Family Start Impact Evaluation

Researchers completed the first ever impact evaluation of Family Start,  a New Zealand home visiting programme for vulnerable families.  This quasi experimental study estimated that the Family Start  programme: reduced post neonatal sudden unexpected infant death (SUDI), increased the use of health services; increased engagement with early childhood education, increased use of mental health services by mothers; and increased the likelihood of immunisation.


Vaithianathan, R., Wilson, M., Maloney, T., & Baird, S. (2016). The Impact of the Family Start Home Visiting Programme on Outcomes for Mothers and Children: A Quasi-Experimental Study. Ministry of Social Development.

Family Start workers make regular home visits and, using a structured program, seek to improve parenting capability and practice. Researchers including Rhema Vaithianathan and Tim Maloney (CSDA co-director 2016-2019)) evaluate the impact of the Family Start programme in improving outcomes for participating families

Vaithianathan, R., Wilson, M., Maloney, T., & Baird, S. (2017) Family Start Impact Study Selected Extensions Wellington:  Ministry of Social Development.

This report by authors including Rhema Vaithianathan and Tim Maloney (CSDA Co-Director 2016-2019) provides selected extensions to a 2016 quasi-experimental evaluation of the Family Start Home Visiting programme.  The extensions explore the efficacy of Family Start for additional sub-populations of participant families, and when delivered by sub-populations of providers.  Results indicate that Family Start was effective in reducing some measures of post-neonatal infant mortality across sub-groups studied, including teen and non-teen mothers, children in families with and without past contact with Child Youth and Family, and Maori children receiving Family Start from Maori and mainstream providers.

Cram, F., Vette, M., Wilson, M., Vaithianathan, R., Maloney, T., & Baird, S. (2018). He awa whiria—braided rivers: Understanding the outcomes from Family Start for Maori. Evaluation Matters, 165-207.

In Aotearoa, New Zealand, the “braided rivers—he awa whiria” metaphor is facilitating conversations between Māori (indigenous peoples) and non-Māori researchers about the integration of knowledge systems. Rhema Vaithianathan and her co-authors explore how an approach based on he awa whiria can work in practice, in the examination of the efficacy for Māori whānau (families) of the government’s intensive home-visiting programme; Family Start. Published in Evaluation Matters—He Take Tō Te Aromatawai Online First.

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Quick facts

Location: New Zealand

Partner/s: Ministry of Social Development (NZ)

Timeframe: 2016