The Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) has published a report, State of Care 2015. The report is based on its independent monitoring of Child, Youth and Family’s policies, practices and services.
The report looks at how well children in care are doing according to available data on measures of wellbeing, including health, education and justice outcomes. It includes feedback from children and young people about their experiences in the system.
OCC summarises what they learnt from the monitoring as follows:
- "Issues of workforce capacity and capability mean practice is not consistent
- Child, Youth and Family is not sufficiently child-centred
- Child Youth and Family do not know if children are better off as a result of their intervention as they are not measuring outcomes reliably, and
- Alongside children’s immediate safety, CYF needs to focus on improving their outcomes."
The OCC makes 53 recommendations, and summarises what needs to change as follows:
- "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."
Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said "Our analysis is that Child, Youth and Family is very focused on keeping children safe and managing the intake and assessment processes at entry to the system. They’ve lost sight of what children need while in care and what they need to receive to ensure they thrive once they’ve left. That concerns me."
He also said "We’ve been surprised by the difficultly in accessing information about the outcomes for these children. The data we have seen is concerning. In education for example, children in care are falling way behind, with just 20 percent achieving NCEA level 2, compared to the national average of 70 percent." For Māori children in care, the figure was 15 percent.
UNICEF NZ National Advocacy Manager Deborah Morris-Travers said "Today’s report points to a raft of opportunities for Child, Youth and Family leadership and staff – in partnership with other government agencies and communities – to ensure that children coming into the care of the State have their rights to health, education, protection and cultural identity upheld, therefore delivering significantly improved outcomes."
Kathrine Clarke, Manager of Māori SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy) prevention programme Whakawhetu said, "Māori kids in CYF care talk about the importance of cultural activities. Immersing tamariki Maori in Maori culture generates tangible and positive change."
The Government established a panel to lead a "complete overhaul" of Child, Youth and Family in April 2015. Russell Wills said he hoped the report's recommendations would support the panel in their work. Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said "The panel delivered its high-level business case for change earlier this month, and this will go to Cabinet in the next few weeks along with a paper outlining the next steps. I plan to release both documents after Cabinet approval. A detailed business case is being developed by the expert panel and will be delivered by December 2015."
The OCC's report follows the release of the final report of Confidential Listening and Assistance Service earlier this week. This report into the treatment of children in state care during the 50 years leading up to 1992 found many children were subjected to brutal violence, neglect and emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.
On 23 July 2015, a Bill to make registration mandatory for social workers was introduced to Parliament, after being pulled from the Member's Ballot
This is the OCC's first public 'State of Care' report. They will publish another State of Care report in 2016.
Office of the Chief Social Worker (2014). Workload and case work review: qualitative review of social worker caseload, casework and workload management.
Broad, H. (2013). Review of Child, Youth and Family complaints system: Report to the Minister of Social Development.
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