State of care report

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills has shone a light on some of our most vulnerable children in the office’s first annual monitoring report into children in state care, and it makes for a gruelling read in parts.

The 62 page report highlights pockets of very good social work and dedicated people, particularly at the ‘front end’ work that focusses on assessing children in immediate risk.

It is once children are in care that things take a turn for the worst and without aggregated data little is known about how children in care are actually faring.

The report paints a bleak picture and indicates children are no better off as a result of state intervention.

Key points from the report:

  • Abuse: 117 children in CYF care were reported to have been abused in 2013/2014. Of these 88 children were in the care of a CYF caregiver, 25 were formally placed with their parents but still officially in CYF custody, and five were living with an unapproved caregiver or in an unapproved. Physical abuse was the most common.
  • Education: Around 20 percent of children in care left school with NCEA Level 2 in 2012. For Maori children the figure was 15 percent.
  • Court: In 2014, 328 young people aged 14-16 with open care and protection files committed an offence which ended in the Family Court. 30 percent of children in care between the ages of 14 and 16 are being charged with offences, compared to about 1 percent of children this age from the general population.

What the children want from CYF:quote1

  • to be told what they are entitled to.
  • to provide them with high quality social workers and caregivers.
  • to help them maintain relationships with their birth family/whānau, and
  • to give them a voice in decisions about their care, and, crucially, listen to what they say.

What needs to change:

  • Set clear expectations about CYF’s core purpose and the outcomes it needs to achieve.
  • Ensure CYF is fully child-centred in all its activities.
  • Invest more in on-going support for children in all types of care placements.
  • Address capacity and capability issues across the CYF workforce.
  • Improve cultural capability across the organisation.
  • Collect and analyse relevant data to drive improved outcomes for children; and
  • Set clear expectations for other state agencies responsible for improving the outcomes of children in care.

Listen to Russell Will talk about the report on Radio New Zealand (27 August 2015) and hear more about the findings and 53 recommendations.

Related commentary

Gordon Campbell’s take on the Children’s Commissioner’s report is a reminder that this ‘system of care’ has been held up by dedicated Child, Youth and Family staff that have long been overworked and underfunded.