Improving maternity and early parenting support
Improving maternity and early parenting support is one of the four drivers of crime priority areas. An inter-agency group, made up of officials from the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry of Justice work on the issues.
The group is working on improving the quantity, quality and effectiveness of maternity and early parenting support services - particularly for those most at risk.
Improve maternity and early parenting support
The first three years of a child’s life are critical to their development. The inter-agency group seeks to support children to get the best start in life, by ensuring that families and children most at risk of poor life outcomes - including criminal offending and victimisation - receive effective maternity and early parenting support services.
A good start in life can build resilience for the child and family, protecting a child against risk factors.
During 2010 the improving maternity and early parenting support inter-agency group focused on:
- understanding links between maternity and early parenting support services
- identifying who is using these services and who may be missing out. Māori are less likely to use maternity and Well Child services, and are over-represented amongst those who are most at risk of poor life outcomes.
The group has identified opportunities to improve links between services, for example using integrated needs assessment or better information about available providers. This provides a solid base to tailor services and improve access to get better results for families and children.
Action is underway to ensure that individuals and families don’t miss out when moving between services. For example:
- Ministry of Health is improving maternity and child health services by developing nationally standardised maternity notes that can be transferred electronically, and a maternity and WellChild needs assessment and care planning tool
- Ministry of Social Development is doing more to support vulnerable teenage parents by increasing the number of intensive case workers and improving intensive home-based support services
- Ministry of Education is working to improve participation in early childhood education in the communities with the lowest participation rates
- Te Puni Kōkiri has two new initiatives to support children and whānau (Kaitoko Whānau and Oranga Whānau) and is working with other agencies to ensure greater engagement with hard to reach whānau.
Work of the inter-agency group is now focused on implementing these improvements.
What is this approach about?
This priority area is focused on expectant parents and families with infants and young children under three years of age. The objective is to ensure that families and children at risk of poor outcomes, including later criminal offending and victimisation, receive effective maternity and early parenting support services.
Why improve maternity and early parenting services?
Poor parental attachment, poor parenting practices and poor supervision are moderate contributors to offending, and research indicates that children who have been neglected or maltreated are more likely to become offenders in adolescence and adulthood. By intervening early in the life of a child, issues can be identified and tackled when they first emerge. This prevents issues from escalating and accumulating, and reduces the impact on the lives of children. Providing parents with better support can strengthen families and reduce the risks for vulnerable children, as well as lower the risk of offending.
Antenatal education, for example, can improve parent-child bonding and parenting knowledge. Family and parent support programmes can also improve maternal wellbeing and mental health, as well as reduce behavioural problems in children.
What is being done?
Government agencies are working together to improve engagement with vulnerable and 'hard-to-reach' families, making sure that services are as accessible as possible, and that staff know how to provide the most effective support for these families. Work is in progress to help families access different types of maternity, Well Child/Tamariki Ora and family support services. Ways to provide better information to parents are also being considered.