Published: 08/12/2014
Uma and Ara Ferris are looking forward to their new journey caring for young people. Recently returning to the Hawkes Bay, they’ve taken up roles as live-in Teaching Parents for Youth Horizons new group home for boys.

The new group home in Napier officially opens on 1 December and will house up to five boys aged between 13-16. While in the home, the young people will learn positive life skills in a therapeutic environment while also attending school, sports and other activities.

“We feel we have skills and experience that could help young people and give them meaning in life”, says Uma. The couple have been married for 42 years, raised two children and watched their four mokopuna grow up – they understand the challenges in raising kids. “Throughout our lives and roles we’ve had in the community, we’ve seen first-hand how important those early years as a young person can be. This is our chance to give back to the community, that’s something we are really passionate about.”

The couples plan was to semi-retire back to the Hawkes Bay after returning from a number of years living in Brisbane. However that soon changed in a chance visit to the local Work and Income office in Napier. Uma remembers that day quite clearly, “We walked in to the Work and Income office to see what opportunities might be around and saw the ad for Teaching Parents on the wall. We met the team here soon after and everything fell into place pretty quickly.”

Helping young people with challenging behaviour is not straight forward. Uma and Ara have been training in an evidence-based therapeutic programme called the Teaching Family Model. The support team behind them is also comprehensive, including social workers and clinical phycologists to help plan programmes that will bring about positive changes for each young person.

Youth Horizons also runs a foster care programme in the Hawkes Bay. “We’re totally focussed on helping young people,” says Residential Manager Raelene Gibson, “and it has been great to share that vision with Uma and Ara as they start the role as Teaching Parents. We’re still on the lookout for more foster carers though so we can grow our service to help more vulnerable and struggling young people here in the Bay”.

Through a strong relationship with Te Taiwhenua O Heretaunga both the group home and foster care service are committed to developing culturally appropriate programmes, something that is key to helping make positive life changes. These new services will also enable more young people to be cared for locally, rather than needing to be moved to other social agencies and providers in larger centres around New Zealand.