1 June 2015

A strategic fresh start


Over the past four years, the care staff at Cholmondeley Children's Centre have adjusted to a "new normal". Operating out of temporary accommodation, they continue to provide the same valuable service for Canterbury's children in need.

Shane swim

Now, with the opening of a purpose built facility not far away, the focus is on the future, and on the development of an organisation with the strength and resilience to stand on its own two feet - much like the qualities it grows in the children who visit.

Since 1925 our community has had Cholmondeley Children's Centre to step in during times of crisis, providing respite care for children when there is distress within the family, whether due to illness, a disaster, or other family stresses.

"We know that Cholmondeley provides a service which is quite unique, and that our operating model is really working for our community," General Manager Shane Murdoch explains.
"Cholmondeley's focus is on the child, and helping that child build an increased level of resilience which makes a difference when they return to their family. Children feel strengthened from their experience, going home recharged and in a better place. Other barriers are broken down for the families. The change in the child strengthens the parents, and the whole family or whanau," says Shane.

Shane explains that in a usual way of working, there is a focus on the adults making changes within families to increase the level of wellbeing.

"We turn this around and start at the other end, focusing on the child, which provides space for the adults to make their changes. This makes Cholmondeley stand out, both in how we operate and in the results we are experiencing," he says.

The service is locally managed, and primarily funded by the community, with only a 30% reliance on government funding. This means that decisions can be made based on the best interest of the child before the need becomes too great. However, like the children it supports, it is vulnerable.

"We know that to survive in this environment, we need to be extremely smart in how we generate our funding," says Shane.

"Our long term relationships with both individuals and groups who support us is becoming very strategic, and it is incumbent on us to demonstrate that funding Cholmondeley is an investment in our community,
not simply a donation."

"Many of our donors come from the communities where problems exist and we do have some significant issues, particularly in Christchurch at the moment which is reflected in the increase in demand over recent years.
Cholmondeley has recently completed a comprehensive independent evaluation of its services and outcomes. Interviews were held with children, families and whanau, referrers and other agencies to determine what the service is achieving. The research discovered common themes around resilience building, and the immediate release of tension that a break at Cholmondeley provides to the family system.

"This research is just the beginning for us, helping to answer the question of what would happen in our community if Cholmondeley disappeared. We know that children go into care when families disintegrate, communities suffer, and that children who have been in the care system are disproportionally represented in the justice system. Now we can start building up useful data, which will demonstrate Cholmondeley's impact on the outcomes for the child, family and the community into the long term".

Cholmondeley's new purpose built facility will open later this winter, and with it, a strengthened organisation with a clear mandate to support children and their families and whanau into the future.