The Way Forward: Voices of Parents and Youth
Introduction

We live in a world of rapid social, economic, political and technological change. With worldwide attention focused on the wellbeing of young people, there is an increasing recognition that parenting plays an important role in the development of our younger generation.  Clear policy priorities connecting parenting, family and community wellbeing have yet to be fully established.

This Conference will bring together human service practitioners, scholars, agency heads and policymakers in parenting, mental health and education to examine how best to support healthy parenting, as well as to introduce the latest knowledge and best practices from around the world.  To ensure a broad and balanced perspective, the Conference will feature local and international academics and parenting specialists, as well as parents and young people from the general public.  Parents, educators and health and social care professionals are also welcome.

Background

Parents face the burden of supporting their children throughout various stages of development, such as early childhood, school age and adolescence not to mention the pressure to become the perfect parents. The importance of strong social support in enabling the healthy development of our children and young people is well established. Yet, relationship building and nurturing between parents and children and adolescents, the connection between parenting, family life and the policy-making process received relatively little attention.

The wellbeing of young people is also a major public health concern, with recent World Health Organisation data indicating that suicide is now one of the top three causes of death in adolescents. As a consequence, the spotlight amongst advocates for mental health has turned to education, which is the area that has perhaps the most influence over the lives of young people. Concerns have been raised about the emphasis on standardized testing and narrow examination methods that can heap anxiety and stress on our children early on and on our young people.

All these pressures do not exist within a bubble. With an uncertain economic environment, the ever-changing and constant innovation of information communication technologies, and an increasingly globalized world, the pressures facing parents are phenomenal. Today’s parents need to not only nurture the development of their children in a rapidly changing world, but also to interact with increasingly complex education and health services. These issues present new questions and challenges for educators, human service professionals and policymakers.

The Conference

The conference is being proposed for October 2016 as a two and half-day event at the Centennial Campus of The University of Hong Kong. Key goals for the event will be the facilitating of knowledge exchange between stakeholders, and the identification of shared priorities for human service development and policymaking. To this end, and to ensure a balanced and well-rounded discussion, the conference will involve local and international professionals, as well as contributions from parents and young people.

Each day of the conference will be themed around a different stage or aspect of parenting, with keynote speeches from leading experts, and breakout sessions to facilitate sharing and interaction. These are being designed to offer value to policymakers, educators, human services professionals, social workers and parents. Pre-conference readings and short video clips will also be provided to delegates to help prepare them for the event and to support positive outcomes.

Critical Issues for Discussion
How is parenting affecting the healthy development of children?
How are the various stages of childhood development being impacted by changing economic, social, political and technological environments? What is the function of parents in the 21st century?
How does current policy involving parenting look? Where are the policy gaps?
How can different models of parenting inform social welfare and healthcare practices and policy priorities, and what can we learn from the frontier research in neuroscience and longitudinal studies?
What are the main challenges facing parents in special-consideration populations (such as children with disabilities, socio-economically deprived background and different types of parenting arrangement)?
Envisioned Outcomes
A snapshot of the most up-to-date research, practice-wisdom, guidance and policies concerning parenting in the 21st century.
Structured activities to facilitate knowledge exchange and service development concerning parenting.
Persuasive and balanced arguments and opinions on policy priorities, as a result of participation from all sides of the discussion (professionals, educators, parents and young people).
Leadership

With both Western and Eastern influences, Hong Kong is widely regarded as a hub for interdisciplinary knowledge transfer and for international conferences and events. Jointly organising the conference are the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, the Faculty of Social Sciences (Strategic research theme- public policy [mental health]) and the Department of Social Work and Social Administration of The University of Hong Kong.

Founded in 1870, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGHs) was initially established as a Chinese medicine hospital with a mission of providing free medical treatments and medicines. Due to incomplete welfare policies of the colonial government, TWGHs provided not only medical services, but also free education, free funeral services and emergency aids to the Chinese. In 1931, Tung Wah Hospital, Kwong Wah Hospital and Tung Wah Eastern Hospital amalgamated to form the “Tung Wah Group of Hospitals”, a name has been in use since then, under the management of a single Board of Directors.

With rapid population growth and social changes in Hong Kong, services provided by TWGHs has been evolving, expanding to 292 service centres in 2015-16, covering Chinese and Western medical and health care, education and community services, taking care of various community needs from the cradle to the grave. Now the Group has more than 14,000 employees and an annual operation expense in excess of 6 billion Hong Kong dollars.

The organization has 205 community services centres (2015-16) across Hong Kong, serving the elderly, children, youth and families and person with special needs and disabilities.

The Faculty of Social Sciences is a leading provider of social sciences learning in Asia, strives to attract and nurture outstanding scholars in the social sciences from around the world through excellence and innovation in teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange. Over the last 60 years, the Department of Social Work and Social Administration has grown to become the largest academic department in the Faculty of Social Sciences; has kept the social work education at the forefront of the changing social welfare landscape and is committed to improving the quality of life of people in Hong Kong and the region.

Highlights of the Conference
Youth Participation
Family and Youth Participatory Activity
Self-care Activity
Innovations and Inspirations
Cutting edge knowledge