It has been a busy few months at Kids Matter, with highlights including Facilitator Training, a Donor event on Zoom and a couple of speaking slots at the Level Trust conference and New Wine.
We hosted our Annual Gathering in June, which both inspired and challenged the Kids Matter team and our church partners. This year we were privileged to have Bishop Mike Royal, Reverend Helen Shannon, Bishop Philip North and Carl Beech as guest speakers, and enjoyed a time of personal reflection and group discussion. Emerging themes were: what God is saying to the Church in the UK around serving the poor, the importance of having churches support their communities with a range of effective projects and how we, the church, come alongside and work with families who are struggling. The talks can be watched back on Vimeo.
Another big moment for Kids Matter was the release of a critical piece of research that we hope will get the attention of policy and decision makers at government level. The Centre for Social Justice and the Fabian Society came together in 2020 as the secretariat for the Early Years Commission in recognition that giving all children the best start in life should be front and centre of every government’s policy agenda. Clinical Child Psychologist and Kids Matter Executive Director Eli Gardner was part of the commission, which, based on expert testimony, drafted a cross-party, cross-sector manifesto for change.
Sadly, new analysis shows that Council spending on early support for children facing disadvantages has almost halved in the past decade; the most deprived areas saw spending cut by an average of 59% and the least deprived by 38%. Our country must give every child the best start in life, and right now we are falling short. Despite improvements among some children, too many continue to fall behind in their first few years, particularly those living in poverty. The Early Years Commission: A Cross-Party Manifesto puts forward a number of recommendations to transform the lives of our youngest children, and can be read or downloaded HERE.
We need to invest in parents for their children to thrive. Our evidence-informed parenting programme empowers mums, dads and carers facing disadvantages with competence, confidence and community, strengthening family relationships and giving children the best start in life.
Facilitator Spotlight: Rachel Bird
This month, we acknowledge Rachel Bird for her dedication to building partnerships and strengthening relationships, not only between parents and children but between families and the community at large. Read her story below…
My name is Rachel Bird. My husband and I run a local Christian charity called Restore Collective where we work with families in the local Atherstone/Mancetter community in Warwickshire. We particularly support and seek to enable and empower those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, so our partnership with Kids Matter was a natural fit.
As part of our community work, we partner with a local primary school where I lead on parent and family pastoral support. This seemed to be the perfect place to get our first Kids Matter group up and running. I was trained in late 2020 and we launched and ran the first in-person group in March 2021, where five parents started the Kids Matter journey and stayed the course. We are currently nearing the end of our second group with another five parents. We have partnered with St Peter’s Church to run the Kids Matter parenting programme and are hoping to launch a group in Bedworth in partnership with our own local church in the autumn as well as continue groups at the school.
It hasn’t been without its challenges, especially amidst the pandemic. Covid-19 has caused some disruption, with parents having children needing to isolate; this has delayed us finishing our second in-person group. Inviting guests isn’t always easy; there can be a negative stigma around being encouraged to a parent programme and many parents can feel they are being judged. This will take time to shift. Taster sessions are key to building relationships with the parents; to assure them we are all in this together, that there are no perfect parents and we are forming a community where we all want the best for our children. This ‘working alongside’ approach and language have worked well and won parents over where there was apprehension. Nearly all return after the Taster session. I also feel, as a facilitator, that showing a level of vulnerability in my own parenting has made it okay for parents to do the same, within the safety of a Kids Matter group.
I’ve learnt, amidst feelings of frustration and rejection when a parent declines an invitation or Covid-19 circumstances restrict attendance, to remember the individual; the importance of the one. That it is about making a difference in the life of one person, and seeing the positive changes in those who stay the course. ‘Deep impact’ is where I keep my focus. Seeing parents have their light-bulb moments and having the confidence to go forward and make changes is such a joy because I have have the privilege playing a part in seeing them empowered and enabled. Seeing this happen for even just one parent (and knowing the ripple affect it will have on their children) is worth it.
We have seen parents find friendship, support and community from one another where they have felt isolated; parents realising they are not the only ones who struggle, and consequently taking their masks off. We have been able to help them access additional support to strengthen their families and we are connecting them into other aspects of Restore and St Peter’s. We have seen those who have come shed a negative mindset over parenting programmes because the Kids Matter material is so easy to understand and apply to their everyday lives, and feels purposeful to them. These parents will now become our advocates in helping shift culture. We have seen parents taking on greater aspirations and wanting to volunteer within the school or our charity. We celebrate the little changes in their parenting because to our families they are big changes, which make a difference – like, eating a family meal round a table or spending one-on-one time with each child. All this has become possible with our Kids matter partnership. Together we can do so much more!
The prayer of my heart is that the principle of sowing and reaping will continue to prove itself true in our Kids Matter programme and all the families we journey with; that as we sow seeds of life, hope and love, and as these parents take the brave step to sow into their parenting, we will continue to see positive transformation.
Keep a look out for our ‘Meet Our Parents’ #MondayStories videos on our social media channels each week to find out more about how Kids Matter makes a difference in the lives of children and families!
We have Facilitator Training scheduled for Autumn ’21 – do get in touch if you’d like to find out more about partnering with us to run Kids Matter parenting programmes for mums, dads and carers facing disadvantages in your community.
Check out our latest blog!
The impact of nature in children’s well-being is increasingly understood and valued by experts and health professionals, and is supported by many recent studies…
Read more at Kidsmatter.org.uk/blogs/