Public awareness, Family Support, Child Protection, Public-professional discourse
The aim of this article is to consider critically the relationship between professional and public understandings of Family Support. It is based on research comprising baseline and follow-up population surveys carried out with 1000 respondents in each phase to establish levels of public awareness of the Parenting, Prevention and Family Support services provided by the Child and Family Agency in the Republic of Ireland (McGregor & Nic Gabhainn, 2016; McGregor & Nic Gabhainn, 2018). In the article, we draw on three main conceptual areas: Family Support, Public Awareness and Help-seeking. The findings either reflect some of the conceptual ambiguity in the academic field or illustrate major gaps between the theoretical and the actual. Thus, we found that, adults rely on informal supports in dealing with challenges and issues they face and that universal services are the next line of support, if informal sources are not enough, both of which reflect the literature. However, the findings show that the public do not see Family Support in terms of resource centers, specialist parenting programmes or other formal services. Rather, Family Support is more commonly associated with Child Protection. The findings and our analyses challenge us to provide better accounts of what Family Support is in order to ensure service-use, in particular in the context of preventing and / or intervening early to address the issues families face. Such accounts require more and better engagement with children, young people, parents and wider family members, and reflection by academics and researchers on the provenance of our own constructions of Family Support.