‘Meitheal’ is an old Irish term that describes how neighbours would come together to assist each other in the saving or harvesting of crops or other tasks. In this context, Meitheal is a national practice model designed to ensure that the needs and strengths of children and their families are effectively identified, understood and responded to in a timely way so that children and families get the help and support needed to improve children’s outcomes and realise their rights. It is an early intervention, multi-agency (when necessary) response, tailored to the needs of an individual child or young person. Meitheal is voluntary and can only be undertaken when the parent/carer provides their written consent. Meitheal is used in partnership with parents to help them share their own knowledge, expertise and concerns about their child and to hear the views of practitioners working with them. The ultimate goal is to enable parents and practitioners to work together to achieve a better life for the child.

This Area Based Approach to Prevention, Partnership and Family Support requires the establishment of Child and Family Support Networks. Child and Family Support Networks are collaborative networks of community, voluntary and statutory providers intended to improve access to support services for children and their families. To help families access support there is a need for clusters of such support serving geographical areas that may be smaller than the Agency areas or Children Services Committees areas. Therefore, Child and Family Support Networks will be the unit building blocks of the Tusla National Service Delivery Framework and the frontline operational structure that will ensure integrated service delivery.

Intended Outcomes

  • Tusla’s prevention and early intervention system is operating effectively, delivering high quality, standardised and consistent service to children and families in each of the 17 management areas.  
  • Children and families are increasingly aware of available supports and are less likely to fall through gaps, as all relevant services are working together in Tusla’s prevention and early intervention system.

Overarching Research Question

Are Child and Family Support Networks established across all 17 management areas with meaningful engagement from a wide spectrum of practitioners and delivering timely integrated support to children, young people and families with additional needs? 

The more detailed questions focus on the establishment of structures, processes and roles, the value of training and support, the experience of key interfaces between the networks / Meitheal and other key structures and processes.  Methods will include documentary analysis, surveys and interviews, with case-study work on early adopters and a National Implementation Snapshot for 2015 and a detailed outcomes study on Meitheal for 2016.  The latter will be a significant component of the overall assessment of the outcomes from the Mainstreaming Programme.

Work Package Leads

Academic Staff: Dr. Carmel DevaneyDr. John Canavan, Professor Caroline McGregor
Post Doctoral Researchers: Dr. Anne CassidyDr. Leonor Rodriguez 
Doctoral Scholar: Ms. Melissa Bonotto¬†

Research Publications

Rodriguez, L., Cassidy, A. and Devaney, C. (2017) Interim Report on the Meitheal Process and Outcomes Study‌. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway.  FULL REPORT / KEY FINDINGS

 Cassidy, A., Devaney, C. and McGregor, C. (2016) Early Implementation of Meitheal and the Child and Family Support Networks: Lessons from the field. Galway: The UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway. FULL REPORT / KEY FINDINGS

Devaney,  C., McGregor, C. & Cassidy, A. (2017) 'Early Implementation of a Family-Centred Practice Model in Child Welfare', Practice, DOI: 10.1080/09503153.2017.1339786.

Cassidy, A., Devaney. C., McGregor, C. and Landy, F. (2016) 'Interfacing Informal and Formal Help Systems: Historical Pathways to the Meitheal'. Administration. Volume 64, Issue 2, Pages 137–155.