Parents Centres Manifesto



The following two statements are the cornerstone of the work undertaken by Parents Centres at both national and community level. Our mission is our modus operandi and a statement of our work in progress. Our vision is what drives us. Although articulated only in the last year, its message has motivated Parents Centre people for over 50 years.

A manifesto is a declaration of beliefs and objectives. It is a living document that will evolve and change over time in response to social and cultural developments. This manifesto is a means of bringing together statements, remits and policies which have been developed in consultation with Parents Centre members, Board and staff. It is a guide for thinking about the way we give birth, parent and the environment in which we parent our children.

Vision NZ society values parenting as being fundamental to the well-being of all Mission

Positive birth experiences and informed parenting in a community where parents are supported and highly valued in their role

Origins and identity

Parents Centre is a not-for-profit organisation, established by parents for parents in 1952. Since those early days Parents Centre has grown to encompass over 50 centres throughout New Zealand with a national office located in Wellington.

Parents Centre operates according to the principle of inclusiveness. We work to support and educate all parents irrespective of race, creed, socio-economic status, age, sexual orientation or family/whanau arrangement e.g. single, nuclear, same-sex, or extended. Parents Centre supports the notion that all parents need education and support at some time during their parenting lives.

Parents Centre has four key elements:

  • Childbirth education covers the physical, emotional, social and psychological aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting. Parents Centre is New Zealand's largest provider of childbirth education, and is recognised as an adult education body by the Ministry of Education.
  • Adult parenting education is continuing education of parents to promote positive parenting skills by enhancing confidence and knowledge.The aim is to provide information to parents to enable them to make informed decisions about wide-ranging parenting issues. The Parents Centre Leadership Certificate offers skills in leadership, human relationships and group processes. The Parents Centre Parent Education Certificate offers skills in facilitation, planning, and managing change.
  • Parent support includes antenatal and postnatal groups, specialist support groups, Dial-A-Mum telephone support and neighbourhood playgroups. Informal support helps parents adjust to their new role.
  • Advocacy & Lobbying focuses on maternity services, parenting and families. Recent work includes parent sector reforms, rights of the child and most importantly, howthe political structure recognisesparenting as a key contributor to our social and economic well-being. This manifesto is divided into five significant policy areas:
      1. Parent Education
      2. Maternity Services
      3. Parent and child health
      4. Parent-focused communities
      5. Community services and infrastructures

Parent Education

1. Childbirth education

Quality, affordable and accessible childbirth education is a significant step in the process of developing a culture that supports healthy parenting behaviours and contributes to healthy children and families. Childbirth education, provided by trained and qualified educators, can lead to personal growth, enhance birth experiences, and enrich family life.

Parents Centre childbirth education classes are based on participatory education and their aim is for parents-to-be, and their families:

' To gain evidence based information on pregnancy, labour, birth and parenting to enable informed decision making

' To develop practical skills such as relaxation, stretching etc

' To explore and share feelings, experiences and attitudes with others in the same situation

' To develop friendships and establish support networks

Parents Centre believes that quality, affordable childbirth education, otherwise known as pregnancy and early parenting education, should be available to all expectant parents throughout New Zealand.

2. Upskilling parents

Parenting is a vital role in the community and should be recognised, valued and supported by decision-makers, authorities, health and education professionals and the community in general. Prospective parents, parents and families have the right to quality parenting and childbirth education and information, enabling them to make informed decisions about their parenting role.

Parents Centre is dedicated to the provision of quality parent education for all parents, because all parents benefit from parent education and support networks. Parents need a range of strategies that reflect their needs and which nurture, guide and inspire their children. Understanding the physiological and psychological development of a child is as important as the development of effective communication skills and strategies. The skills and understanding developed through parent education can become invaluable in negotiating the inevitable challenges families face, including family break-up and/or re-configuration

Parents Centre also acknowledges the particular needs of both parents with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, and their need to access specific education programmes or resources which better enable them and/or their children to become fully integrated members of our communities.

Parents Centre firmly believes that education is the best and most effective form of early intervention available and is a key contributor to fully functioning communities.

3. Repeal of Section 59 (Crimes Act): educating for a high standard of parenting.

Parents Centres supports the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act because it is time to look toward a future that does not tolerate violence toward children. The only thing Section 59 does is to provide a legal defence for violence against children by parents. It does not help anyone become a better parent. Section 59 tolerates, and therefore supports bad practice.

Parents Centre supports the need for on-going parent education programmes within the community, and as part of a broader public education campaign which reinforces positive parenting strategies.

Parents Centre supports the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognises the inherent dignity of the child, and the need for an environment that supports parents in the raising of healthy and well-adjusted children. Parent education and support networks are the key to developing a culture that will result in the repeal of Section 59.

Maternity Services

4. Post-natal discharge from maternity facilities

Parents Centre supports the implementation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative's Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in all maternity facilities in New Zealand.

It is vital that mothers and their babies are accommodated in Baby Friendly maternity facilities, and have the support necessary to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship. The long-term benefits associated with successful breastfeeding will recover the initial cost of longer hospital stays, if they prove necessary.

The more we invest in quality maternity care, including the development of community-based birthing and post natal recovery units which address the needs of mother and baby, the less we will need to spend on re-admissions, postnatal depression and associated stresses and illness.

Ensuring that mother and baby are adequately supported from the start will have long-term positive effects on the attachment and bonding process within the changing family environment. For this reason, it is important that new mothers receive an adequate number of home visits by their Lead Maternity Carer and are encouraged to take part in local parent education and support programmes.

5. High rate of medical intervention promoting normal birth

Parents Centre believes that birth is a significant life event and a normal physiological process. Enhancing the knowledge, skills and self-awareness of expectant parents contributes to a positive and affirming pregnancy and birth experience. Giving birth is a demanding experience; it takes deep reserves of endurance and stamina.

Over recent years there has been a steady increase in medical intervention during birth, and a decline in natural vaginal births. In New Zealand, inductions have risen from 7% in 1988 to 21% in 2001. Epidurals rose 15% between 1995 and 1998, the rate now being over 25% of all births for which statistics are available. The rate of caesarean sections has doubled from 11.7% to 22% between 1988 and 2003. This compares poorly to WHO recommendations of 10-15%. Of particular concern is the rising number of social or designer caesareans for which the driver is maternal choice rather than clinical need.

There is no argument that interventions are sometimes necessary for the safety of mother and/or baby. However, the health dollar is too precious to waste on unnecessary intervention, particularly when a well-spent health dollar can both save lives and enhance the quality of those lives. Low-tech additions to maternity units such as birth pools encourage normal outcomes and save maternity dollars short and long term.

Social or designer caesareans are increasingly the preference of professional women who wish to have control over the time of birth or who are not sufficiently prepared for a normal birth. This represents an inequitable distribution of maternity resources. Parents Centre wants this situation addressed by:

' Developing a comprehensive education campaign aimed at promoting a healthy normal birth which addresses the fears and expectations associated with giving birth

' Providing better information for both mothers and LMC's about the risks and costs associated with a caesarean section and other interventions.

' Ensuring that all caesarean sections performed within the public health budget are clinically justified

' Establishing a user-pays regime for caesarean sections that are not clinically justified.

' Promotion of homebirth, primary care units and community birthing units.

6. Promoting normal birth to mean an active birth

Parents Centre wants to see the promotion of physiological birth as normal birth. We believe that more low-tech community birthing facilities will encourage more women to have a physiological birth, and to understand the need to prepare and plan for the physical demands associated with normal birth.

7. Prem-babies and facilities for mothers

It is important that sophisticated medical treatment is complemented by maternal love. Separating mothers from their babies during the early days and weeks only adds to their vulnerability.

Parents Centre asserts the need for rooming in options for mothers of premature babies.

In relation to premature baby units, Parents Centre supports the principles of kangaroo care:

  1. Skin to skin contact ' this is recognised as a basic and evolutionary need for mother and baby in providing a natural habitat.
  2. Exclusive breastfeeding
  3. Support systems and processes, including access to family and health care providers and advanced technology as necessary.

Parents Centre's objectives are:

' To encourage and enable mothers of premature babies to remain with their babies for as long as possible.

' To contribute, through parent education programmes which specifically refer to diet and lifestyle issues, to working towards a decrease in the rate of premature births.

Parent and child health

8. Breastfeeding promotion

Parents Centre believes that breastfeeding is the best form of infant feeding, and will promote this position as breastfeeding has nutritional, immunological and psychological benefits to the infant. Research informs us that mothers' milk is best. It is the only food source that is truly dynamic in meeting the changing needs of a developing baby. Breastfeeding is a win/win for everyone.

New Zealand needs to work harder to achieve a breastfeeding culture. By 3 months, the majority of infants are formula-fed, and bottles are the symbol most commonly associated with babies. It is important that all sectors of the community are educated about the short and long-term health benefits associated with breastfeeding. The ability of mothers to breastfeed should be encouraged and facilitated within the wider community, including employers who are implementing paid parental leave provisions.

A public education campaign is as much part of the solution as childbirth education. We need to move forward and promote breastfeeding as the healthiest and most sustainable option for mothers, babies and society at large.

The current rate of women breastfeeding for the first six weeks is only 65%. The Ministry of Health's target is 90% by 2010 in recognition that breastfeeding offers babies the best start in life.

Parents Centre fully supports the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding as outlined in the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative:-

Every maternity facility providing maternity services and care for newborn infants should:

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff

2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy

3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding

4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half-hour of birth

5. Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants

6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated

7. Practise rooming-in - allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day

8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand

9. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants

10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

9. Maternal mental health

Recognition of the effects of post natal depression and on going mental health needs of mothers at home and at work is an important and often neglected area of maternal wellbeing. Promoting support networks and services for mothers at home and at work is the key to enabling mothers to recover their self esteem and sense of self following the strenuous and demanding antenatal, birth and post natal periods.

Parents Centre also recognises the needs of fathers during the antenatal and post natal period, both in terms of their own mental health needs, and in recognising the unique needs of mothers during this crucial period.

We acknowledge that supporting families is crucial in keeping families together and enabling parents to enjoy their children and spend quality time together.

Parents Centre also recognises the need to adequately resource maternal mental health services for both normal births and unexpected outcomes.

10. Rural public health services

Many rural women are unable to access appropriate birthing facilities. Rural women have as much right to adequate maternity and post natal care facilities as urban women.

Supporting rural health services is about resourcing families within their communities. Parents should be supported, educated, and treated within local communities. Maternity services are a core service and should only be improved upon ' not eroded. Proposed closures are based on demographic trends and financial costs, and fail to acknowledge the effects of travel on seasonal and low socio-economic communities, as well as the potential for demographic trends to change ' just as they have in the past.

Parents Centre believes that planning for a sustainable future means factoring in the long-term health of local communities and ensuring a good geographical coverage of primary public health services. Recommendations to close maternity services based on the trend of a single generation are short sighted and will only shift the cost from one generation to another.

11. Child health and nutrition

Raising fit and healthy children has much to do with family diet and recreation. Despite priding ourselves on our clean green image (even though this is less true since our childhoods), we do not have a very good health record.

Recent estimates suggest that 35% of adults are overweight and nearly 70% have high cholesterol levels. These statistics represent unhealthy eating habits that begin in childhood. The increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes, and other diet-related conditions is a global trend. However, New Zealand parents are well placed to defy the trend and set standards that will see our children living healthy, active lives.

Parents Centre believes the best way to encourage healthy diets is to start with a healthy regime before and during pregnancy, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

12. Recreation

Sometimes we are so busy providing for our day-to-day needs that we forget the simple pleasures of playing with our children. Activities like beach combing, bush walking, backyard cricket, story-telling, cooking, hide 'n' seek are good activities to foster emotional and physical fitness within the family.

We are fortunate amongst nations that we have so many open spaces and playgrounds to enjoy. The beaches, the mountains, the rivers and the parks are ours to share. Parents Centre encourages all parents to take the time to commit to having fun with their children

The best place for a child to live and learn is a place where they are loved and valued. This never changes. Feeling valued often comes down to spending quality time together and taking the time to play. Parents Centre will continue to support recreational opportunities for parents and their children within their local communities.

13. Informed consent

Informed consent remains a fundamental principle in the practice of medical procedures. It is not a new concept. All health professionals should seek informed consent as a matter of course.

While the principles of informed consent have statutory authority in the Code of Health and Disability Consumers' Rights, adherence to the Code by many health professionals is often haphazard. This haphazardness may arise from health professional hostility to, or ignorance of the Code, but often arises from the health professional practising in conditions that make adherence to the Code at best difficult, and at times, impossible.

Informed consent means taking the time to explain a process or procedure, and allowing questions to be asked which instil confidence. It also means considering alternatives and making choices. If a parent does not understand the choices available, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the explanation has either been insufficient or absent. Health professionals should be supported to have a good understanding of the importance of informed consent, and be able to practise in conditions where they can fulfil their statutory responsibilities.

14. Full labelling of all food products

Parents Centre supports full labelling of all food products. Parents have a right to know what they are buying and to make informed decisions about their children's diet. Labelling is about informed decision-making. Parents Centre supports the development of transparent labelling regimes so that we know what we are buying.

Parent-focused communities

15. Reclaiming the right to choose to work or not to work

Parenting is a lifetime commitment which deserves the same recognition as any other career option. Parents Centre supports the right of parents to choose to be a parent at home or in paid employment. Parents Centre challenges Government support for early childcare funding at the expense of active parenting.

The pre-occupation with full employment policies has deprived many parents of the right to raise and influence their own children. This trend is reflected in the following policy initiatives: -

  • Mothers do not get a mention in the Government's Action Plan for Women unless they are in the paid workforce.
  • Childcare subsidies are provided so that parents can work but there is no incentive to encourage parents to look after their own children.
  • Some parents have to pay someone else to look after their own children in their own homes so they can work. Many of these parents have been denied the choice to stay at home themselves.

Women as mothers continue to make a valuable contribution to their communities and should not be unduly forced into the paid workforce in order to be valued. Parents need to be supported to enable them to spend quality time with their children. This also means addressing low-income levels and the reasons many parents have to work long hours. Similarly, forcing single parents into work so that they have to juggle work and family on their own is not family friendly policy. Parenting is a job in itself and needs to be recognised for the challenging experience it is.

However, parents who do choose to work in the paid workforce should be supported in their decision and contribution.

16. Family friendly workplaces and work policies

In 1996, Parents Centre adopted the Family Friendly Communities programme which was targeted at communities, businesses and individuals. This programme recognised that changes in social demographics are reflected in both the work place and in our attitudes toward work. Accommodating the needs of parents in the workplace and developing family friendly initiatives is about staff retention and morale, as well as being a good employer.

New Zealand women are having fewer children and having them later. The average age of a woman giving birth is 29.4 years, which is four years older than the average of her mother's generation. Mothers now are increasingly likely to have trained and worked before having children, and are more likely to return to their career after the child/ren are born, or to re-enter the workforce several times throughout their careers.

The experience of mothers has also impacted on the expectation of fathers in the workforce as a recent survey by the EEO Trust revealed. Eighty percent (80%) of fathers in the workforce want to spend more time with their children. The regret and guilt associated with not feeling confident about our ability to parent our children as we would want, impacts in the workplace in terms of stress levels and work satisfaction which invariably influences productivity. Add to this the recognition of an ageing workforce and we soon discover it is imperative that we develop family friendly cultures in the workplace.

Parents Centre supports the development of a range of initiatives which enable parents to work effectively in the paid workforce and which also enable them to manage time and stress and to be effective and loving parents.

Developing workforce policies which recognise the realities of parents in paid employment also means recognising the significance of unpaid work and making allowances for relaxation and playtime. Developing employee assistance programmes that are flexible and accommodate the needs of parents will help reduce staff turnover, burnout and absenteeism and have a positive effect on efficacy in the workplace.

17. Childcare

Parents Centre supports the provision of childcare services, provided the care is of high quality with trained staff and low child/staff ratios. We recognise the potential of child care services to contribute to the support of families by enabling participation in society by all parents in whatever manner they choose and by providing an enriched, nurturing environment for children.

Parents Centre supports the need for parents to access quality and affordable childcare services.

Community Services and infrastructures

18. Media

Parents Centre challenges parents to turn the television off and participate in active play and learning experiences with their children.

Parents Centre also challenge Government and its agencies to improve the standards for television and print media and in so doing, recognise the harmful effect of inappropriate levels of violence and sexually explicit material which are targeted at an ever younger market. The effect of violence and sexually explicit material on impressionable minds has been well documented. Parents Centre believes Government needs to take a lead in this area and establish standards that acknowledge their responsibility toward the children who are viewing and reading material which is readily available.

This is about creating an emotionally safe environment for our children and encouraging advertisers to develop and adhere to codes of ethics that respect childhood as a time when children need to be protected from inappropriate marketing strategies.

19. Environmental health and sustainable resource use

When a decision is made which impacts on communities, such as the closure of schools and hospitals, it impacts upon the lives of our children and in many instances, it will impact on our grandchildren's lives as much as their grandchildren. Community decisions influence the nature of the legacy we leave our children. They also influence the sustainability of the environment in which we live.

Parenting is as much about the future as it is about the immediate moment.. Mahatma Gandhi captured the thought when he said, 'The future depends on what we do in the present'. Parenting is for the long haul. It is about making a positive difference in the lives of our children; a positive difference in the life of every child by providing them with healthy communities and environments and by supporting their parents in the challenge of being good parents.

Building communities and infrastructures that support parents is about developing a society that respects children and parents alike.

Developing and adequately resourcing community-based facilities and networks is the cornerstone of active parenting. In identifying a parenting perspective, we are also identifying a priority to look out for our children and by association, each other.

A community that supports its parents through service provision and resource use is a community that understands the difference between a legacy and an inheritance.

20. Child safety (emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual)

Children are to be respected and valued. They have the right to an environment in which their development is nurtured and their well-being protected and promoted. Parents Centre strongly opposes all forms of child abuse.

Parents Centre believes we all share the responsibility of developing and contributing to a world in which all our children are cared for in a safe and supported environment.

21. Changing shape of families/whanau

Upholding the rights of children is a family responsibility. Parents need the support of the extended family/whanau if they are to successfully raise their children to be healthy and loved individuals.

Good parenting is a life-long learning process best achieved within supportive communities in which families/whanau are encouraged to develop their parenting skills. Parents Centre believes that families need to be encouraged to look out for each other and to provide for the needs of family members.

The Maori model of family is about generational care and responsibility. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles play a significant role in the welfare and care of tamariki/children. In contrast, the pakeha model of family is often nuclear and insular. Many families drift apart as brothers and sisters move away and increasingly grandparents move to live in retirement towns.

The truth about parenting is that it can be a difficult job. This is particularly true when circumstances like family separation add to the difficulty and hardship. The best we can do is to develop a culture of family care and support by supporting and resourcing community networks Many families do not have family support within their local communities.For those families the role of organisations like Parents Centre is even more important in that local Parents Centres provides families with the on-going support they need.

22. Supporting communities and local relationships

Developing supportive communities is our challenge as neighbours and parents of the children who play together. It is also the challenge of community groups, NGO's and government agencies. Parents Centre is committed to networking at both local and national levels in order to ensure parents are supported at every level of New Zealand society.

We are fortunate in New Zealand that we have a range of fantastic facilities and community groups, including Parents Centres. Supporting and networking is what so many of our local communities do best.

One of the strengths of Parents Centres is in providing community support within the framework of a networked organisation.

23. Cultural diversity

Parents Centre is committed to biculturalism and endorses the principles inherent in the Treaty of Waitangi. In signing the Treaty, the Crown agreed that within NZ society, the values and traditions of both cultures (Maori and British) would be reflected in society's customs, laws, practices and institutional arrangements. There was also an agreement to share control of resources and decision-making. The Treaty guarantees Maori culture equal status and power within NZ society and it also legitimates the rights of Pakeha (non Maori) New Zealanders. This concept, explained by Judge Eddie Durie at his Waitangi Day address in 1989, is:

'' the Treaty of Waitangi is not just a Bill of Rights for Maori. It is a Bill of Rights for Pakeha too. It is the Treaty that gives Pakeha the right to be here. Without the Treaty there would be no lawful authority for the Pakeha presence in this part of the South Pacific'. The Pakeha are the Tangata Tiriti, those who belong to the land by right of that Treaty.'

True acceptance of cultural diversity and the concept of New Zealand as one nation made up of many peoples are about awareness of, and respect for, other cultures.

Parents Centre also recognises the need to develop childbirth education and parent education programmes that reflect the needs of our migrant communities to ensure that they are able to experience positive birth and parenting experiences in New Zealand. They too are People of the Treaty.

24. Volunteering

Participating as a volunteer worker in Parents Centre contributes to self-development and personal fulfilment.

Parents Centre recognises and honours the work undertaken by the volunteer workforce, without whom many community, school, arts, and sporting groups and activities, as well as emergency services, would not function.

We believe Government must recognise, through resource allocation and policy initiatives, the value of community and volunteer organisations that are the backbone of our social infrastructure.

Parents Centre will continue to support our volunteers by providing training and skill development opportunities.

25. Economic considerations

Parents Centre believes the Government and its agencies must develop a comprehensive strategy that supports parents in developing responsible attitudes and behaviours. Parenting needs to be recognised as integral to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders and therefore supported through investment and as part of an on-going fiscal strategy, with a view to developing a healthy environment in which to parent. In this way, we would expect all policy initiatives and strategies to be considered in light of their effect on parents and their children.

Parents Centres also believes the Government must recognise the economic reality facing many parents in New Zealand by implementing tax regimes which support parents.