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Early Intervention Key to Stemming Family Violence

Media Release March 28, 2006

Early Intervention Key to Stemming Family Violence

Get in while children are very young, work with parents within the family and change the home environment for the better.

That today from one of New Zealand’s leading social agencies, the Christchurch based Family Help Trust.

FHT Chair, Sally Thompson, says violence is a learned behaviour, one of what may be many, in dysfunctional families, and with a focus on effective, proven early intervention programmes, the cycle can be broken.

“We have worked with hundreds of families and more than a thousand children over the last five years. What we are seeing is a positive change in the home, facilitated by our social workers, which is creating a safer environment for children,” she says.

Sally Thompson says children don’t come with a manual and if a parent has not had the benefit of a safe, nurturing and supportive home environment themselves when they were growing up, there’s a good chance they may not have the knowledge or skills to do the best for their children.

“Effective early intervention has be put in place as soon as possible,” she says. “As children get older and reach nine, ten or eleven, the chances of changing learned behaviour is hugely reduced,”

Sally Thompson says the Trust acts as an effective barrier at the top of the cliff not an ambulance at the bottom. She adds that it is not enough to just provide early intervention services as ineffective services merely set families up to fail.

“Early intervention programmes must be shown to be effective, the providers must also have access to essential wider support services and be independently evaluated to show that the services are effective,” she says.

Sally Thompson says the effectiveness of the Trust’s programmes is supported by evidence gathered via systems and procedures, which are rigorously designed and research is regularly independently conducted.

The Trust works within a family home to break the cycle of dysfunction and violence in high-risk families while children are under five, younger or even while a woman is pregnant. Those families are referred to the Trust by groups including midwives and GP’s.

There are currently twelve families on the Trust's waiting list with more than 600 having been successfully supported and helped over the last 5 years.



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