- by John Horwood
Early Start is an early intervention home visitation service for high needs families with young children based in Christchurch, New Zealand. The service was developed in the mid-1990s and is run by a consortium that includes the Christchurch Health and Development Study Research Group, University of Otago; the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Plunket Service, The Pegasus GP Group; Māori community representatives; and representatives from social services.
Facilitators current and former, L-R: Janine Harrison, Fiona Hayes, Lucy Ragg and Jo Waddingham on May 2nd 2017.
The Early Start service comprises a system of home-based family support and visitation provided by trained family support workers. Their task is to empower and assist families to address wide-ranging issues relating to child health and welfare, parenting and family functioning. Depending on the level of need families may remain enrolled with the service for up to five years.
Early Start currently works with around 300 families, supported by funding from the Government Ministry of Social Development and the Canterbury District Health Board.
The service is recognized as a flagship program within the suite of Government funded early intervention services and the outcomes achieved by Early Start have been used to benchmark the performance of other services funded under the Government’s Family Start initiative.
In 2012 Early Start implemented Incredible Years® Toddler as an adjunct to the core service to provide additional assistance to parents who were experiencing severe parenting difficulties. Recently an evaluation of the implementation of Incredible Years® Toddler was conducted using information gathered on a total of 75 families who were offered places in parenting courses over the period from 2012-2015.
Findings showed evidence of small but pervasive benefits of participation in the toddler program reflecting:
- Reductions in the use of negative/ineffective parenting strategies and increased use of positive/effective strategies
- More positive attitudes to parenting and fostering child development
- Increased parenting satisfaction and self-efficacy
- Improvements in child behavior
Participating parents also reported very high levels of satisfaction with the program and program facilitators.
Facilitators: Jo Waddingham and Lucy Ragg with parents at Session #9 on May 2nd 2017.
Based on these findings Early Start has now moved to cement Incredible Years® Toddler as a core component of the service.
See our evaluation report on the implementation of Incredible Years® Toddler Program.
For further information on the Early Start service go to http://www.earlystart.co.nz