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Support for New Zealand Principals' Federation

Media Release
Sunday 29 May 2005

Support for New Zealand Principals' Federation

Christchurch social support agency, The Family Help Trust, supports today's comments made by the New Zealand Principals' Federation regarding at risk children.

The Federation has been reported as saying that once a child is out of immediate danger CYFS is not set up to do the long-term work required for children from dysfunctional families.

Trust Chairperson, Sally Thompson, says CYF's has a difficult job with budgetary constraints, and organisations like The Family Help Trust would like to be able to support them as much as possible. This time last year, there was a suggestion made by Government that established and successful social service agencies could assist the overworked Child Youth and Family department but the new pilot programme related to this offers a maximum of 3 months support which is not long enough, according to the Family Help Trust.

"Seeing the positive results of working with our families for up to 5 years, we feel three months is just too little time, it’s not even better than nothing. Although we are working with very young children (they are what we call the “primary client”), there are often older siblings in the same family and our work includes them too and we are seeing some very positive results in the older brothers and sisters,” she says.

A recent example of this is a 14 year old who has now returned to school after two years of no schooling. The Trust has been instrumental in turning the child’s life around.

Mrs Thompson says two of the main keys to the success of programmes run by the Family Help Trust, which helps at-risk children in high-risk families, includes getting in early, combined with a long term commitment to supporting these families and children.

"The dysfunction in many families is generational; it's learned by the children who themselves become parents and in turn make the same mistakes with their children and so on. Success in breaking this cycle comes from on going, effective support and changing learned behaviour from the inside - from within the family," she says.

"Our programme is long-term, home based and we focus on early intervention. Often we start with a family while the woman is pregnant," says Mrs Thompson.

The FHT chairperson is pleased the Government has earmarked money for some at-risk families in this year's budget but not the high-risk families the Trust works with. Sally Thompson says there’s another issue to consider as well.

"The spending must be targeted at agencies with a record of effectiveness. We are constantly evaluating our service both internally and using external independent evaluators. The results show excellent results with children in safer environments and the cycle of dysfunction being broken,”

Mrs Thompson says the most successful way to break the generational cycle of abuse and violence is to be a barrier at the top of the cliff - not an ambulance at the bottom.

“The Family Help Trust acts the barrier and the more the Government can focus on prevention rather than cure, then the better our chances are of helping these families and children most in need," Mrs Thompson says.

For more information, see www.familyhelptrust.org.nz


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