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Barker: Launch of the Parent Information Programme

Launch of the Parent Information Programme

Courts Minister Rick Barker launched the new Parent Information Programme this morning.

---------------------------------

Thank you Belinda for your introduction.

Welcome to Dr Cindy Kiro, the Children's Commissioner; Judy Turner, Deputy Leader of the United Future Party and Member of Parliament; Brian Gubb from the Family Courts Association, and the Family Court representatives from the original "Children in the Middle" programme in Auckland and Richard Wood, from the Ministry of Social Development.

I also extend a welcome to the parents who have helped in the development of the material, programme providers, officials from associated Government Ministries and Departments, the Ministry of Justice officials and all who have assisted in making this vision of a programme for parents a reality.

We have invited you here today to celebrate, with the Ministry of Justice, the development and introduction of a new service for New Zealand families.

The Information Programme for Parents, "How to Help Your Kids When You Separate", being officially launched today is one that has Government's full backing - both philosophically and financially.

We have committed over $6 million until 2009 and $1.7 million each year after that for this programme, which will be available free of charge to up to 15,000 parents per year with dependent children who are contemplating or undergoing separation.

We believe it is a sound investment in the future of our young people. And it fits very much with the Government's commitment to Strong Families, Safer Communities; and Healthy Confident Kids by providing tools to help parents at a time when they and their children are going through separation.

As everyone here today knows, family break up and separation can be traumatic and destructive for everyone involved. But it can be particularly distressing for the children.

The genesis of this initiative was Cabinet's agreement back in November 2004, to a package of Early Intervention proposals. These were intended as a government approach to provide vulnerable children with support to ensure they receive the best start in life; to enable them to maximise their potential. The Information Programme for Parents was included in this package and I'm delighted that it received budget approval.

Just under a year ago the Care of Children Act 2004 came into force and made some important changes to the laws dealing with:
·The guardianship of children
·Arrangements for the care of children, and
·Resolving disputes for the care of children

The Care of Children Act 2004 makes the welfare of children the most important priority. It emphasises that children should be consulted about decisions that affect them, that there should be continuity in the arrangements for their care, development and upbringing, and that there should be co-operation between parents and guardians and others who are involved in looking after the children.

The Ministry of Justice Information Programme for Parents is a tangible outcome from the introduction of that Act. We're not just talking about putting children first; we're providing tools to help parents achieve it.

So what is this Parent Information Programme designed to achieve?

We want to provide tools to inform parents about the things they can do to manage the effect of separation on their children.

As the supporting brochure you will see here today recognises, when there's a relationship break up, everyone in the family has to come to terms with many changes.

Separation is hard on the parents. But while the adults have their own issues, any children involved have feelings and emotions they may not be able to understand or deal with.

The Programme is structured to help parents who have separated, or who are in the process of separating, to understand their children's needs and to provide advice and guidance on helping themselves and their children through this time.

Research tells us a lot about how children react to separation and what helps and what harms. The psychologists and people involved in developing this programme are well aware that simple strategies put in place by parents can make a real difference for children.

The Programme aims to improve the maintenance of children's connections with both parents and their wider families in the event of parental separation.

Children want to know what is going on and like the opportunity to have a say.

The Programme - "How to Help Your Kids When You Separate" helps parents understand separation from the child's point of view - this can make a positive impact on how parents behave.

Another important part of the programme is to help parents understand the ways they can resolve disputes over the care of their children together.

We make no claim to have invented Parent Information Programmes. Programmes to educate parents and to prevent disputes escalating have been operating since the 1970s in family law jurisdictions in the United States, Canada, and more recently in the United Kingdom and Australia. In New Zealand the "Children In The Middle" programme was the starting point for what we are launching here today.

The evaluation of the "Children In The Middle" pilot showed parents had a greater knowledge about the impact of separation on their children. There was also evidence of improved parent communication, particularly in respect of conflict management, and there was an improvement in the children's behaviour and
well-being.

The programme is free and completely voluntary. We are making sure that as many people as possible who are in a position to recommend or refer parents to the programme encourage them to take up this opportunity.

The programme is being delivered across nearly 170 sites nationally by 41 experienced providers approved by the Ministry. The range of providers takes into account the diversity of family make-up and ethnicity in New Zealand today.

I would like to congratulate those involved in developing this Information Programme and those who worked so hard running the successful pilot, "Children in the Middle", which has run on the North Shore since February 2005.

Among a range of resources that have been developed to support the programme is a Parenting Plan Brochure.

Good parenting agreements or plans are key to the success of resolving disputes and the programme introduces a guide Parenting Plan for parents to take away and adapt to suit their circumstances.

Parents on completion of the programme will receive take-home resources, including a DVD in which families talk about their personal experiences of separation and the things which have made that journey easier for them.

It is with great pleasure that I launch this programme today. I leave you now with an excerpt from the programme DVD and the hope that whatever goes on in our lives, we put our children first.

Thank you.


ENDS

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