Family Help Trust secures 2 years funding from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeals Trust.

December 2013

Family Help Trust has recently secured generous funding from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust to continue its work with vulnerable families coping with on-going earthquake stress. Administered by the Department of Internal Affairs, the trust has allocated $52,500 to FHT for each of the next two years to help parents and caregivers manage and improve child behaviour in those families burdened by quake-related anxiety and depression. Since the Christchurch earthquakes the demand for social services has increased.  Almost three years post-earthquake psychosocial issues continue to emerge, particularly for children and their families who are proving to be vulnerable to increased levels of long term stress, behavioural and emotional disturbance, and psychiatric illness after disasters. We will now be able to fund a full time social worker for two years to work on our Vulnerable Infants programme.  We established this programme last year  working with parents/caregivers and their children in response to the increased family stress seen within our FHT families.

Family Help Trust wins in the 2013 Champion Canterbury Business Awards.

October 2013

CCA0047-Sig-Fin-S-CharityThe awards, celebrating business excellence in Canterbury, cover a wide range of different categories. At a gala awards dinner on 2 October, attended by 1100 people, FHT was named the winner in the Small Enterprise - Charity category, which recognises organisations with fewer than 15 full time employees. Congratulations to all other finalists, particularly to Coastguard and Pillars, the other two finalists in the Small Enterprise - Charity category. Thanks to the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce for organising such a wonderful event, thanks to all FHT’s supporters over the years for helping to make FHT what it is, and special thanks to the families FHT works with for having the courage to invite us into their lives.

White Paper for Vulnerable Children

October 2012

New Zealanders want to know what action is being taken to protect children and when each milestone will be achieved. The Children’s Action Plan provides this framework. It is a living document that will continue to evolve as New Zealanders work together to achieve the fundamental changes contained in the White Paper for Vulnerable Children. The Government consulted the public on what changes were needed; New Zealanders contributed through the Green Paper and the Government has made those decisions in the White Paper. Now the Children’s Action Plan provides an opportunity for New Zealanders to have a say on how these changes are implemented. It is that on-going consultation that will continue to give life to this document which will be updated regularly. The Children’s Action Plan sits behind the White Paper which targets vulnerable children who are at risk of harm now or in the future. It contains comprehensive solutions to complex problems. The White Paper solutions include legislative changes, information sharing, tracking vulnerable children, tougher penalties for and monitoring of child abusers, screening those who work with children, a free child protect phone line, public awareness campaigns, local children’s teams and shared responsibilities for all New Zealanders. Every time the Children’s Action Plan is updated, it will be reissued in a new colour so it’s easy to recognise the latest, most up to date version as we progress through the plan. This is New Zealand’s Children’s Action Plan.

Download Whitepaper Volume 1
Download Whitepaper Volume 2

Mother and Baby Prison Units in the US and the UK

Winston Churchill Fellowship report by Libby Robins.

July 2012

Mothers and babies prison units have been operating in the United States since 1901 (Bedford Hills Nursery, New York) and up until the 1950s prison-based nursery programmes for children born in custody were common in correctional facilities across the country. Since this time, many have fallen to the vagaries of the political will of the day and by the early 1970s all but Bedford Hills had closed their nursery programmes.

However, with the increase of women being incarcerated, together with the growing understanding of the importance of the mother/infant relationship in determining positive child outcomes, prison nursery units in the United States are once more on the increase. >read more...

Child abuse prevention agency says banning parenthood unnecessary

June 2012

A Christchurch-based charity dedicated to preventing child abuse says the government should fully consider and invest in alternatives before implementing measures to ban abusive or neglectful parents from having children.

Chair of the Family Help Trust, Dr Annabel Taylor, said the drastic measures suggested are not an acceptable solution when intensive work with such parents has been shown to work.

“Suggestions that it is OK for us as a society to use the courts to remove the right of some to have children are problematic and defeatist. Do we actually and officially want to give up on people to such an extent and deem them totally incapable of change? That is the basis of these suggestions. When there are other approaches that have been proven to work, for more than 20 years, proceeding with such a drastic alternative is not acceptable,” she said.

The Minister of Social Development is reported today to have said that the government may introduce court-ordered sanctions to stop parents who have abused or killed a child from having more children. Dr Taylor said the Family Help Trust works with such people, and others from families facing multiple problems, to become effective parents.

“On in excess of 1000 cases over more than 20 years we have some amazing success stories with these families. We have shown via independent evaluation that it is possible for people to turn their lives around and become effective parents, even from the most hopeless of backgrounds. It is not easy, but it can be done, and with proven systems in place, in the hands of highly skilled social workers, it is possible to help even those parents in the most challenging circumstances. That has to be a better way than banning people from becoming parents,” she said.

The Family Help Trust is a Christchurch based charity that employs a team of seven skilled social workers. Supported by a mix of grants, charitable donations, corporate sponsorship and some Ministry of Social Development funding, it provides a long term early intervention home visitation programme in the homes of Canterbury infants at the greatest risk of child abuse, working with their parents to address the causes of family dysfunction.

Dr Taylor says legal sanctions to prevent parenthood are unnecessarily harsh, when less severe measures will prevent child abuse and neglect.

“Better resourcing programmes that are proven to help socially deprived families is more effective and morally acceptable than courts sanctioning individuals against parenthood.

“There are also other relatively simple and inexpensive measures that could be developed to help rectify New Zealand’s woeful child abuse statistics.

“All parents require support to bring up their children effectively. For some, because of their background, that need is greater and more complex than what most of us experience. Such people invariably want to be good parents, though they lack the skills to do so. Rather than banning them from parenthood, we need to look after them and work with them more effectively.

“Under the government’s green paper published last year, there is already an opportunity to improve information sharing on high risk mothers in the category the Minister refers to. A  first step would be to have an alert system for pregnant women who have killed, seriously abused or neglected children, and others with similar backgrounds. Our approach would be to assess carefully each situation in terms of safety and then work intensively with mother, baby and the wider whanau to ensure ongoing safety.

“There are a number of human rights issues here, as well as those around the biological capacity to have children. If there are no community measures to support parents who most require that acute support, that is a human right as well,” she said.

In an average year 10 New Zealand children die at the hands of family members. Families most likely to kill their children are beset by poverty, crime, fragile mental health, unemployment, lack of education, poor housing, drug abuse, and histories of violence and victimisation.

Around two per cent of the New Zealand population, or approximately 80,000 people, is estimated to fall into this ‘too hard basket,’ facing multiple and complex personal problems that hinder them from being effective parents.  

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