Norfolk families to benefit from Kids Matter charity move
Following her heart has led Norwich-based Lynette Woodward to a new role as the Eastern Region Partnership Manager for charity Kids Matter, which aims to equip local churches to deliver its parenting programme in disadvantaged communities. This is Lynette’s story…
After seven years in my role as a special education needs advisor for Norfolk County Council, a job I loved, I heard God tell me to step out of the boat and follow my heart, which was breaking for the families that were struggling in Catton Grove – my local community.
Also, as a member of the leadership team for Oak Grove Community Church, I’ve seen the growing need in local families and have been desperate to do some early intervention work, starting with parenting support. I knew, however, that my heart was directing me out of paid work and was unsure how my family could afford to do this but felt God would somehow sort it out!
After researching a number of parenting programmes I quickly realised that although many are wonderful they don't suit the needs of Catton Grove and the parents we were trying to reach...and then I came across Kids Matter.
Kids Matter is a parenting programme that equips local churches to deliver an accessible and effective parenting programme to parents living within disadvantaged communities; giving mums, dads and caregivers the tools to build strong families. It’s an evidence-based programme written specifically for families facing adversity in their communities.
Kids Matter groups happen around a table with food and refreshments; the atmosphere is conversational as parents share the highs and lows of parenting, supporting one another, whilst working through material guided by a trained facilitator. Not only does Kids Matter support parents with follow up ‘booster’ sessions after the initial six-week programme but facilitators are also offered support, something I knew I would need as part of my vocation to reach the hard-to-reach.
Excited about the idea of making a real difference to families in our community, it was an easy decision for Oak Grove to partner with Kids Matter. I trained as a facilitator last year and I have already run my first Kids Matter parenting group! From this first group, one mum has had a multi-agency meeting since, and the professionals around the table couldn’t believe the difference in the mum’s confidence and ability and the school had also seen a positive improvement in her child! But there’s more to the story...
Whilst Oak Gove was finalising its partnership with Kids Matter, I saw an advert for a regional manager for the charity; it wasn't exactly my area (London and the South East) but I loved the sound of the role and after discussing with Kids Matter, decided to apply for the position. I went to the interview having done my research, feeling quite relaxed and asking God to work his will. Kids Matter’s vision just aligned with my heart and it felt right. I got the job and the role was moved to East Anglia! This all happened two days before I left my desk at the local authority…this can only be God’s miraculous timing.
I have been working professionally for Kids Matter as a Partnership Manager for the UK’s Eastern Region since November 2018, the same month I trained as a facilitator. My job is to engage with churches across East Anglia, starting with Norfolk, to see if they would like to partner with Kids Matter and run the programme in their communities.
So, for me, Kids Matter has come to Norfolk in two ways – I have two hats on and love them both! A genuine, heart-felt desire to bring about change in my community has blossomed into something so critical in the current climate of austerity; through the church and its amazing volunteer base as well links within the community, Kids Matter has the potential to make a real difference to families! As a trained facilitator we are already seeing the fruit of running the programme; parents feeling strengthened and empowered!
As many as 1,000 Sure Start centres across the country have closed since 2009 (twice as many as the government has reported) according to a major analysis published by the Sutton Trust only last year. This is one example of the effect of budget cuts being meted out across the UK, putting services at risk and leaving vulnerable families (parents and children) with nowhere to turn for support – emotional as well as basic needs.
More and more it seems that councils are going to have to turn to the voluntary sector in their efforts to intervene early so that families are strengthened before they reach crisis point. As a partnership manager I am making contact with lots of churches across the area and so far there is a good amount of interest in Norfolk. We will be holding facilitator training in Norwich in October which is great news for the area.
On Wednesday July 10, Kids Matter will be hosting a taster session for churches/organisations that might be interested in running the parenting programme in partnership with Kids Matter.
If you would like to book a place on the taster or just want to find out more about Kids Matter and what it might look like for your church then please contact me, Lynette on 07909224170 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pictured above is Lynette Woodward.