Presentation on theme: "Children’s Participation in the New Zealand Care System"— Presentation transcript:
1 Children’s Participation in the New Zealand Care System Dr Nicola Atwool, University of OtagoTracie Shipton, Dingwall TrustTupua Urlich
2 Legislation and Policy Children Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 makes provision for children to attend Family Group ConferencesUnless it would not be in the best interests of the child ors/he would be unable by reason of age or level of maturity to understand proceedingsVoices of children and young people is one of 5 strategic priorities for 2012 – 2015Children’s Charter includes the right to “HAVE A SAY ABOUT THINGS THAT THAT ARE HAPPENING TO ME AND TO BE TOLD WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO ME”Policy includes an expectation that social workers will directly engage with children and young people in care and during the assessment phase of intervention
3 Children’s Experience Despite legislative and policy provision there is little evidence of children’s participation in practiceResearch focused on the investigation process demonstrated that in 18.7% of substantiated cases of physical abuse the social worker did not sight the child and in 30% of cases the child was not spoken to (McKenzie, 2005)Office of the Children’s Commissioner 2010 review of quality of services for children in care found thatmost of the 47 children and young people who participated did not know why they were in care and did not have a coherent narrative of their time in careMany expressed uncertainty about the future, especially those approaching 17 the age at which care orders are dischargedHalf had seen the Children’s Charter but only a quarter had it explained to themMcKenzie, K. (2005). Children talking about physical abuse. Can they tell it and is anyone listening? Childrenz Issues, 9(1), 17–21.
4 Barriers to participation Adult assumptions leading to children’s exclusionChildren need to be protected from what adults may say and doChildren can be manipulated by their parentsChildren don’t understand/know what they needChildren lack the maturity to make a contributionLoss of focus on children in care after 1989Assumption that numbers would reduce due to emphasis on keeping children with family and kin careLoss of specialist knowledge about children in careWorkload – significant increase in number of notifications since 2000 has exacerbated thisGeneric caseloads result in crisis work taking priority
5 Consequences Children and young people feel powerless and helpless “There’s nothing actually that I would actually want. I don’t want anything in life actually. I don’t even care if I die.”Children become bystanders in their own livesSome children get angryadults judge their behaviour without considering the underlying issuesInevitable that motivation to co-operate with plans and adjust to new situations is reduced when there is no consultationChild is then seen in a negative lightPlaces young people at a considerable disadvantage when the time comes to transition out of careQuote from one of the children interviewed in Children’s Issues Centre Research Report on Children in Kinship and Foster care.Smith, A. B., Gollop, M.M., Taylor, N. J. & Atwool, N. R. (1999). Children in Kinship and Foster care. Dunedin: Children’s Issues Centre.
6 Systemic IssuesNo independent body providing children in care with a voiceResearch can provide children and young people with the opportunity to have input but risk averse policy has until very recently been a barrier for researchers gaining access to children in careMany new initiatives have not been evaluated from the perspective of children and young people’s experiencePolicy and practice has not been subject to evaluationNew Zealand has relied on research from other countriesIssues of applicability given different legislation, policy and practiceIndigenous children are over-represented in the care system and their unique situation has not been taken into account despite evidence about the devastating inter-generational impactMinisterial Advisory Committee on a Māori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare (1988). Puao Te Ata Tu (Daybreak). Wellington: Department of Social Welfare.
7 What can be gained by listening to children in care? Improved outcomes for individual children and young people through active involvement in decision-makingIncreased co-operationBuilds resilienceEnhances self-esteemReduces stigmaReduced risk that negative situations will be perpetuatedChildren are more likely to speak up when they have confidence that they will be listened toImproved policy and practice by increasing accountability for the consequences of decisions – too often adults rely on ‘good intent’ without considering the impactConsistency with core social work values such as empowerment and social justice
8 What children in care have to say when asked Changes needed“Listen to young people and involve them in planning”“Keep contact with family”“Better choices in education, make sure kids stay at school”“Cut down on moves”“Children need to know what is happening and why it is happening”“We want to be treated as a person that has significance to themselves”Social Workers“Need to visit more”“Direct communication”“Need to listen more”“Need to get back to you, respond to requests”“Need to know who social worker is and be told if they are leaving”Children and young people in care interviewed as part of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner investigation into the quality of care during 2009–2010.Atwool, N. R. (2010). Children in Care. Wellington: Office of the Children’s Commissioner. Available from
9 What children in care have to say when asked In 2006 four young people presented at an ACCAN conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Wellington:“Please remember that we represent all young people in care.We are young people, not a caseload. We need you to see past stereotypical ideas of young people in care. We need you to get to know us as the unique young people that we are, and tailor your work around our individual needs, wishes, dreams and goals.We need you to know our rights and give us up-to-date information about our rights.We need your time, your energy, your nurturing. If you see us and treat us as the forming potential that we truly are, then we are more likely to blossom.Lastly, we need stability. If we have all of the above but do not feel as though we belong anywhere, and cannot establish roots, then our growth and development will be stunted. “(Watts, J., Kumar, R., Nicholson, K., & Kumar, J. (2006). Stigma, rights resilience and stability. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 27, 12–19.
10 What children in care have to say when asked This year at a Youth Hui, organised by Voices of Children in Care, attended by the Minister of Social Development young people in care had the opportunity to share their views about what they need.One of the presenters had been a speaker at the ACCAN conference and she expressed her disappointment that seven years later they were no further ahead:“the same stories told differently”This is a sad commentary on our failure to engage with children and young people in care in New Zealand at every level – practitioners, supervisors, managers and policy makers.
11 Positive steps forward Care Café websiteVoices of Children in Care GroupYouth Fun Day and Youth Hui – Auckland 2013Increased political and public awareness
12 Care Cafe Website launched 2009 Developed with young people in care and those that had recently left careCYF funded establishmentMission – to provide a chance to learn about the care system, connect with other young people with similar experiences and share their views with care providers and policy makers.Initial nervousness from CYF – risk adverse
13 Voices of Children in Care Group of passionate and committed individuals and organisations with many years experience in the care sector, child rights and advocacy.Aim to develop an independent body for children and young people in foster care in Aotearoa.Passionately believe c&yp deserve an identity, a voice and opportunities to create positive change in the care system.Youth Hui held July 2013
14 Relationship with CREATE CREATE have been an inspiration and support to usReason we were draw to their model over others:Respectful model of participation that includes training and follow-up with young peopleThey work to find solutions to the issues facing children in care, not just raise issuesThey have a clear focus on connection and provide numerous connection opportunities for children and young people in careThey provide a range of empowerment activities
15 Barriers Risk adverse nature of the statutory agency Funder capture of NGO’s – fear of rocking the boatServices too busy just getting on with essential servicesLack of government funding – not previously seen as a priorityAccess to those in whanau care
16 The way forwardYouth Hui made a real impact on the Minister for Social DevelopmentMSD scoping options for an independent voice for children and young people in careIncreased political attention on kids in careWhite Paper for Vulnerable Children and Children’s Action Plan – kids in care seen as a priority groupVulnerable Children’s Bill - legislating support for care leaversPeople starting to talk about the issue of supporting young people in foster care and our age of discharge – (Governor General, Coroner, media)VOCC to continue to advocate for an independent voice and keep the momentum going.