Shepparton mother-baby unit
On 19 April I and other advocates from the Shepparton region travelled to Melbourne to visit the Tweddle Child and Family Health Service.
This service provides assistance to families during pregnancy and with their school-age children who are facing multiple challenges and are in urgent need of therapeutic support.
Tweddle is a public hospital with the goal of supporting families and children by providing a range of services from a sleep school through to frontline in-home and residential intervention for babies, toddlers and their families.
There has been strong advocacy for many years for the establishment of a mother-baby unit such as this in Shepparton. The visit to Tweddle provided us with a vision of how such a unit might look in a rural community such as Shepparton. The evidence is that in our region access to services is delayed, interventions are delayed and critical infant brain development time is wasted as infants wait for a professional parenting assessment before stable parenting or care arrangements can commence. Travelling to metropolitan centres creates considerable hardship and results in many people not seeking the support they need.
The need is great. We have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Victoria. We have low levels of breastfeeding. We have high levels of disadvantage. Mothers and babies leave hospital usually only one or two days after delivery, and many find themselves unsupported and unable to cope. We need a service like Tweddle in Shepparton. We will renew our business plan and keep knocking on the door of government to contribute to the recurrent funding required to run a best practice child and family residential service.