matt at launch

Translating research into practice. Five-year evaluation of Triple P in California shows why helping parents can improve the health and wellbeing of the community

Part of my role as founder of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program involves delivering masterclasses to practitioners who have been trained to deliver the program.

For the past five years, I have been travelling to California. Last Friday, I was back in California again. Only this time, I was there to support the launch of First 5 Santa Cruz County’s five-year evaluation report into the impacts Triple P has made in the community.

Santa Cruz was one of the first counties in California to implement Triple P following publication of our population trial which demonstrated that the Triple P system could help stem rising rates of child maltreatment.

In collaboration with partner organisations, First 5 decided to invest in Triple P to help local children reach their full potential after child abuse rates rose in the county in the years leading up to 2008.

The aim of First 5 is to ensure that family-friendly services and education are available so that each child reaches their fifth year of life healthy, ready and able to learn, and emotionally well developed.

Supported in training and implementation by our commercial partner, Triple P America, First 5 Santa Cruz County decided to provide the full Triple P system of programs at low- or no-cost, in English and Spanish, to local families with children aged up to 16.

The program is delivered by a number of local organisations and individuals through a partnership between First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (via the Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department.

Each year, Santa Cruz have conducted an evaluation of their work to see what level of impact Triple P is having. The launch I attended on Friday was the culmination of five years of those evaluations. And the report produced is an outstanding illustration of how Triple P can work with other policies and programs to make an impact on population-level indicators of child maltreatment.

The Santa Cruz model shows how effective a population-health approach to the provision of parenting support can be and is a superb example of how to translate research into everyday practice.

Their service-based evaluation found that:

  • Triple P is an effective and universal public health parenting intervention, reaching a broad population of parents
  • Triple P’s simple, practical parenting strategies are changing families’ lives for the better
  • Triple P is responsive to the needs of diverse families
  • Brief, “light touch” Triple P services are effective
  • Triple P has staying power, long after services have ended

It was enormously gratifying to hear county officials describe Triple P and its effects.

“Triple P is an invaluable partner for the Human Services Department,” Cecilia Espinola, Director of the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department and a Commissioner for First 5 Santa Cruz County, said.  “We share a common goal to strengthen families and improve outcomes for children.”

David Brody, Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County, said:

“We have no doubt that the widespread, local availability of Triple P has been a vital contributor in the effort to help more children grow up in safe, stable, and nurturing families. Five-year data shows that Triple P has helped turn the curve on children’s health and well-being at a population level.’’

Dr Salem Magarian, Pediatric Director for Santa Cruz Community Health Centers and a Commissioner for First 5 Santa Cruz County, described Triple P as an outstanding model for helping parents:

“It’s an evidence-based program that’s been around for many years. It’s not just an industry standard, it’s a life standard to provide this kind of support, and it’s for all families.”

Cultural responsiveness and a common language

The five-year report suggests that both English and Spanish-speaking families, as well as both men and women, found the Triple P strategies relevant and helpful, indicating the cultural responsiveness of the Triple P model and the common language of positive parenting.

Evaluation data also showed that Triple P’s parenting strategies became tools that gained traction and usefulness with parents as they continued to learn, practice and self-evaluate their progress.

On average:

  • The majority of parents who completed in-depth Triple P services reported improvements in their children’s behaviors (80%), overall parenting style (77%), and level of stress (63%)
  • 95% of survey respondents reported they continue to use the Triple P strategies they learned, long after services have ended
  • 98% of Triple P participants surveyed reported they would recommend Triple P to their family and friends

The report, Strengthening Families in Santa Cruz County, 5-Year Report 2010-2015, is available here.

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Disclosure statement

The Triple P – Positive Parenting Program is owned by the University of Queensland. The University through its main technology transfer company, UniQuest Pty Ltd, has licensed Triple P International Pty Ltd to publish and disseminate the program worldwide. Royalties stemming from published Triple P resources are distributed to the Parenting and Family Support Centre; School of Psychology; Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences; and contributory authors. No author has any share or ownership in Triple P International Pty Ltd. Matthew Sanders is the founder and an author on various Triple P programs and a consultant to Triple P International.