Lynette gets real about the challenge of getting a Kids Matter programme off the ground and shares about the impact the programme can have when it all comes together…
I finished Kids Matter facilitator training in October last year and came away buzzing, and wanting to get going. I knew that there were many families in my community that could benefit from the programme and I knew this was the right resource for us as a church.
But if I’m honest I was also a bit daunted by the prospect; getting something new off the ground…I knew it was not going to be easy. Personally, I didn’t have many community links but the church did so I planned to use these links and share a bit about myself in the process, which I knew was important if I wanted people to be confident about what and who they were referring their parents to!
I started with the local school and met with the safe guarding lead, knowing she would be working with the most vulnerable families. She was very enthusiastic and said she already had families in mind that she would like to refer (great!) so I left her some info and invitations to the tasters I had already booked in.
I also met with the local children’s centre (which at the time was under threat of closure); this was tricky as they were suspicious of me ‘taking their parents’ when they were at risk of being shut down but I explained that I wanted to work with them and that there were lots of parents to reach. I also asked for their leaflets so that I could share their info with the parents I was already in touch with. They advertised the programme on their Facebook page.
I had already started talking to the church about Kids Matter but I now started to recruit a team – not as easy as I thought it was going to be, but we got there.
Paying a visit to our church-run toddler group – chatting with a number of parents there and personally inviting a few mums along – was a good way to get the word out about Kids Matter.
I had my first taster in January this year – only two mums turned up! Others let me know they couldn’t come but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. At the second scheduled taster only one mum turned up but we had the most amazing conversation! Again, I was disappointed even though a number of mums who couldn’t come had really valid reasons, including being admitted to hospital.
So, I ploughed on.
The team were praying and at Session 1 of our first Kids Matter parenting course six parents attended – the relief! But now it was real and I had to deliver the material.
The sessions were fab, hard work but you could just see light bulb moments for the mums. Getting the group to gel took some work, drawing people in etc., but with support from my Kids Matter supervisor the group really worked. Throughout the programme numbers varied due to family life for these mums but they were all committed to the programme and by the end of it to each other, cheering each other on when they were having tough days or tough weeks.
For me as facilitator, I learnt loads doing this first programme and was sad to see it come to an end. I think the main lesson learnt was to make sure my whole team absolutely understood the ethos of the programme.
Communication with parents between sessions was also vital. Every week I communicated with each mum; asking how she was, how she found the session and whether she liked the cakes (and then letting her choose a cake for next time). These small but significant conversations were so rewarding, as parents shared what they were trying at home and how they were feeling. Sometimes it was tricky as things were not going well but it was about encouraging them to keep going. (I don’t think they would have turned up again without this communication in between sessions).
Also, I realised that it wasn’t about getting through the material but about what I left with them at the end of each session, i.e. the most important points from the session and how it could impact their families!
The impact on some of the families was transformative to the point that a multiagency meeting could not believe the difference in one mum, and the school had noticed a difference with her child, too. In a meeting with the school, the mum gave Kids Matter all the credit – I was over the moon.
So currently I am looking forward to our 6-week catch up; the mums all want a picnic – and then it will be booster time!
I have a date planned for the next programme and I am excited as to see what God will do with the next group of mums/dads/carers.
To sum up: running a Kids Matter programme is hard work but also great fun – you get out what you put in. Happy facilitating to you all!
Kids Matter is a programme that engages with families and young children before crisis point – it strengthens families by giving mums and dads the tools to be competent, confident parents or caregivers. To get involved with our programme, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org