By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Monday December 14, 2020
Family Start is a free home visiting programme that provides support to expectant parents, and parents of newborn and young children. We asked two clients to tell us about each of their experiences of the programme.
It was during her first pregnancy when Siobhan was referred to Anglican Family Care (AFC) in North Otago. Whānau Worker Becky recalls when she met with Siobhan for the first time, it was clear that, as she hadn’t resolved any of the negative impacts from her childhood and further into adolescence, multiple challenges needed to be worked through to help her embark on a journey to be a capable sole parent. One of her goals was to live independently – as at the time she was living at home with her grandparents.
Siobhan, a single mother, knew that she had to make major changes in her life to have her son in her care. Little did she know that she was on a pathway that would give her hope and inspiration for a future that she never dreamed was possible.A Family Start Whānau Worker usually begins to support babies and their parents or caregivers early – often before the baby’s birth or in his or her first year.The Family Start team work alongside other agencies and use a multi-disciplinary approach. To support Siobhan’s well-being and address the psychological challenges that were impacting every area of her ability to move forward as a mother, wrap-around support of multiple agencies; including counselling were fundamental to the success of Siobhan’s journey. “It was clear that without getting Siobhan’s mental health under control, she wouldn’t be open to change,” said Becky.
“I was using alcohol and drugs on a daily basis to hide my emotions,” Siobhan told us. “Having the support of Becky helped me to become a good mother and get my priorities straight by guiding me in the right direction. I was also put in touch with other community services that were able to support me as well.”
After the birth of her son Arlo, the journey was not easy, and as a short-term intervention, Arlo was taken out of Siobhan’s care.
Becky explained, “At times the situation was dissentious, and there were many difficult conversations along the way, however, together we slowly worked through solutions so that mother and son were able to live again together. Ultimately, it’s about how much a person wants to change that is the key to a client’s success. And Siobhan’s story is indeed a success story.”
Over a two-and-a-half-year journey, Siobhan has completely turned her life around, she now owns her own home, has a fiancé, and works part-time (while her fiancé works full-time). Arlo is enrolled in an early childhood centre and has free swimming lessons with thanks to the support of the local community. Reflecting on her journey, Siobhan now recognises that despite her resistance at the time, her grandparents made huge sacrifices and did the very best for her and Arlo, for that she is extremely grateful.
With any change, there is a natural tendency to resist and revert to old ways. The strength of the relationship between a client and Whānau Worker is key. Siobhan’s journey is an example that having the right support, personal inner strength, determination, and resilience, can help to pave the way to positive change and a future that is bright and purposeful.
Naoko was first referred to the AFC Family Start programme by her friend who was worried that she had little support in the community when her unborn child had been diagnosed with a serious health condition. Although Naoko is strong, independent, and able to advocate well for herself, her friend knew she would need support particularly as she did not have any family living in New Zealand and English was her second language.
Naoko had lived in the area for some time but she had little experience of the services available to her from pregnancy and because of her baby’s health needs. Whānau Worker, Rebecca supported her to navigate her way through the many parts of the health system and advocated for her voice to be heard, particularly given the language difference. This included making sure there was good communication between professionals and endeavouring to strengthen the relationships that Naoko had with them.
Rebecca was able to ensure Naoko had financial help including travel assistance grants as specialist appointments and hospital admissions were outside of the area. Her baby’s condition meant a long stay in hospital to monitor mother and baby’s progress before and after birth.
Adequate and stable housing was an ongoing issue for this family as they moved several times in baby’s first year. Rebecca assisted Naoko in a public housing application and four months later they secured a house to move into.
Rebecca was also able to arrange furniture for the house with another social service agency and they now have warm and stable housing, which is important to Naoko’s child’s health needs.
This regular support and consistent relationship from Rebecca helped reduce some of the stress Naoko was managing and allowed her to focus on her relationship with her baby.
As a professional, it has been rewarding for Rebecca to see the close bond develop between mother and baby, and to see the child flourish alongside her ongoing health needs.
Naoko says, “(because) I have no family here, Rebecca is like family support, it’s good to have somebody to talk to about worries. Without her, I didn’t know (what was available to us).” She recommends AFC to other families as they were a “big support” to her family.
Our Whānau Workers are committed to working alongside families, advocating, affirming, and supporting parents in making positive choices for themselves and their children. A Family Start Whānau Worker will work together with you; one on one, at your pace, at your place.
They help you to get the right health care for your child, support you to keep your child safe, explain how your child is growing and changing at different ages, and help you work out what you want to achieve, change or improve.
You can be referred to Family Start by a healthcare professional or community worker, or you can refer yourself.
Call 0800 FAM CARE (0800 326 2273) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about Family Start.