New Start Plus (Mothers and their babies in Prison Project)

In 2008 New Zealand passed new legislation that allowed infants to remain with their incarceration mothers up until the age of 2 yrs.   Using the paramountcy principle of the 'best interest' of the child this is an innovative piece of legislation that sits within the broad Corrections Act. 

The Family Help Trust, at the request of Christchurch Women's Prison, designed and began trialling a programme that same year.   In 2011, the Department of Corrections decided to tender for programmes for mothers and babies in both Auckland Correctional Facility and Christchurch and in 2012 Family Help Trust succeeded in gaining the contract for Christchurch.   The Auckland Programme will be administered by Presbyterian Support North.

New Start Plus is a one on one programme, focussing on the following key service objectives:

  1. To provide mothers with information, guidance and support through the pre-natal period. 
  1. To provide mothers with support to have an enjoyable breastfeeding experience.  
  1. To encourage mothers to express warmth and affection towards their growing child.
  1. To encourage mothers to recognise and respond to their child’s needs and behaviours.
  1. To encourage mothers to initiate positive social interactions and play with their child.
  1. To encourage the use of positive child rearing methods.
  1. To encourage mothers to provide consistent and predictable daily routines for their child.
  1. To encourage mothers to seek appropriate medical treatment and growth and development checks.
  1. To encourage mothers to provide nutritious first foods and monitor their child’s teeth care.
  1. To provide mothers with information that will ensure a safe environment for their child, including safety from family violence and abusive parenting.

Once the pregnant mother has been assessed by the prison as being appropiate for the infant to remain in the Mother and Baby Unit, a referral is made to Family Help Trust.   It is entirely possible for us to be visiting this mother for almost three years pre-release, and provided she is released into the Christchurch community area our service will continue beyond the wire until this target infant is 5 yrs old.  This allows us to continue to provide our 'business as usual' service in the community the same way as for new mothers who have not been incarcerated with their infant.

For those inmate mothers in the Unit who are being released into other regions, we are only able to provide the pre-release prison service while also attempting to find other suitable and effective services for post release support.  For the best possible outcome for both the prison mother and their their infant, an effective post-release through service is crucial.   For a client information brochure download here.

A internal report outling the results of three years of this programme is available for downloading here and is called Three years Work Mothers and Babies Prison Project  (July 2011)

In addition, to inform the implimentation of Mothers and Babies in Prison Project in Christchurch Womens prison, in 2011 Libby Robins, Director of Family Help Trust was awarded a fellowship to study Units internationally.  The resulting report was completed in 2012 and is titled "An investigative study into Mothers and Babies Prison Units" and was undertaken in the United States of America and the United Kingdom". The full report is available.  Download here