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Parenting programmes can reduce risk of child maltreatment

Effective parenting programmes can reduce risk of child maltreatment

A comprehensive report released by the Families Commission finds effective parenting programmes are a key way to reduce the risk of maltreatment of vulnerable children.

Families Commissioner Belinda Milnes says there is urgent need to reduce the high number of vulnerable children in New Zealand who are at risk of harm now or in the future. One solution is to help parents of vulnerable children better care for and nurture their children.

“This is a complex environment and these families don’t live in silos. They are often grappling with a mix of issues including drug and alcohol abuse, family violence or maternal depression.”

Ms Milnes says, “This authoritative report by the Families Commission tells us that parenting programmes can bring about positive changes in parenting, child health and child behaviour, helping to reduce some of the parental risk factors associated with child maltreatment.

“Not surprisingly, the report finds there is no silver bullet - no single programme meets the complex needs of all families. But it does identify the common elements that make for an effective parenting programme and how to successfully implement them.”

The report reviewed current New Zealand parenting programmes, including those for Māori and Pacific people, and looked at international evidence to identify what works and what doesn’t. It identifies parenting programmes available in New Zealand that are effective at preventing maltreatment or addressing the risk factors that may lead to maltreatment.

The report also looks at what can be done to improve parenting programmes so they are more effective in addressing the needs of parents of vulnerable children. Key findings include:
- How a programme is implemented can be as important to child, parent and family outcomes as what is implemented;

- Engaging and retaining parents in programmes is critical; the report recommends ways to achieve this;

- A more systematic and rigorous approach to evaluation and implementation is needed to better understand if New Zealand parenting programmes are working and if not, to put in place a process to improve them;

- Further work is also needed to identify what works for parents with multiple, complex needs; we need evidence based programmes to address issues such as alcohol and drug use, family violence and mental health difficulties.

The Families Commissioner says the report contributes to the body of evidence needed to improve results for vulnerable children, as part of the Children’s Action Plan. This evidence is already being used by government to ensure they are designing, implementing, and funding effective programmes. The Families Commission will be working with the Ministry of Social Development and other agencies to work through the findings of the review in light of parenting programmes currently purchased.

“While the Families Commission does not deal directly with these children or their families, we are part of the answer. Our role is to increase the use of evidence, and engage with decision makers so they can make well-informed decisions.”

The Families Commission works with government, local government and NGOs to give them best-practice evidence about what works so they can strengthen their programmes.

The Families Commissioner says, “I am proud of this robust quality research from the Families Commission. Our work in this area does not stop here. We are engaged with those who fund, make or deliver parenting programmes to use this work, as collectively we endeavour to make a difference for these children and their families.”

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