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.