Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox is threatening to walk away from the Government over new legislation that doesn’t ensure Maori children are placed with whanau when the state removes them from their home.
Prime Minister Bill English isn’t budging on the wording in legislation to overhaul Child, Youth and Family (CYF), which would remove the priority to place a child with a member of their family or wider hapu if possible or someone with the same cultural background.
“Just because we want to provide a safe and loving home doesn’t make it mutually exclusive to a Maori home,” Fox said.
“We’re not talking about putting a child back into an unsafe home – that’s stupid – but just because it’s a Maori home doesn’t make it an unsafe home and that’s where we want to make it explicit in the law.”
The current law requires a Maori child removed from her parents to be placed with another Maori family, and if possible a member of their extended family.
This law has been a horrible failure as the reality is that if some members of a family are dysfunctional, then other members often are also.
The proposed law doesn’t say do not place Maori children with Maori families. It even says this is preferable. But it says that the first priority is what is best for the safety and welfare of the child.
Both English and Social Development minister Anne Tolley maintain that’s it’s possible for children to stay connected with their culture without being placed in family care.
They’ve got support in NZ First leader Winston Peters who agrees there’s no place for a “whanau first” approach.
“I’ve known of too many children thrown from pillar to post between whanau members. I also know of hundreds of Maori who have been massively successful because they were lucky to have relations who would look after them.
“But to apply a blanket whanau-first principle just does not in the circumstances make any sense,” Peters said.
Exactly. A blanket approach is not sensible. It is the status quo, and is to be blunt a miserable failure.