Children in care

The Herald reports:

A review panel is scathing of Child, Youth and Family’s performance, saying the current system is focused on immediate risks and containing costs at the expense of tackling harm and supporting long-term outcomes.

The panel, led by economist Paula Rebstock, has recommended should adopt an “investment approach” to needy , intervening earlier in partnership with other agencies.

This is sensible, and is working well in ACC and welfare. Ultimately should be extended to most areas of social provision.

It also recommended a new advocacy service for children in state care which would be run by the philanthropic sector.

Also sounds worthwhile.

However, it is highly critical of CYF’s nine youth residences, suggesting that they should be replaced by “smaller, more localised services”.

“Evidence and experience show that the propensity of large-scale institutions to cause harm to vulnerable children generally outweighs the security and safety benefits,” the report says.

“Cold, sterile facilities like some of the CYF residences run the risk of re-traumatising children and young people.

“Security and safety can often be dealt with by smaller, more localised services where a stronger connection to communities and tailored support would also provide a better chance of healing and development.”

Again, seems sensible.

Mrs Tolley said some of the statistics in the report were “horrifying”.

She said by the time children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to June 1991 had reached the age of 21:

• Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit;
• More than 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child;
• Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2;
• More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18;
• Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence;
• Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence;
• Overall, six out of every 10 children in care are Maori.

“This simply cannot be allowed to continue,” Mrs Tolley said.

Those outcomes are awful, and it is good to see the ambition to lift them.

However we should also be aware there are limits to what the state can do. Many or most of those in state care have been abused, beaten or neglected by their parents. They may have been exposed to alcohol or drugs in the womb, or during their childhood. By the time they get taken away from their parents, they’re already in a pretty crap state. And with the best will in the world, the harm done to them may be very very difficult to reverse.

But we certainly can do better than the status quo.

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