'Dad changed': New programme designed to break the cycle of family violence

  • 20/09/2017
The Breakthrough programme aims to reduce family violence.
The Breakthrough programme aims to reduce family violence. Photo credit: Supplied

Change the parent, change the child.  That’s the approach of a new programme to tackle family violence in New Zealand.

"There are programmes to teach a parent to stop violence and offending," said Major Pam Waugh, head of social services for the Salvation Army, "but not to help them understand their role in parenting and the effect of their violence on children."

An act of family violence is reported every five and half minutes, while one seven children reports being harmed by a parent.

The Breakthrough programme will focus on restoring the relationship between fathers with a history of violence and their children.

It's a partnership between the Salvation Army and the Parenting Place and has been made possible by a hefty $638,000 donation from The Warehouse Group.

After the first eight-week parenting programme, fathers are mentored for six months. 

"There's sustained engagement with the fathers,"  Parenting Place chief executive, Greg Fleming, told Newshub.

"After the parenting course there’s long term mentoring to support their efforts to develop a new way of living."

The final stage of the programme consists of a three-day father-child adventure retreat which is found to be highly effective both here and overseas.

The retreat helps fathers and their kids conquer fears, develop relationship skills and work as a team in a safe environment.

For Mr Fleming, the impact of restoring the father-child relationship is powerfully evidenced in Harry’s* story.

Harry is an 11-year-old whose mother tragically died in a car crash, his family had gang connections and his father brought a lot of violence into the home.

Harry was struggling severely at school and home. He experienced phenomenal changes in his life when he and his father were supported in their relationship by Taumaranui community worker, Jamie Downes.

"I asked him what had changed," said Mr Downes, "and he looked me straight in the eyes and said, 'Dad changed' …There is this yearning in every child to be loved. If you change the parents you change the children."


Breakthrough was chosen for funding by The Warehouse Group Gala Dinner, an annual event attended by its suppliers to raise money for community partners.

"What the Parenting Place and The Salvation Army offered was really innovative," said The Warehouse Group chief experience officer David Benattar.

"The country ranks very badly on Family Violence...and if you go back to our mission statement it's about helping the country flourish.   So when we saw the proposal and we evaluated it against the criteria...it was the obvious choice."

Breakthrough is also accepting donations from the public.  Donations can be made at www.salvationarmy.org.nz/breakthrough.

The two-year programme begins in February in selected locations across New Zealand, and if successful, could be rolled out further.

The secret, stressed Major Waugh, is to keep hope that people can change.

"You get very few parents who say forget the kids, I don't want them. They know things are wrong...they just don't know how to fix it and need that help."

Or as Mr Fleming said, "I've never met a Dad who didn't want to be the best Dad in the world."

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

This article was created by Newshub, in partnership with The Warehouse Group, to raise awareness of Breakthrough.  To find out more about the programme click here.