        1.1: to ensure that the family has been assessed for history of domestic violence.
        1.2: to negotiate a contract with the parent(s) and the volunteer with goals and
        responsibilities for each and a specified date for review. This is agreed upon and
        signed by all parties.
        1.3: to ensure that the relevant council staff understand their role in the safety
        phone-in procedure for volunteers when on a home visit.

2. Volunteers are asked to phone the co-ordinator
        If the home visiting appointment time is changed or cancelled.
        after home visits or outings with the client family or parent.
   This procedure serves as:
               - A debriefing mechanism. Most often, this is a quick phone call to affirm
                  that all is going according to the contract and the goals. Sometimes, the
                  volunteer may wish to debrief their own responses to the home visit.
               - A review mechanism. This call may highlight the need for other strategies
                  for the client family e.g. counselling, respite, childcare, and on occasion
                  mandatory reporting of child abuse.

3. Volunteers are required to use the safety phone-in procedure whenever they are visiting
or having contact time with their client. This procedure ensures that the volunteer’s
whereabouts are known during the time of the visit, and includes an action plan for the
volunteer’s safety should they not ring in at the specified time.
4. Some safety mechanisms can be observed as standard practice during home visiting as
       4.1: Always park cars on the street, or if visiting a farm, then park in such a way that
       your departure cannot be obstructed.
       4.2: Never enter a home or stay on a visit, if for any reason you feel concerned
       about your safety. Excuse yourself, leave, and phone the coordinator to discuss.
       4.3: If you have a mobile phone, carry it to all home visits. If you do not
       have a mobile phone, discuss this with the co-ordinator before your first visit with a

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         4.4: Do not give your home phone number or home address to your client family,
         who will be asked to phone the co-ordinator for any changes to agreed meeting
         times or any issues which arise between visits.

5. Volunteers may use their private vehicle to transport clients and their families by
following these guidelines:
       5.1: Volunteer must sign a form indicating that they have a current driver’s license
       and that the vehicle they drive is registered and roadworthy.
       5.2: Volunteers must have a child restraint if children are to be travelling in their

6. Volunteers may provide respite care to children, by following these
guidelines during the parents’ absence:
       6.1: Do not allow anyone else entry to the house.
       6.2: Do not allow the children to leave the house with anyone.
       6.3: Do not give any medication to the children.
       6.4: Ensure that contact phone numbers for the parents (e.g. mobile phone) or a
       friend or neighbour are at hand in the event of any emergency.

I thank you in anticipation for abiding by this policy.

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                                  CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY

Ensuring that information families may share with volunteer Parent Support Workers is
kept confidential is a way of showing respect for the client’s right of privacy, and of
promoting trust in the relationship between families and workers. The policy outlined is the
way we believe can develop a culture of respect.

All Parent Support Workers within Fleurieu Families Home Visiting are bound by rules of
confidentiality. This means all information gained during your work with Fleurieu Families
Home Visiting is confidential and should not be shared or discussed with anyone other
than Fleurieu Families staff. Any requests for information from you regarding a family with
whom you are working should be forwarded to a member of staff.

Families may share information with you and ask you not to pass on disclosed information.
If the information shared refers to a situation of abuse you will need to inform the family
that you are unable to enter into secrets with them. Any information you learn from a
family ie. a disclosure or suspicion of abuse should be discussed with a member of staff
and the Child, Youth and Family Services. As a parent supporter you are a mandated
notifier of abuse which is a legal requirement under the current legislation.

As your work with families increases you may need to share information with other Parent
Support Workers. Issues of concern or achievements about a family can be shared within
the formal context of the program eg. group training/monthly gatherings on the
understanding that this must not include any individual identifying information.

Information obtained about a family through your work with Fleurieu Families Home
Visiting must not be shared or discussed with people outside the program.

(POLICY reviewed & updated; 15-Sep-04 WK)

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                                  FORMS AND MORE FORMS

Well, I am sorry to say that no matter how eager you are to begin with Fleurieu Families
Home Visiting you will be asked to fill in a couple of forms…

I’ve kept them as simple as possible and hopefully they won’t take up too much of your

1.       Application Form                                 This requires some details about you so I can get
                                                          a basic understanding of your background and
                                                          experience. This will also assist in the matching

2.       Police Record Clearance Form This form allows me to be sure I recruit people
                                      who are not likely to misuse their rights and
                                      responsibilities as a volunteer.

3.       Council Volunteer Form                           Requires a signature after reading some
                                                          details about the Occupational Health &
                                                          Safety Policy.

4.       Record Sheet                                     The Record Sheet is designed for you to
                                                          keep a brief outline of the type of activities
                                                          that you are undertaking with your
                                                          companion. This can be handed back to
                                                          me at the end of each month. The
                                                          information that you provide will assist me
                                                          enormously when preparing evaluations.

5.       Reimbursement Form                               Please record all out-of-pocket expenses
                                                          that have been approved by the co-ordinator and
                                                          hand in with your record sheet each month, so
                                                          that you can be reimbursed.

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All volunteers are covered by Council insurance. The co-ordinator will give you an outline
of what the policy covers during the orientation stage. If you require a more detailed
understanding of the cover please do not hesitate to ask.


The Fleurieu Families Home Visiting Program has a budget that allows for the
reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses.

All volunteers will be eligible to claim for a travel allowance if they use their own vehicle
during Fleurieu Families work.

The co-ordinator will also guide you as to what other items you can list on your claim form.
This will vary according to the individual that you are matched with and the type of
activities you plan to pursue.

                     Volunteers make a

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                      WITHDRAWING FROM THE PROGRAM

You may find that after some time you wish to no longer be part of this program. The
required commitment may be more than what you expected, the time involved may be too
great or perhaps you find that your health is not 100%. Whatever the reason, please
contact the co-ordinator and let her know of your situation. You have every right to
withdraw; however, it is important to follow the correct procedure.

The co-ordinator can also terminate your involvement in Fleurieu Families Home Visiting if
you fail to meet the obligations of the program or display misconduct or show negligent


Your participation in this program can be an exciting and challenging experience. You
may learn as much from your companion as you give. No doubt, you will face a variety of
new challenges, be exposed to new ideas and be given opportunities to explore new

Developing new friendships and gaining satisfaction from knowing that you are
contributing to your own local community will only be some of the rewards.

I look forward to getting to know you and supporting you through your new role as a
volunteer with Fleurieu Families Home Visiting.

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APPENDIX                                                           No. of pages

    1. Volunteer Policy                                                 5

    2. Health and Safety Policy – General statement of policy           2

    3. OH&S Roles and Responsibilities                                  8

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