Call for more funding for parenting programmes in prison and probation services

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August 11, 2023
Call for more funding for parenting programmes in prison and probation services

Call for more funding for parenting programmes in prison and probation services

There’s a huge need for parenting education and support in the community, but there is not enough funding to provide it – particularly for parents who are in the probation service and prisons, says social services provider Family Works Northern.

“Parents are telling us what a big difference our parenting programmes are making to their relationships with their children and their partners. We need to run these parenting programmes all the time, but to be able to do that, we need the funding,” says Family Works Waikato, Rotorua and Taupō Area Manager, Lynne Fairs.

“Running Parenting in Prisons programmes in the probation service and prisons is so important because it creates positive change in families and whānau in the community with parents who are hard to reach. These are parents – male and female – who are often involved in crime or are gang members. If we want to break the cycle of parenting not reaching the needs of children, this is what needs to happen.

“Many people we meet through these services have missed out on good quality parenting. When they do the parenting course, they realise how important this is for their children and what a difference they can make to their lives.

“They want to be good parents, but they don’t understand the impact and importance of what’s happening to them and how it is affecting their children,” says Lynne Fairs.

Although Family Works Northern receives some Government funding, to be able to run parenting programmes continuously, it needs extra funding to have facilitators available across all areas able to meet these needs. This would enable the social service to train and employ more social workers or counsellors as facilitators who could then run the courses in the community. It would also allow them to particularly target hard-to-reach parents.

“Our parenting programmes are designed for all parents and it’s particularly important to reach men. If we, as a nation, want to make a difference we need to recognise the big role dads play in making the family or whānau unit a happy, healthy place for children to grow.

“Childhood accounts for just a fraction of a whole lifetime, but it has such a profound impact on the rest of your life. Children learn through how they live and it’s important that they learn how to have healthy relationships.”

Family Works Parenting in Prisons course consists of seven sessions. It starts with the importance of being a parent and how their identity migrates to their children. For instance, parents may still be involved in things that are not positive. The participants talk about what’s good and what’s not good about where they are and how they can sustain the life they would prefer.

Group members also talk about how they were parented.

“Everyone who has been hit as a child remembers it vividly whereas they probably don’t remember being in time-out. What we’re trying to do is build good memories for children to take to adulthood. This builds such a good foundation for life.

“We talk about children’s ages and stages and whānau wellbeing, and also talk about the benefits of play, particularly self-directed play and why it’s so good,” says Lynne Fairs.

The course also covers power, control and equality in adult relationships and different conflict styles which gives people insight into their style.

“Children are attention-seeking whether that’s positive or negative. We look at positive attention including praise, encouragement and reward. We also introduce the five love languages and talk about what it means if you don’t know what your children’s and partner’s are, and the difference it makes when you do.

“We look at trauma and how things can affect our children, look at the longer-term impact and discuss how you can teach your children to self-regulate. There’s a lot of discussion in these courses and parents generally gain new insight into their behaviour with their children and learn new ways of doing things that can have a lasting positive impact.”

Family Works Northern also runs the Incredible Years programme which is designed for parents with children aged three to eight-years-old and Incredible Years Autism; Parenting Through Separation and Women Against Violence Education (WAVE) which supports women who have experienced family violence.

Find out more about free courses in your region.