In the Beginning
There were Youth Aid Officers, like myself, who were unable to help at-risk youth until they had committed an offence. We were the ill-equipped ambulance at the bottom of the cliff after these kids had sky-dived off it. The more often they hit the bottom, the more damaged they became and the more committed to pursuing a life of crime. At the same time it became clear to me that most of these sky-divers were from a small number of families that the system dealt with over and over again.
We launched the Community Approach Programme to combat this problem in 1993… over time we have revolutionised the way at-risk youth have been dealt with. We decided to concentrate on those few families and the social, health and educational factors that contributed to their dysfunction.
I joined the Police to make a difference and since 1993 I can honestly say I feel that I am. So often in the Police you deal with the aftermath but in this role I get so much satisfaction out of preventing the tragedies and helping these families to truly “break the cycle”.
It’s incredibly rewarding to know we’ve saved so many people from becoming victims and stopped so many kids from sky-diving again and again over that cliff. A Special thanks to all the dedicated staff who are ‘unsung heroes’ of Community Approach.
What is Community Approach?
The thrust of Community Approach is to assist families to lay down a new foundation on which they can build a positive future. That’s because the old adage “problems all start in the home” is so true. These families are identified by Police Youth Aid. They have a child who has committed multiple crimes and often have more than one offender per family. Once the at-risk family has been referred, Community Approach staff identify the issues that entangle the family in the crime cycle.
These staff include Social Workers, a navigator, youth workers and mentors. We use a co-ordinated approach utilising government and community agencies and together we methodically address the problems the families are encountering.
Unfortunately we can’t count the crimes the programme has prevented, the young people it has kept out of prison or the lives that have been changed for the better. But when it works… who’s counting?
The families are carefully case managed and constantly monitored. One of the contributing factors to our success is the low ratio of families per worker, which in turn allows the worker to spend quality time with each family. “We believe in doing a lot with a little rather than a little with a lot”.
“This programme is a fine example of the police and community working together to promote change for a number of families who, without this intervention, would be very likely subjected to a lifetime of poverty, failure and crime.” Jill Worrall MSW,
Massey University Evaluation 2001
Board of Trustees
What makes the Mt Roskill Community Approach unique is that we’re administered by an independent Community Trust. We believe this is why we’re so successful… it’s not just the Police that has a vested interest in making Community Approach work, it’s the people of the community as well.
The Charitable Trust oversees the running of the whole operation including helping us to source the extra money we need to continue operating. The NZ Police provides most of our annual funding… we have to find the remaining shortfall of 40%. The Trustees bring valuable skills and experiences that help us find the money we need, they also have a compassionate attitude towards the people we help.
That’s what makes this Trust so different. Before any decision is made we ask, “is this going to benefit the families we serve?”
Together we continue to achieve our objective, which is to “Reduce Youth Crime”.
CHAIR PERSON: Peter Muys
SECRETARY: Leanne Dunning
TRUSTEES: Dr Susan Autagavaia, Andrew Brown, Stephen Bell MNZM.