From the desk of our General Manager, Mike Williams

By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Thursday April 16, 2020

Just over three weeks ago, Anglican Family Care (as with the rest of the country) had to respond to a rapidly changing landscape as the Government implemented its COVID-19 response. As most of our work with whnau and tamariki is done in their homes, and face to face, our staff needed to adapt quickly to a new way of working. And while we wait with some optimism to see what a potential change in the National Alert System might mean for us, the work goes on.

I have previously talked about the new normal - phone/video calls, texting, and emails temporarily replacing the usual home visit and helping our workers stay connected with those who need their support. Making this transition so much more manageable was our recently completed IT upgrade, which enabled us to arm our practice staff with data-enabled laptops and mobiles - essential tools in this way of working. The ability for our people to connect with the agency and each other remotely has been greatly assisted by the agency-wide implementation of Microsoft Teams. Such a significant and, as it turns out, extremely timely project. I am incredibly grateful to our loyal supporters who have helped us fund this critical IT project through donations and grants over the past 12 months. Thank you.

I would like to take a moment to thank our staff for their creativity and readiness to adapt to new ways of working as we continue supporting Otago families in what has fast become today’s normal. They are expanding their own personal and professional growth as they embrace different ways to connect with people. Here are a few observations from practice in how we have embraced technology, tweaked our approach, stayed in contact and kept our focus on our vision of strong, thriving and connected whānau and tamariki.

· Social Workers have delivered the Circle of Security Parenting Programme to two families through Zoom. Circle of Security is an internationally recognised Parenting Programme that focuses on the connections between the child and parent/caregiver that helps to strengthen the relationship

· We have had many examples of calm reassurance being offered to whānau over the phone or online, in many cases just encouraging them and helping to quell anxieties. For some this contact acts a safety net in a time where so much of daily life is so different and challenging.

· Our workers are noticing the extraordinary resilience that whānau are displaying - some have discovered strengths and capabilities they were not aware they possessed.

· Several families are reporting the positive impact on their babies and family wellbeing having both parents at home, which is helping to build stronger bonds and attachments.

· In North Otago, our team have encouraged families to order the SKIP resource ‘Tiny Adventure Activity Cards’ which are free and couriered directly to their homes. The cards have different activity suggestions, e.g. playdough recipes, arts and crafts. Another example of communities working together to support parents to engage with their children during the lockdown – helping to relieve boredom and strengthening attachments, while keeping the focus on the needs of the child.

Responding to any crisis, notwithstanding a worldwide pandemic, affords an opportunity at some point to reflect. For us at Anglican Family Care, I hope it has reiterated the values that underpin our agency and the work we all do. If there is to be a broader positive legacy from this time of uncertainty, I hope it is that we remember as a society how fundamentally important our human connectedness is and that we embrace kindness, empathy and compassion.

Stay safe, stay home and stay well.

Noho ora mai

Mike