A Journey Through Parenting

By Anglican Family Care | Posted: Sunday February 5, 2023

Brooke first heard about Family Start through her partner at the time, who was receiving support from the programme delivered by Anglican Family Care.

When she became pregnant with Lachlan, Brooke welcomed the opportunity to start her own journey with Family Start’s parenting programme as a new young mum.

Brooke told us that when she first got involved with her whānau worker - Lisa, it was at a particularly bad time in her life. “My relationship was unstable with [my] baby’s dad, and I couldn’t be totally honest about my situation or my feelings with anyone.” It was only when the relationship with her son’s father ended, that Brooke was able to openly connect with Lisa, and start finding her way.

Whānau worker Lisa explains, “Relationship building is an important part of the Family Start journey and is the foundation for meaningful progress. Brooke initially didn’t share what was going on in her life and needed to see this for herself and accept that change needed to happen and to have trust in me, so I could walk alongside her on the path she chose. We genuinely want the best for our families so while trust can take time, it usually eventuates. It is also important for a good ‘fit’ between a whānau worker and the family they support.”

“My mental health wasn’t good,” reflected Brooke. “I wasn’t coping at all and was making bad choices such as abusing alcohol. Lisa helped me open my eyes, and see my self-worth, she assisted me with safety plans, provided me with relationship strategies and pointed out any red flags that were triggering my negative behaviour. If it wasn’t for Family Start and Lisa’s support, I wouldn’t be here today!”

Being independent with both a good work and home life balance is important to Brooke. In Lachlan’s early years, her whānau worker was able to assist with strategies so she could achieve this, while still being a good mum to her son.

Whānau worker Lisa says, “Our service is voluntary, so families willingly invite us into their homes. Goals and changes are self-determined by the families themselves. Our priority is the child’s best interests. Because parents want this too, it means we both have the same goal. If changes are going to benefit the parents, the child will benefit also.”

“Stress was a risk to Brooke’s overall wellbeing. She has an amazing work ethic. When she was doing well, she tended to overload herself with commitments. While employment was intended to alleviate financial stress, it sometimes added other stressors with Lachlan in childcare and reacting to the changes; and Brooke fatigued which led to health issues. I highlighted this for Brooke and goals focused on a work-home balance. I checked in when she took on new commitments to ensure this was manageable for her.”

Three years on and Brooke is now studying through Otago Polytechnic towards her NZ Diploma of Business and Management, and last year graduated and obtained a certificate in Business Administration Level 3. “My whānau worker helped me to set goals and supported me to keep striving to achieve those goals.”

“It’s wonderful to hear the progress that Brooke is making with her ongoing parenting journey and with her studies.” Lisa: Family Start – Whānau Worker.

When Lachlan was almost 3 years old, Brooke was referred through to the Home-based Family Support (HBFS) parenting programme offered by Anglican Family Care near the end of her time with Family Start. This programme supports whānau and their tamariki aged between 0 and 17 years where there may be challenges impacting the well-being of tamariki and their whānau. In Brooke’s case, she transitioned to HBFS to help with problems that were impacting Lachlan’s behaviour.

Lachlan (aged approx 1 year old) and Brooke tying up Lachlan's shoes — Image by: Anglican Family Care

Social Worker, Maddie, explains how Brooke has been extremely motivated and focused on achieving her goals.

“A large part of our work together has been facilitating her journey on the Circle of Security (CoS) Parenting Programme. As we have progressed through this programme, there have been some challenging and sometimes confronting ideas discussed. Brooke has done an amazing job at connecting with the course material and sharing examples of how it relates to her own parenting style. She’s open and interested in discussing new strategies and ways of viewing what can be seen as challenging behaviour from her toddler. Through my time working with Brooke, it’s easy to see she’s a very caring and compassionate person who always takes care of those around her. At times I have had to remind her to make sure she is taking the time to look after her own self-care as well. Brooke is an awesome mum, the CoS Parenting Programme has given her additional tools to keep in her kete to help with the everyday challenges of being a parent.”

Based on attachment theory, CoS is an evidence-based intervention driven by years of attachment research, focusing on strengthening the connection between the parent and te tamaiti.

Maddie identified that Lachlan wasn’t getting a full night’s rested sleep, which was potentially affecting his behaviour, and worked with Brooke to change his bedtime routine.

“It was a never-ending cycle. My son was getting overtired to the point where at the weekends he was so frustrated, his reactions were uncontrollable, and he would become violent,” said Brooke.

With the situation spiralling out of control, Brooke was at her wit’s end, and it was negatively impacting the relationship with her son.

Brooke’s journey is an example of how social work intervention together with attachment-based principles can help parents repair their relationship with their child(ren) as she learned how to respond to her son’s unmet needs.

“It’s quite unbelievable the positive impact through changing my response and adjusting his bedtime routine has made on our lives,” Brooke told us. “We now finish tea by 5pm, have time to play before his bath, then a bedtime story and Lachlan quickly settles and is asleep by 6.30pm, which gives me time to study at night, and I have an hour to myself in the morning to get ready for the day.”

Image by: Anglican Family Care

“With Maddie’s support and CoS, it has helped me look at parenting in a completely different way. Instead of thinking my child just needs attention, I learnt that he was actually sending me a message and it’s how I respond that results in his good or bad behaviour. It’s changed everything.”

By understanding and applying the principles of CoS, Brooke has seen a complete change in her son (and herself), as his outbursts of anger and frustration have stopped. She has been able to approach her parenting style in a different way, rather than assuming Lachlan was being naughty at bedtime, she adjusted their evening routine which has brought about positive changes that are profoundly life-changing for both mother and child.

“I would totally recommend (AFC’s) parenting programmes to any parent who is struggling. There is no judgement, they listen and give you advice – you just need to be open to change, if I wasn’t [open] I probably wouldn’t have Lachlan in my care today. I know that the words ‘social services’ can make anyone nervous, my advice is don’t be afraid, the workers are actually there to support and help you.”

The icing on the cake for Brooke is receiving an offer of another home. “It’s a lovely house, in a friendly neighbourhood and it’s warm. I’m so grateful to all the support I have received. My motivation in sharing my story is to encourage other [single] parents who need it to get help. You really don’t have to struggle on your own, non-judgemental, and practical support is out there.”

Photos supplied by client