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CYFs report - Too much talk - not enough walk

CYFs report - Too much talk - not enough walk

August 28, 2015

A social agency working with fatherless boys says the lack of Government action on protecting children in care beggars belief.

Big Buddy CEO Richard Aston has been lobbying for better screening of caregivers for five years and says the Government has had plenty of time to act.

“Too much talk – not enough walk,” says Richard Aston, whose agency robustly screens volunteer mentors and matches them with fatherless boys. “Child, Youth and Family (CYF) is well aware of the vigorous vetting scrutiny we put our mentors under – they’ve known about it for years. Yet children in State care are still being physically and sexually abused. Ignorance I can forgive; wilful neglect I can’t.”

The abuse was highlighted in Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills report – State of Care 2015 - on the child protection agency. Russell Wills said CYF is good at investigating and reacting to abuse notifications but the rest of its operations were highly variable with core issues around workforce capacity and capability.

Richard Aston says he agrees with a CYFs worker who described the culture as “dump and run” in relation to placing children in care.

“I’ve recently supported one of our Little Buddies, who is in care, in court. That kid has had more homes than me and he’s only 16. And his case is not unusual. Professionals expecting him to ‘act appropriately’ defines stupidity in my opinion.”

Richard Aston says CYFs referrals to his agency are on the increase as over-worked social workers strive to reduce their workloads by referring on to under-funded agencies like Big Buddy.

“They can tick a box saying they did something. Then it’s someone else’s problem. The reality is very little funding follows that referral, despite long negotiations with the Ministry of Social Development over funding. We simply cannot keep picking up the pieces without more support.”

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft says an overwhelming majority of young people coming through the Youth Court have care and protection backgrounds and 83% of prisoners under 20 have a CYFs record. Some 83% of the youth offenders are male and 70% come from single parent families.

“We’ve got 5000 Kiwi kids in care at any one time,” says Richard Aston. “That’s a hell of a lot of kids queuing up for the criminal justice system.”

He says the cost of rigorous vetting is inconsequential compared to the cost of picking up the pieces. “We’re talking about a massive emotional, social and economic cost here. Domestic violence is estimated to cost up to $7 billion annually and the cumulative costs over the next 10 years will climb to $78 billion if nothing changes.”

“The big question is do we have the will to stop it?”


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