Research carried out over a number of years provides a consistent picture of the experiences and needs of parents of disabled children. Recent studies, based on models of stress and coping, have identified factors which relate to high or low levels of parental distress. Whilst this research can provide useful information for service development, there appears to have been little change over the years in parents' reports of unmet need. It is clear that parental need covers a wide range of aspects of family life and holistic models of service support are required. Although evaluation studies which identify models of services that can change this situation are few, there are positive examples of models of support. The paper reviews the findings of such evaluation and identifies a number of important characteristics of effective service models.