Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft believes a pregnancy and parenting support premise in Hastings has the "capacity to be a game changer".
Speaking from the official opening of Te Ara Manapou on Thursday, Becroft said there are some "real issues for children" and "all roads lead back to much earlier intervention".
The intensive wraparound outreach service is for pregnant women and parents with children under 3 years of age who experience problems with alcohol and other drugs.
In 2017 the Hawke's Bay District Health Board was one of three DHBs awarded $3.4 million of Ministry of Health funding over four years to launch the support service based on a successful pilot model at Waitemata DHB.
While the service has been operating since July 2017, it has only recently moved into its purpose built and stand-alone building. It has already seen an increase in self-referral results from 7 per cent to 31 per cent.
There are 1.1 million children up to the age of 18 in New Zealand, equating to about 23 per cent of the population. "70 per cent do really well, 20 per cent struggle with disadvantage and are in and out of some quite tough times, while 10 per cent are living in situations and an environment that are as bad and probably worse than most western world counterparts," Becroft said.
"We know more about the importance of the first 1000 days in a babies life (first three days) and how critical it is there is great wraparound support for all families with newborns.
The aim is to provide multiple access points to the service to help parents mitigate harm to themselves, their children and their future children.
There is a strong focus on addressing the needs of families/whanau to strengthen the family unit and work closely with other providers and agencies to support these needs.
"It is important how this service is delivered because this issue of alcohol consumption and drug use by mothers can be put in a way that is blaming and stigmatising and judgmental and alienates those who most need it," Becroft said.
A programme like this needs to be community based, rooted in the community using the best of community resources, funded by government money because government needs to provide the safety net but the best programmes work locally."
Hawke's Bay District Health Board community mental health manager, Justin Lee said the service enabled them to "spend the time needed to build trust with a client group whose past experiences with health and social services have been less than ideal."
"... listen to them, advocate for them, work from a strengths based approach and help them reconnect with a range of people and services."
Hawke's Bay District Health Board chief executive Dr Kevin Snee said they had heard from clients using this service that they have been able to build up trust and feel listened to.
"Local kaumātua named our service Te Ara Manapou it means path of sustenance. The name not only represents the birthing of children, but the parent sustaining the life of the child. Manapou also emphasises the self-responsibility of growing strong towards independence."