Incredible Years Blog

Check out our blog for social-emotional learning articles, news, and more!

Post Tags

New Zealand is Truly Incredible

by Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.


Looking back on the 20-year history of our New Zealand Mentors delivering the Incredible Years (IY) Parent & Teacher programs reveals the incredible work they have accomplished in supporting the social, emotional, and academic development of children ages 1-8 years.


In my visit to New Zealand this month, I met first with Lesley Stanley, who was trained in 2003 in the Parent and Small Group Dinosaur programs. She was one of two New Zealand mentor champions, becoming IY peer coach and mentor (2009) for the IY Teacher Classroom Management (TCM) and IY Parent programs (2010). Funding came initially from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and eventually mostly from the Ministry of Education. Lesley was national coordinator of IY and then national practice leader for special education. She was honored by the MNZM (member of the NZ Order of Merit) in May 2019, for her work with IY. I still hear from group leaders going for accreditation that were trained by her and talk of her warm, collaborative, and supportive approach and efforts to promote fidelity program delivery. The current IY mentors for the TCM program all attest to how much they learned from her and say they still consult with her.

dianne lees

I also visited with Dianne Lees who is New Zealand champion and IY mentor for the IY Parent Program. Dianne began by doing her master’s thesis showing the effectiveness of the IY Parent program. Years later she did her PhD evaluating the addition of home coaching to the group parent approach to enhance outcomes for higher risk families. Today Māori families in Tauranga area all get home visits as part of their group experience. Please see her article on our web site: Efficacy of a Home Visiting Enhancement for High-Risk Families Attending Parent Management Programs: A Randomized Superiority Clinical Trial.

Dianne has been an amazing force for training and supporting parent group leaders. Recently she has spread her wings to become accredited in the Autism parent program and is delivering that training with very positive evaluations. Please see our web site for The Ministry of Education and University of Canterbury's evaluation report on the implementation of the Incredible Years Parent and Teacher Autism Programs in New ZealandDianne remains focused on promoting fidelity and consultation regarding intentional tailoring for training to families' dynamics and culture with consideration of families' dynamics, culture, and child developmental status.


I spent a day with Lisa Herewini, who is an amazing and thoughtful Māori accredited group leader (2014) and accredited mentor (2019) in the IY parent program. She took me to the Marae where they deliver the IY parent programs with Māori families. Lisa’s work involves leading both the national workforce development plan for Māori Group Leaders delivering the program across Aotearoa, and the Incredible Years Māori Advisory Group, who meet fortnightly to discuss and address IY Māori workforce needs.

I also met with registered Social Worker and Incredible Years Specialists Service Māori therapists Des Willison and trained IY Peer Coach Tina Witehira, who co-deliver the Incredible Years Parent Program on the Marae.  Extending the program by a few extra sessions means that the Group Leaders can ensure that both cultural and customary protocols and Incredible Years fidelity are not compromised.



Together Lisa, Des, and Tina share over 50 years' experience across the child protection, advocacy, and mental health sectors. Their knowledge, experience and culture enables them to walk comfortably within two cultural world views which transfers into their delivery of the Incredible Years. 


6232DB76-6FD9-4C30-84F8-BDD8D062F33D_1_105_cAs part of the Incredible Years Specialist Service, Des, Lisa, and Tina also provide in-home support to parents who are currently attending an Incredible Years Program within the Tauranga region.  This work allows the team to work more closely with families to tailor the strategies learned in the program to their unique circumstances.


Over 50 Māori group leaders have been trained and are currently active in delivering the program. I was honored to be invited to join the Māori Advisory Meeting and planning for their next group leader consultation days.

Overall, I believe New Zealand to be a model for how to deliver evidence-based programs with fidelity, to tailor the program to different family circumstances and goals, children’s developmental status and culture. Currently there are 488 group leader accreditations, 75 peer coach accreditations, and 11 mentors/mentors-in-training. Routinely all group leaders who receive IY training are offered yearly consultations and fidelity workshops where they share videos of their work and discuss issues they encounter. Congratulations to the New Zealand Ministry of Education, clinicians and families for their incredible work supporting children.

NZ landscape photo(2)