"No matter what happened to my family, my whnau worker was there to support me."

By Lucy Summers | Posted: Tuesday November 28, 2017

Charles, a father of one son, signed up to Family Start without any idea of how much of a valuable start it would give his family.

“I thought that I would have occasional visits with check-ups and meal advice. Instead they helped me adjust to so many of the daily tasks and needs that my child required.”

“At the time those tasks seemed daunting and overwhelming – a standard of parenting that I would never live up to. But with encouragement and helpful tips I became more confident, until those tasks were second nature. What Family Start provided was so much more valuable to me than just a start. A start helps you take the first steps before leaving you to it. Family Start is a comprehensive system of support that guides you as you develop your parenting skills.”

“That difference became deeply important to me as my son grew up and I realised that being a parent requires learning a new set of skills every couple of months.”

“The thing about kids and families is that they aren’t static. They change constantly, demanding a new set of skills and providing a new set of challenges. That’s another reason why Family Start has been so valuable to me. No matter what happened to my family as my son grew up, my whānau worker was there to support me in one way or another.”

“Their support helped with the small things like the thousand burning questions I had as a new parent: Is it ever ok to let your child cry? How long should time-out go for? Am I feeding my child enough? Am I feeding my child too much? How much should I worry about fussiness over vegetables? How can I model stress management well?”.

“Their support also helped with the bigger problems. When my son fell off the weight scale, they helped with meal plans. When my relationship with my partner struggled, they found us counselling. When our relationship ended, they helped with limiting the effects on my son. When I forgot to take my family out to places they showed up with event tickets that he would enjoy. When I was hospitalised they checked that I had the support systems I needed in place. And when I became too focused on the joint tasks of raising a child, completing a PhD, and working part time jobs, they were there to remind me that I also needed to stop and take care of myself. Families and kids change constantly and Family Start is great because they provide support for the whole family that adapts to your needs.”

He goes on to say, “I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve had generous support from a few different people. They are essential supports in my life which enable me to be a good parent. But I also value the regular and informed advice, tips, and interactions that Family Start provides.”

“It’s hard to know what my life would have been like without Family Start’s support and advice. I may have dropped out of my studies because of the workload. My son may have been badly impacted by the separation of his parents. I may have done a poor job of parenting without someone around who knew the milestones to look for. My son may have not gone to day care for some time longer and missed out on the amazing social interaction that I couldn’t provide from home. I may have ended up in court over care disputes instead of the co-parenting arrangement we have.”

“But the thing is, I have been lucky. I don’t have to worry about the many different ways that parenting or my life could have gone wrong because I had Family Start. And Family Start is valuable because ‘start’ doesn’t cover all the services and assistance which the whānau workers provide. Yes they are Family Start but they are also family support. They are family care and development. They are family comfort. They are family guides. And they are as valuable to me as the rest of my family.”

Find out more about Family Start by calling 0800 FAM CARE or 03 477 0801 or email enquiries@familycare.org.nz