We have been supporting teenage parents since 1997.
In 1997, Sarah Williams, who was a trainee psychologist with Upper Hutt Special Education Services, applied for a grant to establish a teen parenting programme in Upper Hutt. Sarah was doing the Independent Youth Allowance Interviews for WINZ as part of her job and had interviewed several pregnant teenagers, so realized there was a need for some support for these young mothers.
The Crime Prevention Unit funded four demonstration projects in 1997: one in Porirua, one in Invercargill, one in Waimakariri and ours here in Upper Hutt.
We started one afternoon a week at Orongomai Marae, later in 1997 and our name, Titiro Whakamua-Looking Forward, was given to us by a kaumatua from the Marae, Nuia Waikari. We ran out of space at the Marae and had to look for somewhere with a separate space for the children. So we shifted to the Iona Centre in Ebdentown Street. Some volunteers came in to help look after the children one afternoon a week. Unfortunately there was no storage space here and the children’s play area was unfenced.
In late 1998, Sarah Williams completed her training and shifted to Auckland. The Crime Prevention unit wanted the programme to have a more educational focus and her position was taken over by Debbie Whiteley, a trained teacher. We opened for one day a week and employed a Nanny to help with childcare.
In April 1999 Special Education Services shifted to Lower Hutt. Titiro Whakamua stayed in Upper Hutt and with no storage place we were again looking for somewhere to live, so we shift to the Trentham Community Centre by the fire station on Fergusson Drive. Here we were able to be open for two days a week. Students enrolled at the Correspondence School at their own cost and we employed a Playgroup Supervisor, Yvonne Prentice. We became an incorporated society on June 9, 1999 so we could apply for funding. We also started the process to become a licensed and chartered Early Childhood Centre.
In the year 2000 the Teen Parent Programme became a satellite school of Upper Hutt College and shifted into St John’s Hall. behind the St. John’s Church on the corner of Moonshine and Fergusson Drive. We now opened five days a week and had dual enrolments with the Correspondence School We could also offer unit standards towards National Certificates. Stephanie White came and voluntarily worked with Yvonne in the Early Childhood Centre.
Our Childcare Centre was set up in the St. John Scout Hall attached to the church hall. It was initially with the St. Johns Playgroup which met there on Wednesday mornings. When the Playgroup folded we were able to use their equipment which gave us a good base to start with. By July that year we were a fully licensed and chartered Early Childhood Centre with our temporary one year licence. Our Supervisor, Diane Truesdale, was employed and things went from strength to strength. In 2001 they had their first Education Office Review and passed with flying colours.
In 2001 we became the Hutt Valley Teen Parents as we were able to cater for more students from the lower valley, with help from the Lower Hutt Safer Community Network.
In 2003 we watched a purpose built facility being built for us by the Ministry of Education at 34 Miro St. It was officially opened by the governor-General on December 8, 2003, we shifted in for the start of 2004.
In February 2004 the Early Childhood Centre purchased a twenty-seater bus for the run from Wainuiomata through the lower valley.