Eli Gardener looks back on 2017 while casting her eyes ahead to the new year.
Whilst February is technically too late probably to say ‘Happy New Year!’ we, at Kids Matter, wanted to highlight all that the past 12 months has been about!
2017 was technically our second year of life as KM, but in reality it felt like Year One. 2016 was all about incubating and creating: research and development of our materials, hiring our staff, building our website and yes, even making a video!
Our goal for 2017 was all about getting GOING! Jan 2017 saw us piloting our newly minted training package: four days of action packed, bell ringing, minstrel munching, role playing and learning, learning, learning for 11 eager trainee facilitators. Our goal was not so much to develop partnerships with their churches (although happily five of those have become firm partners since) but rather to make sure our training WORKS! We learned a huge amount from that first cohort, were blown away by their humility and passion to go beyond the church’s walls and be with people struggling outside of them.
Confident now, having piloted our training we felt ready to launch and did so mid-year with 140 wonderful guests on a rainy night in June with LICC kindly hosting and Clink providing fabulous service as we presented our vision and spoke of our passion to play our part in rebuilding family life in the most deprived areas of the country. So many new relationships were opened up as a result and Kids Matter were officially up and running!
A key relationship that we are so excited about opened up in the summer with Wandsworth prison where we were able to pilot our programme over two groups with 24 men. We have been utterly amazed at the speed with which the men embraced the concepts and the joy they expressed at having permission, space and opportunity to think about being better fathers to their children and reengaging with their families when they come out.
Towards the end of the year, shortly after our second round of training with five new official church partners, we had the delightful experience of winning the Silver award in the Best Replicable Project by the Cinnamon Network at the Christian Funders Forum. We were thrilled that our model of working through the local church and equipping them with an accessible, inviting programme to reach families was recognised and enjoyed a taste of appearing in the media, with our wonderful Fuzz Dix not only being featured in the press for the amazing work in her community but also as a the writer of a KM-focused article featured in Premier Youth and Children’s Work magazine. And of course our hard-working Training and Relationships guru Jo Stillwell, who featured on YouTube in a talk encouraging churches to intervene, changing vicious cycles into victorious cycles where families thrive and flourish.
We have been so grateful to the trusts and donors that have put their trust and belief in us, enabling us to grow our small team to include a dedicated person a day a week to Communications and Media and another full day of a Clinical Psychologist to join our Recruitment, Training and Relationships teams.
As we jump on and off trains, bikes and tubes meeting vicars, encouraging tired family workers to grow our partnership network, we do all we can to support our existing 10 facilitators with regular supervision and support and had a wonderful time at the first of our termly workshops with our co-founder Marika Osmond on Single Parenthood. We continue to learn about how to show that we do works, developing rigorous methods to collect both quantitative data from standardised measures as well as recording priceless stories and quotes of changed family lives that motivate us all to keep pressing on. We are relentless in our pursuit of simplicity and excellence to equip the church to empower parents in their communities.
Databases, spreadsheets, clause 3.2.3…these may not have been our most riveting conversation topics of 2017, but the time we spent honing our partnership process means it is now straightforward for a church who wants to start Kids Matter to join the network. Things like a partnership agreement and an invoicing process give a church confidence in working with Kids Matter, and means they can focus their energies on getting to know the families in their community.
So over 2017 we have launched our charity officially, honed our partnership process, carried out 6 Tasters to invite church leaders and potential facilitators to ‘taste and see that Kids Matter is good!’, had 13 groups in the community (including two in prisons) running and confirmed seven partners with churches in London. All in all, Kids Matter has touched the lives of over 100 parents by the time the last mince pie was finished in December. Some of the stories we have heard have been incredibly moving:
“This course taught me how to be a better man. I’ll be a better dad, more able to understand my boy. I need to give him more time. [The Kids Matter Programme] not only helps us with our kids, but helps us as prisoners to support each other. The other guys always pick me up on the wing even though we didn’t interact before this.” – Ben (Dad, Kids Matter Prison)
“I have done many parenting groups before but I really enjoyed this one. I have been able to be honest and share what I am doing/feeling without being told I am doing it ‘wrong’. It is also good to share with people who are parents rather than be ‘taught’ by someone who doesn’t even have a child!” – Mum, Kids Matter Parenting
“After last week’s session, I’ve tried non-critical listening with my daughter . She started talking to me when we were in the car and I had my notes on the seat next to me and I was reading them through the plastic folder and it helped me to not judge her and stay calm.” – Farida w/15-yo & 3-yo (Mum, Kids Matter Parenting)
“I’ve turned the TV off this week and played more with my daughter, singing and talking with her – it’s been nice.” – Denise, w/7-mo baby (Mum, Kids Matter Parenting)
As 2018 begins, we have already begun our training of seven new facilitators and completed the first of the year’s termly workshop on Engaging Fathers. We are bold and ambitious in our goal to reach 400 families this year and to open up groups in the SW of the UK as well as the SE. So, here we go another year! We hope and pray it is as fun and productive as the last!
Dr Eli Gardner is a Child Clinical Psychologist who started Kids Matter in 2015 after 25 years of working in the Health Service. Do email her to continue the conversation: firstname.lastname@example.org