A home visiting program
for families with young children

"My volunteer has a lot of experience and knowledge about babies because she used to be a paediatrician. She is helpful with feeding and also solid foods - what kinds of foods are good for the babies, and the quantity... She always spends enough time with me... I am very happy with her, she is a lovely lady." - Diana's Story


Volunteer Family Connect (VFC) is a community-based early intervention program providing one-on-one emotional support to parents and carers in their home. The program was developed as a collaboration between The Benevolent Society, Save the Children, Karitane and senior researchers from Western Sydney University.

The goals of the program are to:

  • Improve and/or strengthen parents' experiences, capacity, knowledge, and confidence
  • Improve parent and family support networks, and community connections
  • Support parents to be future orientated and aspirational for themselves, their children, and their family

It is argued that a program like Volunteer Family Connect not only benefits the participating children and families, but is also likely to bring about positive outcomes for volunteers and strengthen communities.


Key Features

  • A universal, free service for parents and carers with babies or young children (0-5 years)
  • Families are linked to a trained volunteer (volunteers receive at least 30 hours of standardised training before they are matched with a family)
  • All volunteers undergo the relevant State and Federal working with children and police checks
  • The volunteer visits regularly to offer support and information usually for 2 hours each week for up to a year
  • Volunteer visits and training are guided by a fully developed program manual and best-practice guidelines
  • A Program Coordinator (who is a trained Family Support Worker) recruits, trains, supports and supervises the Community Parent Volunteers

By Design

The Volunteer Family Connect program, and the Volunteer Family Connect research project, was built on a collaboration between The Benevolent Society, Save the Children Australia, Karitane and senior researchers from Western Sydney University. This joint alliance brings together deeply committed and very experienced service providers and researchers who work together to support the health and wellbeing of families, children and volunteers.

The Volunteer Family Connect program is designed to complement the child and family services already available within communities. It is designed for those families who feel isolated and would benefit from support to increase their connection to their local community, including connection to social networks, parenting supports, and to other services available locally. The volunteers are able to provide a bridge between home and community for those who struggle to make those connections themselves.

When designing the Volunteer Family Connect program, we reviewed many existing volunteer home visiting programs, and we reviewed the research that is currently available on volunteer home visiting. This information was used to develop what we think is a best practice model of volunteer home visiting. The research project will help us to further refine and develop the program so that it can be rolled out in other Australian communities where there is a need for this kind of family support.

Research study

Currently underway is an important, community-based research project called:
"Strengthening Families and Communities through Volunteering Research Study".

This study aims to assess the effectiveness of a volunteer home visiting program (Volunteer Family Connect) in supporting vulnerable families with young children. The Volunteer Family Connect program is designed to fit within the wider service response to supporting families. The study is across four states (NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania).

We want to know whether or not programs like ours really do bring about the positive changes for families that we think they do. It is important to the organisations within the VFC Alliance (Save the Children, The Benevolent Society and Karitane) that we are delivering programs that have been shown in high quality research to be effective. This is part of our duty of care to the families we work with.

We hope that the research will not only enhance our service delivery, but will also inform government and policy makers about what makes a significant difference for families. To date there has not been enough information to guide their decisions about which services should receive government funding support. If the VFC program is shown to be effective, our hope is that we will be able to partner with state and federal governments to keep programs like this going in Australia.

To find out more about the research study, please contact the research team at TeEACH from Western Sydney University. Contact us.

The research is:

  • The first randomised controlled trial of volunteer home visiting to be conducted in Australia
  • The largest trial to be conducted worldwide
  • The only trial in the world to focus on outcomes for both families and the volunteers who support them
  • The first time any study has conducted an analysis of the social return on investment for a volunteer home visiting program.

VFC Snapshot Report

Transforming early Education And Child Health Research Centre

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