About Us - Our Background

New Zealand newspapers, magazines, journals, TV and radio programmes tell us that many of our children are living in circumstances which increase the risks of exposure to abuse, neglect and poor child health.


This information is supported by the Christchurch Health and Development Study which from 1977 studied the health and lifestyle experiences of 1200 Christchurch children over a period of 20 years.

Its findings showed that the children most frequently identified as having multiple problems such as poor child health, mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions and criminal behaviours are children who have been exposed to family-violence, drug and alcohol abuse, disrupted and disorganized living situations.

Early Start challenges these circumstances to enable families to create the best environment for their child and to give them all the opportunities available to them.

Early Start - a NZ Success Story

  • A National Leader: Early Start was the first long-term (up to five years) home visitation programme in New Zealand to use a modular intervention approach to support whānau facing high levels of adversity.
  • Reasons for Early Success: The success of Early Start can be attributed to the following combination of factors:
    • Development of a local consortium of providers bringing together key stakeholders (clinical groups, researchers, Māori, community, business, public service)
  • Click here to read more…. (PDF)
  • The founder of the Early Start Project was Emeritus Professor David Fergusson with the Family Help Trust playing an important role in providing the initial infrastructure and support required.
  • In December 1994 the Trust Bank Community Trust provided seeding funding to develop the Early Start Service.
  • The Consortium formed early in 1995 and funding was secured from the Health Funding Agency, Community Funding Agency and the Christchurch City Council to pilot the service. Families were enrolled from October 1995
  • In 1997 an 18-month evaluation of the Early Start service was completed and the published findings indicated that it was feasible to conduct a randomized research trial to test if New Zealand families would benefit from a home visiting service addressing identified family needs in a structured and systematized way using an intensive and long term approach.
  • In 1998 the Government "Strengthening Families" initiative provided funds for the service provision to the field trial, and this is in turn is distributed under contract by the Department of Child Youth and Family and the Canterbury District Health Board.
  • In 2001 CHDB provided funding to establish an Early Start Service.
  • Today Early Start is contracted to and is receiving funding from Oranga Tamariki and Canterbury DHB to work with families and their children.