• There are established Parent Infant Education initiatives in New Zealand that could prove a¬†partial or full solution to recent child abuse tragedies reported in the media.

  • My family has personally benefited from involvement in several¬†parent led education initiatives.

These include programmes developed by Parents as first teachers (PAFT), Plunket and Playcentre.

  • PAFT has been under-utilized and grossly under-funded by successive recent governments.¬†

  • Future outcomes for both Maori and Pakeha preschool children would benefit from an increased focus on parent-led initiatives.

  • PAFT was introduced in 1991; Lockwood Smith was minister of Education. His vision: Though PAFT was initially targeted at vulnerable families; by the year 2000 every child would be enrolled. Unfortunately funding has decreased consistently in proportion to child abuse rates. In response to a submission to the previous government, Steve Maharey replied that funding for PAFT has not decreased. This response indicated that this status was satisfactory. In light of the current social climate where child abuse is increasing, it would be reasonable for overall funding to increase to combat the growing problems they were initiated to counter.

  • It is my belief that outcomes of increased funding to these initiatives would include the following:

Increased targeted funding would reduce rates of child abuse in vulnerable sectors as parents increase their confidence in their parenting skills.

The recent report released by the Children‚Äôs Commission¬† Death and Serious Injury from Assault of Children under five years in Aotearoa New Zealand ‚ÄúEvery year about 45 children under 5 years old are seriously injured and around five are killed because they are maltreated at the hands of people they should be able to trust‚ÄĚ.

  • New Zealand has abysmal outcomes for children in terms of physical and mental health ; ranking at the bottom of a list of 24 developed countries for child deaths from accidents and injuries according to UNICEF.
I would like to personally illustrate why I believe these statistics would be reduced by increased funding to the Parent‚Äďled Education sector.
Though moderate in habits now, during my university years and like many others I drank heavily and lived irresponsibly. I ceased drinking heavily prior to the birth of my oldest son. Upon the arrival of my son I realized I would benefit from some assistance and education in parenting. Years of alcohol abuse had depleted any burgeoning nurturing and parenting skills, a hazard that confronts new generations of women.

I found assistance in Parents as First Teachers. Our oldest son graduated when he was three. Every month for his first three years, a warm and knowledgeable person visited us. She gave me tools and knowledge about my son’s age and stages and how to best assist his development. I was able to attend and form friendships with groups of other mums enrolled in PAFT. We graduated together through Mokai Kainga Maori Centre Trust; Wellington PAFT provider.

The better educated I have become, the better the outcome for my children.

  • Communities are changed by the empowerment of Mothers.

  • Mothers find support in groups and pride in their parenting skills. This will filter through all families of all ethnicities.

    During my second pregnancy I became disabled. I had a stroke. Initially paralyzed, I spent 2 months in rehabilitation learning how to walk.

My family became involved in our local Playcentre when I recovered the ability to care for my family. I am unable to drive but other families are able to deliver my children to and from Playcentre to assist my preschoolers to have their educational needs met.

I have a deep affection for both agencies both in my own circumstances, and my perception of them in the wider community

My children also attend a local preschool which complements Playcentre and provides them with a well-rounded preschool educational experience.

Universal funding and promotion of PAFT /equivalent programmes for any family wishing to access  them would increase societal regard for all the developmental stages of children and greater educational outcomes across the board. Obvious economic benefits would flow on from this investment.

  • Currently task ‚Äďoriented child-rearing is highly valued by our society. Parents are seen as successful if they run a well-ordered household. Extra appreciation is accorded to those Mothers that work; this is implicit in the entrenchment of the 20 hours free ECE.

  • We need a seismic shift in our culture so the lens of society views good parenting as more than that of cleaner and caregiver.

  • Good parenting is skilled role that revolves around nurturing children‚Äôs early play and learning skills. Studies have shown that the greater the level of parental involvement in these early years, the better the educational outcome. Children are less likely to suffer abuse and neglect.

  • This philosophy aligns with the principles of The Treaty of Waitangi and Te Whariki framework.

Infometrics Economist David Grimmond¬† stated the following in a recent opinion piece titled ‚ÄėChild maltreatment may cost us NZ$2 bln per year‚Äô:

 (A way of maintaining commitment would be to create a public endowment that would fund the provision of child and parent support services. A fund would clearly signal an ongoing commitment to reducing the incidence of child maltreatment, a focus on service rather than bureaucracy, a reassurance to service providers that there will be consistent demand for their services, and a willingness to fund effective, specialised and innovative services.)

·      Increased resources and funding provided to the Parent Infant Education sector would facilitate this. These include: PAFT for infants, HIPPY for older preschoolers, the Plunket facilitated parenting education programme PEPE and the successful SPACE programme deployed by Playcentre under a contract with the Ministry of Social Development/SKIP.

  • It is my view that there should be an expansion of programmes like PAFT to families other than those deemed to be at-risk. ¬†Ideally Lockwood Smiths vision of universally funded PAFT would be entrenched within a decade.

In summary:

1. Promotion of universal access to Parent- Infant education in the early years, alongside a minimum of 20 hours ECE in a classroom setting from 2 yrs onwards.

2. Mandatory visits from CYFS if parents fail to enrol with a well-child provider. This is business as usual for good parents have nothing to fear from such a process, it is the parents of those at risk who isolate.

Yours Faithfully

Monique Watson

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