By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Sunday December 1, 2019
In this summer edition of Community Connect, we talked to Kaiya about her engagement and experience with the nationally recognised voluntary Family Start programme, delivered throughout Otago.
Family Start is a home visiting programme that is available for expectant mums or whānau who are struggling with challenges that may make it harder for them to care for their baby or young child. Whānau Worker Cathy describes the work of Anglican Family Care as supporting families to find their strengths and work through solutions; enhancing the parent-child bond, supporting parent’s confidence to help ensure their child’s safety and positive health, developmental and educational outcomes.
Kaiya’s pregnancy came as a complete surprise. “It was very early into the relationship with my partner at the time and we were only starting to get to know each other,” said Kaiya. Both new to Dunedin, and without any immediate family support systems, or local knowledge of community support services, the situation left them both feeling overwhelmed. “It was a difficult pregnancy with some health challenges along the way, but it was through the good support of my midwife who referred us to Anglican Family Care’s Family Start programme that made such a positive difference to our journey as new parents.”
Initially, Kaiya and her partner weren’t sure if they had the capacity to join the programme so were very relieved when in the ninth month of their pregnancy, they decided to meet Whānau Worker Cathy; and quickly realised, they really needed support to prepare for their baby.
“It’s important to build rapport and a trusting supportive relationship. Trust is a huge part of what we do as we work alongside families,” Cathy said.
“We didn't have any family support in Dunedin and didn’t know anything about babies and their development. When Breezsha was born, I was also experiencing problems with breastfeeding and felt like an epic failure. Cathy took me along to a community health centre to help me with breastfeeding, I was socially anxious, and she held our hand as a family. It was like having another mother figure, guiding us through each step of the way,” reflects Kaiya.
“Before Breezsha developed a new skill, Cathy educated us about the developmental milestones and what to expect. It helped us to understand what was happening with our baby and gave us more confidence to get on with parenting, and decision making. Even if Cathy didn’t have the immediate answers, she would research them for us. She even brought us lovely (donated) woollen hand-knitted cardigans and jumpers for Breezsha, which were so much appreciated, especially in the cooler months.”
Kaiya and her partner separated when Breezsha was six months old and their Whānau Worker helped both parents to raise a child in two separate households. They were put in touch with a parenting programme that supports parents to focus on the well-being of the children through a separation. “What was so special was that Cathy continued to support not just me but Breezsha’s Dad too,” reflected Kaiya.
Cathy had a trusting relationship with both parents. “It’s really important for the child that where possible both parents are supported, in order for them and their children to thrive. Supporting parents to negotiate the transition between separate homes, to ensure that the well-being of their child is the focus and that they provide consistent care is key.”
Confidence and managing discipline with their child were areas that both parents were struggling with. Kaiya recalls that being reassured that you’re not completely failing – especially with your first child was important. “The more confident you get with your parenting, the more secure you are with your decision making.”
“Everyone needs a cheerleader, often we are that cheerleader for both the child and parents, highlighting strengths, supporting parenting confidence and inspiring hope for a better future for both the parents and children. It's just wonderful seeing families thrive and grow and connect with their children,” said Cathy.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Family Start service, from getting me support for my anxiety and mental health challenges, teaching valuable parenting techniques to simply reaffirming that we are doing ok. Family Start has helped us to ensure Breezsha’s development was on point by providing resources so we could identify the milestones. We learnt about windows and when your child becomes interested in something you should jump on it,” Kaiya said.
Kaiya is now studying full-time. “As a full-time student, I would not have been able to keep on studying if it wasn’t for Family Start. I believe the programme should be available to all new parents.”
Referrals to Family Start can be made by parents themselves, healthcare and legal professionals or other community workers.