Family Start - process evaluation

Evaluation of the Family Start Programme - Report …
16 Apr 2020


Evaluation to understand the delivery and implementation of the Family Start programme.

A 2015 quasi-experimental evaluation examining the impact of Family Start showed positive outcomes from the programme for vulnerable children. This research is available to read on the Ministry of Social Development’s website. A similar quantitative study on the impact of Family Start is on-going. A final impact evaluation report informed by the quantitative study and this process evaluation will be published by the Evidence Centre later this year.

Budget 2017 invested a further $49m over four years in Family Start to increase funding for all Family Start providers, to expand the programme to national coverage and to evaluate it to ensure the programme continues to provide good value for money.

This process evaluation assessed how well Family Start is delivering its services for vulnerable children and their whānau and how the programme can be optimised to ensure positive outcomes for the children and their whānau.


The evaluation drew strongly on qualitative data. An important data collection method was five provider-level case studies (three kaupapa Māori providers, one Pasifika provider and one Pākehā provider) which included in-depth interviews with Family Start managers, workers, referrers and whānau/families that were clients of Family Start. Other data collection methods included interviews with Oranga Tamariki officials and other key stakeholders, and an electronic diary activity during which Family Start workers recorded their experiences and perceptions in their role working with whānau. This was supported by a review of key documents provided by Oranga Tamariki and analysis of administrative data related to Family Start service provision.

The collected data was analysed thematically and was assessedagainst key evaluation criteria and
performance standards to determine the evaluation findings.

Key Results

  • Whānau describe Family Start as a valuable service that has improved their lives and parenting skills, and their ability to provide warm, safe and loving care for their tamariki.
  • Family Start workers engage with whānau in a strengths-based, non-judgemental and culturally safe way that is valued by whānau.
  • The Family Start model is mostly effective, and the programme is well aligned with other health and social services.
  • However, some aspects of the model do not align with Māori worldviews and practices, including the principles of whanaungatanga and concepts of a child’s development in the holistic context of whānau, iwi and hapū.
  • Family Start workers are feeling stretched by the challenge of working with whānau who need intensive support. There was a call from Family Start providers and workers for a change to the current funding model and caseload expectations to reflect the increased and intensive workload.
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