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Brainy Lady

North and South Magazine, July 2004
- by Jenny Chamberlain

Brainy Lady

It takes Robin Fancourt time to answer her doorbell. She’s tired these days and the front door is filmset huge. It has a large brass handle like a bowling ball, which her small hands don’t fit round. “Typical of dear Ron Sang,” she says, referring affectionately to the Auckland architect who designed this airy house on its clean, straight country road. One that ends, as only roads in Taranaki do, in a floating, snow-capped replica of Mt Fuji. 
She drinks strong coffee beneath a quartet of Jane Evans paintings — four frames of swirling pink and red flowers on a white wall. Outside, beyond the terrace and the glossy lawn, the countryside holds its silent end-of-summer breath, broken only by a raucous tui in a pohutukawa.

One might surmise, given her composure and this very pleasant environment, that all is well in Robin Fancourt’s world. Indeed, on a midlife checklist she’d tick more boxes than most. A blue-eyed blonde with an enviably slender figure tailored head-to-toe in black, Fancourt’s still pretty at 56. A well-known New Plymouth paediatrician, who’s specialised in helping abused, particularly sexually abused children, she’s a founder and/or member of several influential children’s lobby groups and the much-quoted author of Brainy Babies — a readable handbook on infant brain development published by Penguin in 2000.

In the June 2003 Queen’s Birthday honours she was awarded the Companion of the Order of Merit for a lifetime’s work with children — recognition which delights her “because we don’t normally acknowledge abused children like this — we just forget about them.”

She is still happily married to Michael, a surgeon at New Plymouth hospital. “Robin didn’t really want to come back to Taranaki,” Michael confides — they returned so he could take the job. His is the ride-on mower parked in the garage alongside a comfortable-looking car. Michael’s into large equipment, smiles Robin, and the mower is useful when you’ve got 36 acres to care for.

The picture is completed by three successful offspring: Tineke, 29, a Lower Hutt surgeon. She was born in London while ­Fancourt was completing her specialist paediatrics training: “She’s very like my husband and will be a wonderful surgeon”. Sam, 27, a computer whiz in Sydney — “I get him to write down what he does but I still don’t understand it”. Nicholas, 21, who’s just finished his third year of medicine in Dunedin.

Fancourt was born in Dunedin but lived in New Plymouth from age four. Her parents were Doris and Denis Allen — the latter a pathologist who had two radiologist brothers Peter and Chalmers. All three Allens practised in New Plymouth. She has a brother Matthew Allen, a GP in New Plymouth and a sister in Melbourne.

Robin and Michael met at Otago School of Medicine and married in 1968. They’ve lived in Christchurch, the West Indies, England, Soweto and spent eight years in Blenheim before the move to Taranaki. It was in Blenheim that Fancourt established her first paediatrics practice and where she first realised how little understanding there is, even among doctors, “of how disastrous being traumatised at home can be. A lot of the time [doctors] don’t do anything about it.” She decided to devote her life to doing something herself.

So. A life filled with good. Even before mentioning the Brainwave Trust, the charity with the baby brain gain message which Fancourt helped set up.

But first the tiredness, the walking stick with steadying little sucker pads which helped her to the door, the short-term memory lapses, the irony. The woman who brought the brainwave message — and its American messiah Bruce Perry — to New Zealand has a brain tumour. And after a 16-year nodding acquaintance the oligodendroglioma, the kraken located in the frontal lobe area just behind her forehead, has wakened with a vengeance.

Characteristically, she’s fought it: “Sixteen years ago they told me I had four years to live. I thought, my God, I’m not doing that! I’m going to live. I had my children to think of!” She had chemo and radiotherapy but it was the “spiritual decision” to keep on living which fended off the slow-growing mass, she says.

“This re-emergence of this bloody tumour! I started getting tired and having problems with my leg and went along to a specialist who looked at my MRI scan and said there’s nothing we can do here. I was so furious. I came home, looked it up on the internet and got in touch with John Laterra [professor of neurology, oncology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins Hospital] in Baltimore. He’s been wonderful.”

On Laterra’s advice another course of chemotherapy was begun which improved Fancourt’s memory and handwriting, but when her walking deteriorated the medication had to be stopped.

How did she first discover the tumour? “We’d just moved into this house and I had been feeling tired and stressed.” She attributed the energy shortfall to overload — a combination of her clinical practice, hospital work, expert witness work in court, looking after three children and the move. One day, while in a colleague’s office, she had a single grand mal seizure — a common way for this type of tumour to announce its presence. She’s never had one since and has not been held up in her work until two years ago.

Now the tumour is sucking energy from this once vivacious woman — whom fellow Brainwave Trust founder member Ian Hassall describes as “always everywhere, committed and involved”. It’s eating away her life’s passion.

Fancourt has been told by medical and legal advisors that she cannot continue her work with children. “Getting alongside them, understanding what’s in their lives, getting into their minds and helping them. I’ve just loved being involved with children but I can’t for the time being.”

For a woman who has no trouble pronouncing ­oligodendroglioma, and until now no trouble living with one, this is frustrating beyond endurance. “I have to find a way of reaching out to these children and helping them reach their potential. Having had all that taken away I feel impotent.”

There is still so much she wants to do to help spread the Brainwaveword. Everyone, she says, needs to know why we must put much more effort and funding into early childhood in this country. Why addressing our appalling child abuse record is so urgent.

The trust was seeded in 1996. That year, amid work pressures and the stream of troubled children coming through her clinic, Robin Fancourt “fell in love”. Her face radiates joy when she recalls this experience. She read a paper by American Bruce Perry, a pioneer in an underfunded and understudied area of medical research: childhood brain development.

During the 1990s while he was chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, Perry, a softspoken father of five from ­Bismarck, North Dakota, was conducting groundbreaking research using brain imaging techniques which showed how neural systems react when a child undergoes a traumatic experience. Perry’s work proved that trauma and neglect profoundly alter the biology of a child’s brain and have lifelong negative consequences. More than that, he established that the fleeting birth to three-year-old period is crucial for the shaping of a baby’s brain. By age three it’s 85 per cent wired.

Perry’s paper opened a door for Robin Fancourt. “I’d been giving lectures and presentations to lots of people, including my own profession. I was telling them how children get damaged and they weren’t taking any notice. That really, really made me mad. I put as much money as I could together and went to Houston to meet him. I thought I’d meet an old man in a pinstripe suit and he’d be really difficult. Instead he was this lovely young man, relaxed, charming who could explain so well how a parent’s disordered behaviour impacts on their children and what to do about it.”

Fancourt spent several weeks with Perry, learning how the infant brain grows and watching him work with disturbed children who came to his paediatric service — going through assessment and family history, deciding what to do and getting the parents involved.

“Then I came back and started talking about it to anyone who would listen. Luckily I was CEO of a congress we had in Auckland in 1998. I got Bruce Perry out. He did this wonderful Powerpoint presentation. They understood what he was saying and what I had been saying and they agreed and wanted to do something about it.”

Ian Hassall, Commissioner for Children from 1989 to 1994 and now a senior researcher at Auckland University of Technology’sInstitute of Public Policy, helped run the September 1998 12th International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect. It was big — there were 1400 people there — and the charismatic Bruce Perry was, attests Hassall, “by far the most popular presenter”.

The congress organisers — Fancourt, Hassall and news ­presenter Judy Bailey — wanted to continue the Perry momentum and do something for the neglected area of early child development. Using a small amount of money left over from the conference they formed the charitable trust.

Judy Bailey was founding chair. She was replaced by Auckland-based freelance documentary maker Sue Younger in February 2004. Trust patron is former principal Youth Court judge MichaelBrown and there is a team of nine presenters (including teachers, paediatricians, lawyers and GPs) who take the message about early brain development round the country.

Presenter manager and trainer Ola Roberts says bookings for seminars have grown exponentially, from one or two a month in 2002 to around 20 a month in 2004. As the trust has no advertising budget she attributes the increase in requests to “word of mouth” publicity. Roberts recruits and trains speakers to try to meet the demand and is keen to help organisations find ways of incorporating the brainwave information into their existing education or training programmes.

Before her tumour began to affect her speech and walking, Fancourt was the trust’s star presenter. Her last official public presentation was in 2003. She wrote Brainy Babies for the parents who came up to her after her talks wanting to know more. Fancourt says she is annoyed the committee “don’t trust me to give another presentation on their behalf” — but annoyance is sometimes a disguise for grief. Her keynote speaker role is being taken by Simon Rowley a neonatal paediatrician at National Women’s Hospital.

Ola Roberts says there is no suggestion Fancourt is being replaced — “Robin is the Brainwave Trust!”

 To normal, loving parents the Brainwave message isn’t rocket science. What’s news about smiling, chatting, rocking, singing to your baby and tending to its every need? Hasn’t every good parent since the dawn of time done this automatically? Yes, but few know why it’s so important, what the physiological changes are that their actions are causing in their child’s brain and how short the period of time is when these changes happen. “We need ways of telling parents what they are doing, how wonderful it is and why they need to do more of it,” says Fancourt.

The Brainwave message is the opposite of what people used to be told about the brain: that a child’s brain is fully formed at birth;that brain development is driven by genes, not environment; that early experiences don’t have much impact on a person’s abilities in later life; that children’s brains are not as active as adults’.

Here’s what Fancourt says in Brainy Babies: “It is the day-to- day experiences of babies, infants and toddlers that orchestrate the development of their brains. If infants are raised in a safe, nurturing environment, their brains will be stimulated by these experiences, which spark brain cells into action and wire the crucial connections between them. The critical timing for this occurs between conception to age six, with most progress being made in the first three years.

“Talking, singing, reading to children, encouraging and ­endorsing their emerging skills, caressing, cuddling and playing with them are some of the ingredients required to build their brains. The power of these simple experiences can be seen in babies and infants who shine with an eager curiosity and a delight in life.”In short the baby play which comes so naturally to clucky adults — the goofy toe-tickling and funny face pulling we find ourselves doing when babies and children are around — is actuallydeveloping their brains, causing billions of brain cells (neurones) to connect.

Plus all the loving and nurturing of course. The vital twin abilities to form attachments to and empathise with others are brokered by the brain much earlier than you’d think. The process begins at birth with the mother’s warm responsive attention. Of the flood of sensory experiences the baby receives, positive physical touch — the “mother of all senses” — is the most vital. The neurone connections that occur with an attachment relationship need to be made within the first 18 months before this window of opportunity is lost.

In her book Fancourt explains that fruit flies have 100,000 neurones, mice have five million, a monkey has 10 billion but humans have 100 billion and most of the work connecting them is done intuitively by parents before their child is three.

It’s not hard work stuff like holding up flash cards with the word MUMMY printed in huge letters to try and get them reading at 10 months (remember Glenn Doman?). Yours truly was guilty of this, but to the credit of my eldest daughter, Patricia, she just turned her head away in disgust and I was too busy to try it with second daughter Lydia.

It’s not hiring a maths tutor when they’re still in nappies but instead playing This Little Piggy, chatting to them while going round the supermarket and doing hand-clapping games. It’s not giving them a tennis racquet as soon as they can walk — it’s getting alongside and encouraging them as they explore and learn in their own time. It’s keeping them warm, safe, fed and happy and picking them up every time they cry. Every time? Here’s Fancourt on this:

“Most parents want their children to be able to deal with the stresses of daily life and recover from any devastating experience. Most parents do not know that the foundation of such resilience is determined by their first responses to their children as babies and infants. Leave him to cry so he can control himself? The answer is no. Quick, consistent and, over time, repeated attention to a baby’s cry builds in a flexible regulating capacity to future stress and as the child grows, an ability to soothe himself.”

The physiology behind this is simple. Persistently high levels of cortisol — the hormone released when the baby is stressed — interfere with the metabolism, the immune system and affect the forming brain. Picking up a crying baby regulates cortisol production and allows his or her brain to go back to growing.

But society frowns upon mollycoddling. Lots of people will try and dissuade the unsure new parent from picking up and comforting their baby. In my case the unmarried, childless nursery nurse at North Shore Hospital, who had worked there 30 years and felt she knew about child rearing, ticked me off when I scooped my wailing babe out of the plastic hospital crib: “You’re making a rod for your own back!” she growled. And another “expert”, Barry the builder, who fixed up our old wooden house intermittently through our happy nappy, picture book and playdough years used to put his head through whichever bit of broken wall he was recladding and say: “You’re ruining those kids.”

I ignored them both and am thrilled to hear, 27 years later, the brainy lady herself telling me my kids were lucky that I did.

What happens to babies and children whose brains don’t get this natural, crucial, urgent input?

Fancourt, in her sunny room with the glorious view, sets her coffee cup down carefully and summons up hundreds of sad, vacant little faces which line the tunnel of her years in practice. She cannot tell their tales quite as crisply as she once could but her frustration and grief over child abuse and our failure to respond urgently to it — and protect the rapidly developing infant brain — is undiminished.

“A lot of these children are assessed as ‘Oh don’t worry, it’s just developmental delay. It will take a while.’ But their brains are developing so fast that to delay means you are losing months of development.

“What [the abused child’s] brain is doing is adapting to the situation they are in at home. They are constantly watching for the next violent episode. They switch off the cerebral cortex, they can’t think or listen or do anything normal. They have no ability to make social contacts. They are totally in this area all the time, watching for non-verbal clues. It might be the sound of a father’s voice when he comes home drunk, knowing that means he will attack their mother. Or just a certain look which means a bashing. The child’s mind is focussed solely on this and on fear and danger. They cannot participate in life.”

Much of this early damage is irreparable but Fancourt says “there is always room for hope. It’s difficult but it can be done.”

She tells the story of A, a half-Polynesian, half-Pakeha New Plymouth five-year-old, son of a solo mother, who was referred to her with Attention Deficit Hyperactivty Disorder (ADHD) in the 1990s.

When A and his mother came to see Fancourt the boy was unresponsive, withdrawn and did not seem to be listening. His mother reported he was always negative towards her and at times violent. A’s father had left the household when he was 4½ and A had refused to go and see him since. The marriage was intermittently violent from the start. When the father came home drunk A’s mother knew she would be attacked and beaten that night. A knew this too and would withdraw to his room and refuse to eat.

A’s mother found his inattention and refusal to co-operate increasingly frustrating. A would lash out for no particular reason. She tried smacking him, telling him what she thought of these behaviours and isolating him in his bedroom but these tactics made him worse. Medication for ADHD had not helped. To give herself space A’s mother left him to watch television as soon as he was home from school.

A was thin and had a slightly raised pulse and respiratory rate. Fancourt knew that although he seemed not to be listening he was concentrating on what his mother might do — the crucial sign being “an absent look in his eyes”. His teacher reported similar behaviour. Her remedy was to place him at the back of the classroom so as to minimise his disruption of the other children’s learning.

Although A was never physically abused Fancourt ­recognised the classic signs of a child who has suffered trauma in early life. His need to maintain constant vigilance for unspoken danger signals meant his brain’s cerebral cortex was switched off. He had no normal sense of time, was withdrawn and his emotional and cognitive development were arrested.

When Fancourt explained what was happening A’s mother was relieved and ready to do whatever she could to help him recover. So was his teacher. A needed the care, nurture and guidance he had missed out on earlier. Fancourt told his mother that gentle and reassuring touch was important. Also verbal praise and encouragement — which most parents use without thinking.

Consistency of care was vital for A, says Fancourt. If his mother failed to pick him up from school it resulted in “a catastrophic feeling of despair and regression in his feelings for his mother”. Forewarning of being picked up by someone he knew was the way round this, as was forewarning of a change of school routine by his teacher. A class outing caused A terror not excitement.

Consistency at bedtime with story reading, learning to treat his mother with respect, punishment mutually agreed and not in the form of physical harm or verbal denigration, television banned, especially violent programmes — “Children learn through interaction with other human beings, not sitting in front of a TV.”

With Fancourt’s guidance A and his mother worked things out together. Within months of meeting him Fancourt explained to A “how consistency and care by a child’s parents literally grow his brain”. At the time she could not tell if he took this in but in later years he asked questions and used the information to explain things to his friends. A is in his teens now and doing well. And has already spread the Brainwave message. 

Brain development in children is both spectacular and fascinating. Fancourt says most parents, when they learn the easy things they can do to help their baby’s brain grow, are filled with excitement.

A newborn baby’s brain is two-thirds the size of an adult’s and contains almost all the cells it will ever have. The baby’s daily experiences etch the patterns of permanent pathways in the brain linking billions of brain cells together.

By the age of eight months a baby has 500 trillion connections. By the age of two a toddler has 1000 trillion — twice as many as its parents. By three the brain is two and a half times more active than an adult’s and remains so for the first 10 years of life. Small children are biologically primed for learning yet the tragic irony is we spend less on early childhood education than at any other time of life.

New Zealand is third on a list of 27 OECD nations for child homicide and Child, Youth and Family has a backlog of more than 5000 cases — children whose brain development and personalities are imperilled by lethal delays.

CYF, says Fancourt “is a mess and needs more resources and more knowledge. It’s been a while since I talked to politicians and policy makers but when I did they were fascinated by what I was telling them and knew it was important. But they did not do anything. They have a three-year term and want things done which will put them back in office.

“We need more money and resources for early childhood. If you plot out what’s spent on early childhood, primary education and what’s spent later in life it’s astronomically different. Little children are way down there. We should be looking at why. We should be focussing on what’s important. Because [early childhood] is when you’re establishing who you’re going to be.

“If every in the country knew how important these first few years of life are we could do things differently. Brainwave is trying to tell people exactly what is going on. Things can change.”

an Hassall checks his diary and confirms the meeting with the government Fancourt is referring to took place on February 21 2001. Fancourt, Hassall and trust member and tireless child advocate Lesley Max met then finance minister Michael Cullen, minister of social policy Steve Maharey, health minister Annette King and justice minister Phil Goff, explained the trust’s message and “apprised them that there was a whole lot that could be gained in this country by attending to the development of young children”. Government published a policy document, Agenda For Children, in 2002, but since then, reports Hassall, not much action.

It seems it rests with the little trust and its bare bones budget — between $60,000 and $100,000 depending on donations and fundraising — to keep spreading the word and trying to “reach the marginalised people who have great difficulty rearing their children”. Can a group of middle-class professionals who fit the work in when and where they can, do this?

In the long-term, says Hassall, yes: “You have to be both impatient and patient. You have to believe that each time you make a major effort to do something it does have an impact and it’s incremental.” The information is being diffused through presenters talking to groups, who engage with parents, who in turn pass it on.

Cathy James says it won’t reach her daughter — the 30-year-old solo mother whose three children James is raising — but Brainwave is helping James herself repair the damage her daughter has done. She wishes more people dealing with children knew about the trust’s work.

Two years ago James, 48, left her partner and country life in northern Victoria to return to New Zealand and become a second time parent in a messy, toy-filled house in Massey, west Auckland. The house has mattresses and junk in the front yard (there’s an explanation), walls covered in times table posters, bright fabric hangings, animal charts and children’s artworks, two much-bounced-on shabby sofas, bikes, a plastic paddling pool with a shade cover on a sunny deck and a computer humming in a corner.

It’s a cosy home, kindy, classroom, kitchen, office and refuge combined, presided over by the motherly-bosomed James who, while her youngest 
grandchild naps, is combining painting one of the rooms bright blue with supervising a sweet-natured seven-year-old’s handwriting practice.

We can’t give James’ three ­grandchildren their correct names because after two years and $25,000 in legal fees their grandma is still 
fighting custody issues in the Family Court. We’ll call them Richie, seven, Jimmy, five and Ellie, three.

New Zealand-born James has four daughters but only one went off the rails — at around puberty. Her daughter is an alcoholic and methamphetamine addict who abused drugs and alcohol through three pregnancies to three different fathers and who has refused all ­remedial help. All three children suffered developmental damage as a consequence.

James’ whole life is now focussed on helping the children catch up on some of what they’ve missed. Affection, stability and consistency came first.

Richie was five when James gained custody but, with no normal parenting input during his early childhood, he had the mental age of an 18-month-old. He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and Asperger’s syndrome — mild autism. He cannot make eye contact, dislikes exercise (one way his Nana Cath gets him moving is to go round the streets collecting other people’s inorganic rubbish — hence the piles in the yard) and does not respond to instructions the way most children do. His morning get-up and get ready for school routine is set out on a photographic chart on the wall behind the front door.

At first James, a trained social worker specialising in helping people with disabilities, focussed on cuddling and touch and on teaching Richie to speak. She’s now bringing his reading, writing and maths up to speed — the kitchen table is covered with schoolroom learning aids, jars of objects for counting, pens and papers. Hours are spent alongside her boy doing basic cutting and pasting to develop co-ordination. She has had to teach Richie his multiplication tables and pre-school skills at the same time. Lots of this learning happens at mealtimes and happily Jimmy and Ellie are picking it up too.

Ellie has foetal alcohol syndrome. She’s a teddy-clutching, angelic-looking child, with a dark scowl and a short fuse. She was a year in the care of her grandmother before she smiled. “Ellie goes to her father’s house at the weekend where there are no boundaries. She stomps her feet, says I want, and gets whatever it is. By Monday she is tired and cranky and I’m dealing with a powerful little beastie who knows she can play her father off against me. The boundaries go straight back on because I can’t possibly live with three children who all have issues if there are no boundaries. By Friday she is fine again and knows exactly where she is.”

James has huge concerns over the anxious middle child. Jimmy’s father has weekend access but James says the child is often left unattended. “He had a broken arm a year ago, concussion twice and couldn’t walk and was in Starship last weekend for four hours. Every time I withhold access I get into big trouble. [Jimmy’s father] has the legal right to enforce access and he will appear with a policeman and a warrant and that’s more drama for the children. I tell you these parents have more rights than the children.

“I’ve had to get right into the child and education scene because that’s the only gift I can give them,” says the warm-hearted James, who has been enormously encouraged by what she has learned at two Brainwave Trust presentations.

“Having been to Brainwave I’m very aware of where they’re at in their development. I had a fairly good base knowledge but now it’s more in depth. You actually spend the whole time [at the course] going, ‘Oh my God, that makes sense.’ I’ve been flying blind and learned a lot of stuff as I’ve gone through. Brainwave reinforced that what I was doing was right.

“What I would like to see is Family Court staff, the lawyers, the counsel for the child and CYF attend some of these courses. I don’t think they have real in-depth understanding about the damage done by substance abusing parents.

“The Family Court takes the view it’s really vital for the child to be with the parent. But if the children are already damaged and the grandparent has to step in I’d agree with that about three per cent of the time.”

James says every day a small child spends waiting for a Family Court decision is another day’s development lost. If professionals were better informed about “what is really happening to the brains of these children” they might make quicker decisions and be less inclined to grant unsupervised access to parents who continue to neglect or abuse them.

“The law says the welfare of the child is paramount. But it’s not. The child is not at the core of the decision-making. The child is secondary.”

James has two more suggestions. She thinks the trust should listen to parents more and use the feedback to make their ­presentations more targeted. And she thinks the information should be covered in schools. “When I was at high school they came round with a dummy which smoked and I saw what it did to the lungs. I am one of 11. I am the only one who saw that dummy and I’m the only one who doesn’t smoke. Now that’s interesting. If you used that scenario with the brain information it might reach X number of people in the class and it might work.”

Simon Rowley agrees. A kindly, passionate paediatrician with a salt and pepper beard and four children of his own, Rowley, who works as a neonatal paediatrician at Auckland’s Starship Hospital, has been shoulder-tapped to assume the Fancourt mantle. Rowley has been involved with the trust for 18 months and his particular specialty is medico-legal presentations. Here he emphasises what a dangerous place for children New Zealand is and how important the brain development information is to the legal fraternity who guide the court processes small children get caught up in.

“In all Family Court cases a timely resolution is desirable but for very young children time is truly of the essence. Proactive case management becomes a priority in the context of the period of rapid brain development. The reality is that many cases involving infants are taking a lot longer to resolve than their developing brains require.”

Rowley would also like to see the trust’s uncomplicated child saving message included in the school curriculum. “I’d love to see it made compulsory for fourth formers to spend a week in a creche observing babies. My personal opinion is that we don’t know how to parent. Young men in particular are not encouraged to be tender and nurturing. And our very high solo parent rate means young men are not even there for children. My particular passion would be helping prepare boys for fatherhood.”

The trust’s message says Rowley is for the general community. Newborns meet dozens of different people all of whom need to know about it. And he never misses an opportunity to tell a parent about the huge influence they are having on the neurobiology of their baby’s brain.

As he’s weighing infants in his clinic, even those only eight weeks old are attracted to the bright shapes and colours of the pictures tacked to the big noticeboard on his wall. He’ll point out to parents the significance of this and how they can build on the phenomenal potential of their child’s mind. “You have to start in these small ways.”

 Meanwhile the Brainwave Trust’s work is gathering momentum. Each presentation generates more requests for speakers, says part-time administrator Jenny Wood. “The more proactive we become the more money we need to fundraise.” A billboard and public presentation campaign fronted by Simon Rowley and Judy Bailey begins in West Auckland as this magazine goes on sale.

Best of all the trust has persuaded Bruce Perry to come back to New Zealand. He will be here between February 28 and March 4 2005 to give three one-day seminars in Auckland (February 28), Wellington (March 2) and Christchurch (March 4). He will also meet politicians and policymakers in Wellington and will be speaking at a joint Brainwave Trust and Pacific Foundation fundraising dinner in Auckland.

Pacific Foundation CEO Lesley Max says Perry will talk about the trajectory which propels abused children into an adulthood of violent offending and the ways of interrupting the process — a “cot bars to cell bars” theme. Max says Perry is as “easy to listen to as Jerry Seinfeld, with a phenomenal store of up-to-date information and leading-edge science which he is willing to share”.

The brainy American is guaranteed full houses and one gentle woman from New Plymouth has already reserved a front row seat.


About us 

Grandparents Raising GrandchildrenTM Trust NZ (GRG) is a registered Charitable Trust operating throughout New Zealand providing support services to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren on a full-time basis. Our vision is for a community where grandparents raising grandchildren are empowered to provide a safe, secure and nurturing home for their grandchildren.

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Te tautoko i nga tupuna, mokopuna me te whanau.
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