Helping you be the best parent you can be

By PSS | Posted: Monday November 25, 2019

Running in Southland since 2007, Family Start is a home visiting programme run by Presbyterian Support Southland's service arm Family Works Southland, in Invercargill, Mataura, Gore, Te Anau and Manapouri.

The Family Start programme helps parents achieve better health and wellbeing, education and social outcomes for their children. The programme also assists parents with other issues they may be facing in their day-to-day lives for the first five years of a child’s life.

The programme is voluntary, allowing families to join for as little or as long as they like. “We try to make it as easy as possible,” Family Works manager, Dawn Lloyd said. Family Start workers work alongside parents to make positive changes for themselves and their children, in their own home.

“We have very broad referral criteria,” Dawn said, and families are able to self-refer. A third to half of the people who join Family Start refer themselves. “These parents recognise they need help and are brave enough to ask.”

Each family is matched with a family/whanāu worker appropriate to their needs. The family/whānau worker will work with families to develop a plan which best suits the needs of the specific family, the family/whānau worker will then help each family to reach its goals. Family Works staff also work alongside other agencies such as Well Child Services, Plunket, budgeting advice, and government agencies.

The programme supports families in the areas of child development and safety, health and wellbeing, substance abuse, addictions, domestic violence or any other issues pertaining to family needs.

Dawn said not everyone has the support network around them to help, and most new parents learn as they go. “Family Start is here to help them to be the best parents they can be.”

“The programme is very intensive and we have a great success rate. In 2018, 98% of clients said they had learned new skills and strategies, and 98% of clients felt better prepared for the future.”

A recent Family Start parent said - “When I first had my son, I was a scared solo first-time mum. Family Start helped me in many ways from helping me cope with parenting to assisting me in my enrolment in tertiary education so I could establish a future for me and my son. I am now a fully qualified early childhood teacher living a wonderful life, hugely in part because of the help of Family Start.”

Family Start supports families early; accepting referrals from when the mother is pregnant up until the child turns one. There is a focus on strengthening and improving the parents’ skills for the benefit of the child, and the achievement of the family’s own goals. Families can stay in the programme until they have achieved their goals, the child’s wellbeing is enhanced, parents’ confidence is increased and living circumstances are improved.

Families must be prepared to be available for visits in the home. Beginning with weekly visits and then fortnightly once the family has a good working relationship with the family/whanāu worker and they have worked through some of the things the family may have needed assistance with.

To find out more about Family Start go to or phone 0800 707 808.