This article reports findings from a process and impact study of a residential early parenting centre programme in Australia. The programme supports parents with young children under the age of three, referred from health and child protection services. Multiple sources of data were used from interviews, focus groups, direct observations, observer notes and a parenting sense of competence questionnaire. Qualitative data were analysed using thematic analyses, and paired t-tests were used to test data from the questionnaire. Three themes emerged from thematic analysis of the qualitative data: engaging families, building parenting capacity and transitioning back to the community. Parents’ perceptions of parent competence improved significantly between admission and discharge for participating families. Detailed accounts of the way in which nurses work to achieve positive outcomes in relation to parenting confidence and satisfaction in the short term have provided useful insights into often taken-for-granted support processes in working with referred parents. The complexity of the nurses’ role and implications for nursing practice in residential parenting centres are discussed. Future research is warranted to determine longer-term benefits of this programme being delivered in a residential early parenting centre.