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TOUGHLOVE urges more funding for Parent Support


For release: 23rd July 2014


TOUGHLOVE urges more funding for Parent Support


TOUGHLOVE has issued a challenge to all of New Zealand's political parties to state where they stand on helping parents of youth at risk.

The challenge comes just ahead of the organisation's thirtieth anniversary celebrations in Auckland on Friday 25th July (see details at end of release).

The gathering's guest speaker will be distinguished Auckland surgeon and one-time TOUGHLOVE organiser, Professor Pat Alley, who is Director Clinical Training with the Waitemata District Health Board.

"There's currently considerable awareness of unacceptable youth behaviour but very little attention paid to the impact such behaviour has on parents or to the role they should be playing in pulling young people back from the brink," says TOUGHLOVE's National Spokesperson, Peter Altmann.

"We're the only organisation in New Zealand specifically founded to help parents cope with youth at risk. During the last three decades, we've mentored and supported tens of thousands of mothers and fathers through the pain and disruption caused by their teens' behaviour.

"Although we're grateful for contracted funding from the Ministry of Social Development, there's a limit to the numbers of parents our tightly-budgeted, overwhelmingly volunteer-based organisation is able to assist without additional income.

"With the General Election just two months away, we'd like to know just what the various political parties are willing to do to help us perform our vital role in society," he says.

"It's a cause of concern that lack of resources prevents us helping every parent in need. Well-funded statutory organisations such as CYF, Police Youth Aid and schools (through their School Counsellors) recognise our expertise and send parents to us. We would really appreciate funding levels appropriate to that expertise and to the job we need to do," Mr Altmann adds.

Key to TOUGHLOVE's approach are weekly Parent Support Groups, which provide participants with both a sympathetic forum and the opportunity to learn and share effective and proven strategies for coping with youth at risk. Support groups are typically facilitated by parents who have themselves experienced such issues in their own immediate families.

Peter Altmann describes unacceptable teenage behaviour as a spectrum that can include violence, defiance, verbal abuse, bullying of siblings, truancy from school, promiscuity, drug or alcohol usage and compulsive gaming.

Also part of this spectrum are staying out all night, disappearing for days on end, trashing the family home, staying in bed all day, refusing to do homework and behaving in a disrespectful or manipulative manner.

"All these behaviours can be found across New Zealand, in every social, economic or educational quartile and across all sorts of family units, including nuclear families, single parent families, blended families and those with same-sex parents," says Mr Altmann.

"Those who can no longer reason with their teenage children typically suffer a massive loss of confidence. Shame, grief, stress, worry and embarrassment are also normally part of the mix, in ways that can impact severely on health, put a huge strain on relationships and corrode or destroy families.

"Nor is the impact always restricted to the immediate family, as grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbours can all be affected by a dysfunctional relationship between parent and teen. Moreover, there's an economic cost to New Zealand, as stressed-out parents often need to take time off work to cope with family issues.

"Contrary to a widespread misconception, the name TOUGHLOVE doesn't mean we favour a heavy-handed, authoritarian approach. We advocate clear and consistent boundaries and consequences. But we also recommend that parents back off from constant arguments. Our name reflects the realisation that parenting is always a tough job and that love is one of its essential ingredients," he adds.

According to a survey carried out between October 2011 and April 2012 by Wellington-based research company, Litmus Limited, 91 percent of parent attending TOUGHLOVE Support Groups would recommend the experience to other parents.

TOUGHLOVE is CYF-accredited, with most parents approaching it either as a result of word-of-mouth endorsement, through referrals from social agencies or though recommendations from health professionals. Support Groups participation is kept strictly confidential, with newcomers asked to make a one-off payment of just $40. A gold coin donation is expected at subsequent sessions.

TOUGHLOVE employs just four paid staff members, based respectively in Auckland, Canterbury, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

Further information about TOUGHLOVE is available at www.toughlove.org.nz or via the freephone number: 0800 868 445


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