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A Safe Haven for Children in State Care

A Safe Haven for Children in State Care-NZAP Childrens Issues Porfolio

Psychotherapists are concerned about proposed changes to child welfare services in Amendments to the Children Young Persons and their Families Act including the removal of policies that have prioritised placement of Maori babies and children with whanau, hapu and iwi.

“We need permanent and safe placements for vulnerable children but they also need their whakapapa and cultural identity protected. In the 1960’s Maori babies were placed with pakeha families who didn’t know their whakapapa and in some cases told the children they were Spanish.” says Lynne Holdem, a Children’s Issues spokesperson for the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (NZAP.) “At present aunties, uncles and grandparents who are requested to take in children of their whanau and hapu are not given the help they need to provide for them and to help them settle into a new family.” Holdem says.

“Missing from the current system are the resources and skilled practitioners to assess parenting capacity in new carers and resources and practitioners to support foster/adoptive carers once they've taken on new children. Placements break down and children become more troubled by going through multiple placements,” says NZAP Psychotherapist, Matthew Harward.

“Keeping children with whanau has many advantages, for Maori children in particular but others too. that can only be achieved in a framework that understands needs of children in care. Resources must be allocated to support children and their families/ whanau." Says Holdem.

“There are risks however, to keeping a child with kin or whanau if the child remains in a branch of the family caught in the same issues of intergeneration trauma, domestic violence, poverty and other risk factors, that affected their parents.” Says Harward.

“Safe assessment and placement of children requires greater professional help than is occurring if we are to reduce high rates of breakdown of placements, consequent multiple placements and the demonstrated high risk to child development and long term adverse outcomes,” says Holdem.

“All children being moved from carers need to be assessed (sometimes done currently if they're in obvious difficultly.) New carers need to be assessed in advance regarding their capacity to be the parents the children need, (not achieved in any depth currently.) The supports needed by the whanau need to be identified and provided (currently mostly insufficient.)” Says Harward.

“Children who have had bad experiences often require better than everyday "good enough parenting." They need "therapeutic parenting" to come to feel secure in their new home and achieve their potential.” Says Harward.

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