“We’re building links between parents,” says Rebecca Blissett, SPACE Coordinator at Northland Playcentre.  “People used to have support through extended family links but many don’t have these anymore.”

Northland Playcentre has been running SPACE (Supporting Parents alongside Children’s Education) since 2007.  SPACE is an innovative New Zealand programme aimed at first-time parents.  It was formed in 2003, within the Hutt Playcentre Association, and is now being run by Playcentre Associations nationwide.

Parents on the SPACE programme have discussions on child development and parenting topics, while their babies have play sessions with rhymes, music and books.  SPACE facilitators support parents to become involved in their child’s early childhood education.

“There was such a need for SPACE in Northland,” says Rebecca.  “Parents weren’t accessing outside support until their children were much older.”

Northland Playcentre initially started SPACE sessions for all parents in Northland, before they were approached to run a programme for teenage parents.

‘SPACE Teen Parents’ is targeted specifically at parents enrolled in teen antenatal programmes at Whangarei Hospital.  In this tailored SPACE programme, parents talk through ideas with each other more than they use written resources.

The Tindall Foundation funded the first SPACE Teen Parents programme in 2007.  8 out of 10 teen parents have since joined older parents on the 40-week SPACE programme, and the other two attended a teen parent unit at their school.