Anglican Family Care was established in 1970 by the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia (Diocese of Dunedin) and the Methodist Church in New Zealand, to meet a need for family support and counselling in the Dunedin area. The Anglicans had a tradition of orphanage care and late foster care, whereas the Methodist’s emphasis was on emergency services and crisis support. In the late 1960’s it was decided to set up a joint organisation to deal specifically with the needs of families.
The organisation first began with one social worker from a room in the Anglican Diocese in Lower Stuart Street and in 1970 began operating from a room at the Methodist Mission building in the Octagon. At this stage there was one paid worker and one volunteer, which by 1972-73 had grown to a Director, social worker and one dedicated office person. Demand for services grew and by 1977 the Agency had two social workers and two office staff and had moved into its own premises in Lower Stuart Street. The organisation was very much practical and hands-on, providing emergency help with food and clothing, foster care, counselling and some work with the elderly.
In 1977, the arrangement was formalised in the Anglican-Methodist Family Care (AMFC) Agreement, and the organisation was registered as an Incorporated Society under the Incorporated Societies Act, 1908. Significant growth occurred from about this time, with the development of the Thursday Group, an activity and social group of isolated families and individuals who benefited from a weekly lunch-discussion meeting. This extension into the community led to AMFC becoming involved in and actively supporting a Community House in Stenhope Crescent and from 1981 until 1984 a similar house in the Pine Hill community.
Work expanded steadily in response to community demand and programmes were initiated to meet community needs. Some projects operated within a predetermined time frame, others grew and changed as economic policies and restructuring altered in the community context.
During the early 1980’s the Home-Based Family Support programme was set up to provide support in the home for families under stress. A detached Youth Worker became involved with “street kids” and AMFC operated in partnership with Maori Community workers who shared its premises.
The concept—developed by Bronfenbrenner and others—of community networks and their impact upon children’s present and future environments underlay the expansion in the mid-1980’s of AMFC’s work into personal and community services.
As unemployment rose in Dunedin and surrounding areas during this period, the need for community support—particularly for women and children—became more evident, and the increasing social isolation of persons on low incomes was more apparent. AMFC’s flexible approach enabled it to build upon and support small community initiatives, and to provide continuity and specialist back up in difficult situations and emergencies. In the past, services offered included the development of programmes in the community, e.g. Stenhope Crescent and Pine Hill community houses, Caversham SPAN (for older people) and other parenting courses. The Wide Horizons recreation programme for 'at risk' children began at this time.
The development of work beyond Dunedin and into the Otago region grew out of community concerns expressed in the mid 1980’s in response to requests from local churches and as a result of community needs assessment. Two staff began working in Cromwell in the mid 1980’s, providing home-based family support during that town’s time of turmoil. The work expanded with changes in the Central Otago community and three additional staff supported by a family therapist were appointed. In 1993-94 a community need for support services in East Otago and the South Otago areas was identified as the result of needs assessments performed. A worker was appointed in East Otago and two in the South Otago area.
A number of significant milestones have focused our work as it is today:
- In 1994 AMFC was approved as a Child and Family Support Service under the Children and Young Persons Act, 1989. The Agency then had the ability to bring children into long term care, and did so, in addition to respite care arrangements. Arrangements for the permanent care of children have not continued as the complexity and cost of this work exceeded our capacity to sustain it
- In 2000, AMFC secured the Family Start contract from the Ministry of Social Development, and worked this together with the Whanau Family Aiga Board. This doubled the size of the staff and capacity of AMFC, and an enormous amount of work went into setting up the new Family Start programme. We were one of the first sites in New Zealand to run the Family Start programme
- 2003 was a big year of continuing change, with the death of Losalia Nielson-Mamea, the first Manager for Family Start, in May 2003. In August of 2003, Catherine Goodyear retired, and Nicola Taylor was appointed as the third Director of AMFC
- In 2005 the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin and the Methodist Mission parted ways on good terms, and the agency assumed the name Anglican Family Care Centre
- Bishop George Connor worked closely with the Board of Directors and staff in the following months to formulate the values of the new agency, incorporating the fine balance between the codes of ethics of social work and counselling and the Christian values of the Anglican Church. The values continue to inform and guide our work
- In 2008 the Bath Street premises were refurbished and staff were housed temporarily in the Unity Chambers upstairs. The Family Start team were located at Radio Otago House at that time
- Family Start was expanding across New Zealand, with the original 12 sites growing to 32
- In 2010 we celebrated our 40th birthday, and Julia Stuart began work on the agency history, aiming to have it completed by the 50 year mark—2020. Anne Turvey and Jane Jones have made significant contributions to this project
- In 2012 a decision was made to locate all staff at Bath Street, and to restructure the management team. The structure which reflected Government contracts was changed to capture roles and functions—'Business' and 'Practice'. The food bank space was used as offices and the Salvation Army offered to assist us with the logistics of food storage and handling, while we continued to see our own clients to assess their needs. By this time we had decided to give food only to those families with children in their care. The Diocese has always given huge support with donations to the food bank, and the wider Dunedin community has also been very supportive. We continue to work very closely with the other Dunedin food banks, running the Combined Christmas food bank each year at Christmas.
- The Social Workers in Schools (SWiS) programme was first set up in 2000, and grew with the addition of a second position in 2005. The configuration of the SWiS delivery changed with the review of Dunedin schools, and we now provide support to 6 schools in Dunedin.
- Our rural services have continued to operate in Central and South Otago and in 2011 one Supervisor (now Team Leader) based in Balclutha assumed responsibility for both sites.
- We continue to work closely with the national networks, the Family Start National collective, the Anglican Care Network, and the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services.
- In 2014 a major organisational review was done, to reflect the need to work more closely with the wider community, in raising our profile and seeking funding in addition to our government funding. The Community Relationships Team and Business Support Teams were formed. Some very long-standing staff left the Agency, including Lynnette Campbell, Lyn Williams and Angela McCrae. A review of the ICT capability of the agency, done early 2014; and the review of our strategic direction had highlighted the need for change.
- Hilary Allison stepped down as Board Chair at the AGM of 2014, after 14 years on the Board and Jim Hawker became Board Chair.
- In March of 2015 we left Bath Street, where we had been based since 1977 and moved to our new premises at 266 Hanover Street. Our new office is a more spacious and suitable working environment, although we do miss the inner city cafés.
- In 2016 we launched two new programmes in 0amaru. Family Start and OCEANS Grief and Loss Programme