By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Wednesday June 3, 2020

Our services stretch the length and breadth of Otago; in this winter edition of Community Connect, we focus on our rural services and share both a young mum’s and a social workers’ experience, as they both reflect on how our parenting services help to foster positive change for whānau.

Natalya was 16 years old when she was referred to the Family Start programme in Oamaru by the local maternity service. She was worried and didn’t feel she was as confident as other new mums and felt judged because of her age.

Family Start Whānau Worker, Becky explains, “It was clear that Natalya always wanted to disprove some of the negative stereotypes that sometimes exist about young mums, and her determination to achieve the life that she wanted for her whānau before her baby had even arrived was simply incredible. She had a clear idea of the kind of home environment she wanted for her baby and the values that she wanted to instil in her child. Natalya told us that she felt that people saw her as just a child herself and this created some anxiety for her.”

“Through the support of my Whānau Worker Becky, I was able to develop my confidence as a parent and find solutions to help me cope as a young new mum.”

Image by: Anglican Family Care

“I had the privilege of working alongside Natalya and supporting her to set clear goals and take the necessary action to achieve these,” Becky said.

Through Becky’s guidance and support, Natalya began to understand the benefits of reading to your baby and started reading to him on a regular basis. “He chooses books over toys and it has helped increase his language skills”, said Natalya.

Through the Family Start Programme Natalya was supported to breastfeed her baby and learnt how important it is for your baby’s health. Child discipline is an area she admits is still a work in progress but is grateful to have the right tools to communicate with her son. “Instead of saying ‘no’ in response to his frustration, I now divert his attention by saying ‘gentle hands’ when he lashes out. I have also learnt about ‘safe sleep’ practices. Initially, I was scared when he was first born, scared of something happening to him. It was great having Becky by my side, someone to talk to for reassurance and to keep me sane”, reflects Natalya.

“I truly feel that because Natalya created a vision of the life that she wanted for her baby before he arrived, she was able to work hard to ensure that this vision came to life. We were able to link Natalya in with the services she would need to achieve the life she dreamed of for herself and baby, and provide reassurance and education to empower her to become the child-focused and protective mother that she is today,” said Becky.

“Having the support of my (Anglican Family Care) Whānau Worker has helped me to be the parent that I am. I feel that I might have slipped into the way that I was parented without them being there for me. I was scared that my childhood might rub off on my baby. The support I have received helped me paint a picture in my head of what I wanted for him. Once I had that, I wasn’t going to settle for anything less” said Natalya.Natalya is now 18 years old, and living in a flat with her partner, the father of their child and is about to sit her restricted driver’s licence.

“Everyone needs someone who will stand beside them and support them through whatever life throws at them.”

Family Start is a national programme, delivered by Anglican Family Care Whānau Workers, it helps whānau who are struggling with challenges or problems that may make it harder for them to care for their baby or young child.