Early Start (New Zealand)
Last updated: July 2014
Early Start aims to create a collaborative, problem-solving partnership between the home visitor and family to maximize child health, increase child and family well-being, build strengths, and eliminate deficiencies. Early Start recognizes that child well-being can occur only through the more general health and well-being of the family, although the target child is treated as the primary focus of services.
Early Start was designed to be a mainstream program. However, the developers took steps to ensure that the model would be relevant to the Māori, an indigenous population of New Zealand. During the development phase, the Early Start team consulted with Māori representatives on the design of the program. The developers established an Early Start board, half of whose members were Māori, to oversee implementation of the program and to foster an organizational culture that was respectful and sensitive to the needs and perspectives of Māori families. The Māori board members provided a Māori cultural training to all Early Start staff and Māori home visitors were hired to work with Māori families. These efforts aimed to create a universal model that can be delivered to both Māori and non-Māori families in a culturally responsive way.
Early Start provides services through home visitation. All Early Start families receive services based on four established curricula:
- Partnership in Parenting Education (PIPE) “Listen, Love, Play,” which focuses on listening, trust, language, problem solving, feelings, and how babies learn
- Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), which focuses on positive parenting practices and means to address childhood behavior problems
- Getting Ready for School focused on 4 year olds
- Incredible Years
Families are offered several additional services based on need:
- Infant and child safety awareness
- Linkages to supportive services in the community, including budget, health, and relationship services
- Advice and support concerning healthy lifestyle choices, including family and child nutrition
- Household and time management
Early Start targets at-risk families with newborn children up to age 5. Although it was designed as a mainstream program, the developers took steps to ensure that the model would be culturally responsive to the Māori, an indigenous population of New Zealand.
Early Start uses a three-stage eligibility determination process. First, Early Start administers a short risk assessment containing items on maternal age, extent of family support, whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, substance abuse, family violence, and child abuse and neglect. Any family with two or more risk factors continues to the next stage of the process. Second, families enroll in Early Start for a one-month assessment period to become acquainted with the program and so Early Start can learn about the family. Third, families complete an in-depth needs assessment based on a modified version of the Kempe Family Stress Checklist and are fully enrolled in the program for longer-term services.