New service to offer companionship to parents who are missing adult company

Are you a new parent? Are you missing adult company during the day? If so, you may be interested in Parent Link, a new service which offers home visits to parents with new babies and toddlers in the city and surrounding areas.

Volunteers (all parents ) offer company and share experiences as part of the initiative which is the brainchild of Janet Kehelly, who moved here in 2004 before her son was born and missed the day-to-day contact with people.

“When I came to Galway a month before my son was born, I had no family here. Most of the people I knew were working during the day so I didn’t have much contact with adults until my partner came home from work. I missed the day-to-day contact with people and thought it would have been great to have someone to chat to about being a first time parent.”

She says while there are a lot of excellent parent and toddler groups and activities available they cannot always provide what is needed at specific times. Having identified a service gap, Janet set up a group to get Parent Link off the ground. The service offers parents with newborns and toddlers up to three years a weekly home visit from a volunteer parent.

“We have recruited 12 volunteers, all mothers, though it was open to fathers, with children from toddlers to teens. They have taken part in an induction training programme and are Garda vetted. Their role is to offer company and share experiences on being a parent. It’s a chance for the parent to sit down and chat about how things are going for them. Some parents might simply enjoy a friendly chat, others might have specific things they’d like to discuss, like sleep or teething.

“The volunteers will offer company and an informal chat, an opportunity to share experiences on being a parent and information about parent activities and services in the city. The service will not offer advice, counselling or advocacy. Parents will be directed to their GP or public health team for expert advice and information.

“We had a number of criteria when selecting volunteers but the key one was that they are all people you would enjoy inviting to your home – they’re practical, open, understand the ups and downs of being a parent, are good humoured and good listeners.”

She says the service may suit people who are new to Galway and do not have a family or social network.

“It may also suit someone on maternity leave or someone who feels isolated in their community because everyone is out at work, or maybe someone would just like the chance to chat with other experienced parents. Parents can use the service for as many weeks or months as they like.”

There are many similar services in the country but none in Galway city, she says. “Many of them are located in specific areas and/or have particular target groups. Parent Link doesn’t. It will offer the service to any parent in Galway city and nearby surrounding areas.

“There are a number of parent and toddler groups in the city and they are an excellent way for parents to meet other parents. However, some parents might also like to talk to someone on a one-to-one basis at home. That way the parent gets time just for themselves to talk to someone about how things are going for them. It’s ‘me time’. Parent Link will let parents know what groups and activities are happening in Galway and some parents might like to do both. Volunteers will also go along with a parent who might find the first time going along to a parent and toddler group a bit daunting. Parent Link is providing a unique service which adds to range of services already there.”

The organisation is funded by the Galway City Partnership, Galway Local Voluntary Youth Council and Galway City & County Childcare Committee.

“We’re running this initiative as a pilot project for one year during which time the Community Knowledge initiative at NUI Galway will support us in monitoring and evaluating the project.”

Parents who would like to hear more about the service can contact Janet Kehelly at (085 ) 1118658 or email [email protected]

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