Transforming child protection and care

Column Articles
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The outcomes for children and young people who come into state care are terrible.

Children in care often end up with low educational achievement, reliant on a benefit, and have contact with the Youth Justice and Corrections systems.

That’s why Social Development Minister Anne Tolley commissioned an expert panel to review our care organisation Child, Youth and Family. The panel’s recommendations informed the recent major announcement of a new care model.

This reform of the current system will take a lifelong view and support young people who require state care. The changes seek to improve the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children.

The new model will have five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support, youth justice, and transition support.

This new operating model is scheduled to be in place by 31 March 2017, but this is not a quick-fix. There have been 14 restructures in recent times, and the current system is still not working in the best interests of children. That is why we are introducing a long-term transformation programme over the next five years.

As MP for the Bay of Plenty I hear concerns from our community about the age that young people leave state care. As parents and grandparents we wouldn’t ask our 17-year-olds to leave home and we wouldn’t stop giving them advice and support once they left home. When a child or young person is taken into care, the state takes on the role of parent and needs to provide that advice and support into early adulthood.

We have listened to these concerns, and following the panel’s recommendations, the age a young person leaves state care will increase from 17 to 18. Government is also looking at creating a right to remain in care up to age 21 and further support up to age 25.

Work is also underway on attracting a wider pool of quality caregivers and providing better support for those who do take on this important role. Government alone cannot solve this long-standing issue; it will take our whole community, families, and education, health, and justice professionals.

This is not something we can change overnight but we are committed to transforming the whole system. These children deserve to be heard and to have a say in their future, and they deserve a system that supports them to achieve and live full lives.