The Salvation Army and SPACE NZ Trust are working together to help new parents and are looking to increase that support around the country.
Thirty-three thousand new parents are ‘born’ in New Zealand each year. Becoming a parent for the first time can be hard, and parents are often left to take this journey unguided, uninformed and alone.
Lack of social support, parenting education and community connection can all contribute to stress and sometimes to the breakdown in relationships within families.
So, The Salvation Army’s National Consultant for Early Childhood Education Sue Henshaw, knew she was on to something when she first heard about the SPACE programme from some colleagues, and then heard researcher Dr Sarah Te One speak about the benefits of SPACE for families and communities back in 2011.
SPACE is a parent and child education programme developed by the SPACE NZ Trust. It provides full-year support for a group of mainly first-time parents and their babies who get together each week with a trained facilitator to learn about parenting, discuss issues with other parents, and deepen bonds with their new babies through music and play.
Dr Te One’s research showed SPACE had great outcomes for parents and babies, and those benefits also flowed to the wider community. The research showed parents who attended SPACE had increased knowledge and information, better networks, developed deeper relationships with their children, and had more confidence as parents.
Sue immediately recognised that The Salvation Army and SPACE had the same vision: to care for families and to grow strong communities. ‘SPACE is a perfect fit to support our work within communities. It gives us an opportunity to work alongside them to understand their personal circumstances and develop ongoing relationships,’ she says.
Sometimes people are facing more stress than just a new baby, and so the programme also helps parents with wider issues. The support from a shared community is hugely beneficial for new parents, Sue says.
‘I think people would be surprised to know how many parents out there are feeling lost. I have seen parents attending a Salvation Army SPACE programme start the course feeling anxious, isolated and unsure, and end up more confident and knowledgeable. They have new friendships, and understand their new baby better. We know strong families build strong communities and partnering with SPACE is a really exciting opportunity for The Salvation Army to be part of.’
The Salvation Army already runs SPACE programmes in Queenstown and Wellington, and a new SPACE centre will shortly be opening at the Auckland City Corps in Mt Wellington.
SPACE in Queenstown has been supporting local families since earlier this year.
Captain Karen Baker, Corps Officer and Director of Queenstown Community Ministries, says SPACE has already helped strengthen the Queenstown Corps’ community links. ‘We have found SPACE to be a real catalyst for strengthening our bond with our community,’ says Karen. ‘We’ve had 15 families join our playgroup after completing SPACE. Five families have come through to our Sunday church services and some of the mums have come to women’s ministry events.
‘We’ve also helped local parents on the pathway to employment through SPACE—three parents have gone on to become fully trained SPACE facilitators.’
In partnership with the SPACE NZ Trust, the SPACE programme is easy to set up. It can be run using a mix of volunteers and facilitators who can either be trained or provided by SPACE NZ. It can also run in a wide variety of locations depending on a centre’s needs.
There is strong demand for SPACE programmes from parents throughout the country, and funding may also be available.
If you are interested in running SPACE in your area, contact Sue Henshaw, p: (04) 384 5649 or e: email@example.com
Go to www space.org.nz for more information about SPACE.