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Urgent Action Needed for Children in Care

Urgent Action Needed for Children in Care

The Maori Women's Welfare League welcomes the Children's Commissioner's Report "State of Care 2015" and hopes this will provide the impetus to compel much needed change to the existing system.

The National President of the League, Prue Kapua, says the Report confirms what League members know and see on the ground and reinforces the concerns the League presented to the CYF Expert Advisory Panel earlier this month.

"The statistics for our Maori kids are appalling. 58% of the children in care are Maori. 68% of the young people in CYF residences are Maori", Ms Kapua says. "But the most worrying issue is that we are going backwards."

The League believes that the findings of Puao-te-Ata-tu in 1988 apply equally today. That report was done to address the high numbers of Maori children in care and found institutional racism in the Department with the values of the dominant culture regarded as superior. That report called for an equitable share of resources and proper training to deal with Maori. It also highlighted the need for the involvement of hapu and whanau which was reflected in the 1989 Act.

"27 years on the Children's Commissioner's report shows nothing has changed - and in fact things have got worse. You can refer to indigenous frameworks and use Maori terms but it makes no difference if decisions about our kids are made by people unfamiliar and uncomfortable with tikanga and a Maori perspective."

"We agree entirely with the Commissioner that state intervention should have at its core a better outcome for the child and the whanau. Today it remains a punitive, disempowering process that leaves children worse off", Ms Kapua says.

"From our experience the trauma that results in children being in care is exacerbated by the lack of commitment to maintain whanau contact once children are uplifted. The benefits of whanau contact and whakapapa and cultural knowledge are confirmed by this Report."

"There needs to be a significant change in the culture of CYF so that they recognise the need to actively involve people with the skills to help our children and young people. Dealing with these children and their whanau requires instinctive cultural knowledge"

"The experience for Maori in the Care system is generally negative and threatening. CYF need to reach out to those in the community who can assist them to approach and work with whanau. We have seen in our work that wrap-round support for whanau as a whole along with communication and advocacy can bring about positive results."

"This Report comes at a time when CYF is under review and there is the opportunity to actually make meaningful change and address the systemic issues that have seriously affected the ability of a significant number of our children and young people to reach their potential", Ms Kapua says.

The League is indebted to the Children's Commissioner for having the courage to publicly release his monitoring report and bring these matters to the fore.

"It is time to draw a line in the sand. This Report and the Review process in place must result in radical change in CYF, proper investment and realistic monitoring. The commitment for change needs to come from the Minister and National Office but the changes need to be made in the interaction on the ground, at every site and in every decision process", Ms Kapua concludes.

ENDS

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