Minister indicates rethink on Māori children in care; Select Committee hears submissions

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Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has indicated she will reconsider draft legislative provisions that would deprioritise placing Māori children in state care with whānau, hapū and iwi.

Radio NZ reported that Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley had spent the last few weeks visiting iwi around the country and talking to the Māori Party and it was clear the wording was not right.

Radio NZ reported that Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the issue was a deal-breaker for her party, and she was pleased the government was now bowing to pressure.

Green Party MP Jan Logie said "This is a huge victory for Māori organisations and communities who have campaigned strongly on the importance of tamariki Māori remaining connected to their whakapapa and in the care of their whanau, hapū and iwi."

Ms Logie also said "Getting the law right is one thing but the Government also needs to ensure CYFs and Māori organisations are properly resourced to be able to actually implement whānau-first placements, so that we can reduce the level of tamariki Māori in state care."

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill has been heavily criticised for deprioritising placing Māori children in care with whānau, hapū and iwi by removing section 13(2)(g) from the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. This section gives priority, where practicable, to whānau, hapū, iwi and family group placements when a decision is made to remove a child or young person from their usual caregivers.

Updates

Following media reports that the Minister would reconsider the wording of the Bill, Minister Anne Tolley Tweeted "To be clear – we’re not going back to the drawing board. Through the select committee process some of the wording of the Bill may change but its intent won’t. We will not be reinserting the whānau first principle. Safety will always come first." Further information and responses are in the media coverage listed below.

Associate Professor Leonie Pihama from Te Kotahi Research Institute has highlighted a list of key flaws in the Ministry of Social Development report Outcomes for Children Discharged from CYF Care in 2010 (2012). This report is being cited as the basis for statements that Māori children returned home or placed in 'kin' care are at higher risk of reabuse. The flaws listed are:

"(i) lack of clear indications as to the what constitutes ‘kin’ care;
(ii) the inclusion of ‘friends of family’ in ‘kin’ care figures;
(iii) lack of information in regards to whānau included in figures;
(iv) no peer or external review of the document and the ways in which data is presented;
(v) no information as to how placements were determined;
(vi) no evidence or indication of any involvement of whānau, hapū , iwi or Māori organsational engagement in processes of placement;
(vii) no evidence of inclusive Family Group Conferences in regards to placement and return;
(viii) an assumption that CYFs itself devoid of any responsibility for determining how and where tamariki are placed and;
(ix) a deficit approach is taking throughout the report with the location of ‘blame’ on whānau and Māori more generally for repeat abuse when there is not indication that whānau, hapū or iwi had any decision making in any of the placement processes and with no meaningful or robust evidence to back that positioning."

Submissions on the Bill

Select Committee is currently hearing submissions on the Bill.

The Children's Commissioner's submission proposes an alternative version of section 13, clarifying that hapū, iwi, and wider family group would be given priority consideration both when a child is at risk of removal and after the decision is made that a child will be removed. The summary of key recommendations outlines specific concerns and the proposed alternative section 13 as well as a range of other suggestions. The Commissioner questions the lack of adequate focus on meeting the needs of Māori tamariki and rangitahi, saying:

"We can see little evidence that the new system has been designed with the needs of the majority of the children and young people it serves at the centre – that is, starting from a Māori world view. Rather, the Māori concepts introduced in the Bill give the impression of being secondary considerations for Māori children in addition to the purposes and principles that apply to all children who come into contact with the care and protection and youth justice systems."

The Commissioner also identifies "significant notes of caution" regarding the need for organisational culture change and transformational thinking.

Radio Waatea has livestreamed some of the public oral submissions to Select Committee on their Facebook page.

Parliament will eventually make written submissions public but several organisations have made their submissions available.

The Privacy Commissioner's submission raises serious concerns about amendments related to information sharing introduced in Clause 38:

"I support the Bill's intent to improve the care and protection of vulnerable children and to clarify agencies' ability to share information where necessary to do so. However, the information sharing provisions contained in clause 38 have been developed without adequate consultation, are complex and fragmented, and will be harder to understand than the current legislative regime. My view is that as currently drafted the information sharing provisions in the Bill will not deliver the intent of improving information sharing, and may make things worse for some of the most vulnerable."

The Privacy Commissioner has also proposed an alternative version for Clause 38.

The NZ Law Society submission raises concerns that the proposed legislation is a fundamental change to child protection services that cannot be achieved through amendments.

Otago University Dean of Law Professor Mark Henaghan said "We're shifting the focus from what under the current legislation is a kind of minimum intervention, with regard to children who may be at risk, to an early intervention model."

UNICEF has said the proposed legislation is at risk of breaching the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. 

Other submissions available include:

Child Poverty Action Group submission

New Zealand Psychological Society submission

Social Service Providers of Aotearoa submission

Action for Children Youth Aotearoa (ACYA) with YouthLaw

This week Minister Anne Tolley announced she will ask Parliament’s Social Services Committee to propose changing the name of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 (the CYPF Act) to the Oranga Tamariki Act.

Update on submissions: All of the more than 300 submissions are now available on the Parliament website.

Background information

See these previous NZFVC news stories:

Closing date extended for submissions on child protection bill; Māori continue to raise concerns, February 2017

Submissions are open on the second piece of legislation to reform child care and protection services, December 2016

Treaty claim lodged on move away from whānau, hapū, iwi placements for children in care, December 2016

Proposal to deprioritise placing Māori children in care with whānau, hapū, iwi criticised, September 2016

Selected media

Call For Independent Watchdog For Ministry For Vulnerable Children, Press release: Family First, Scoop, 27.03.2017

Fresh start needed for Oranga Tamariki Bill, Waatea News, 24.03.2017

New CYF legislation unworkable, says former judge, Radio NZ, 23.03.2017

Let Māori look after their own at risk children - Dr Whatarangi Winiata, Te Karere TVNZ, 22.03.2017

Rewrite of child protection legislation recommended, Press release: Law Society, Scoop, 22.03.2017

No Pride in Prisons to present submission on ‘racist’ Bill, Press release: No Pride in Prisons, Scoop, 22.03.2017

Ngapuhi seeks partnership on Oranga Tamariki, Waatea News, 21.03.2017

Ngati Raukawa rejects tired Tolley talkshow, Interview with Emeritus Professor Wally Penetito, Waatea News, 20.03.2017

Oranga Tamariki Bill doesn’t do enough for our people, Press release: Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi, Scoop, 20.03.2017

Dame Tariana Turia on Paakiwaha, Waatea News, 20.03.2017

Iwi leaders happier over Tamariki Ora, Waatea News, 20.03.2017

Māori words ‘helicoptered’ into CYF legislation, Radio NZ, 20.03.2017

Is Anne Tolley competent to be Minister of Social Development? Blog; Jan Logie, 20.03.2017

It sticks like a knife in my guts, E-Tangata, 19.03.2017

Oranga Tamariki Bill Discussions Positive, Press Release: Whanau Ora Iwi Leaders Group, Scoop, 18.03.2017

Editorial: How to keep vulnerable children safe within the whanau, Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft, The Dominion Post, 17.03.2017 

Rejection of Crown’s proposed Vulnerable Children Legislation, Press release: Ngati Raukawa, Scoop, 17.03.2017

Oral Questions — Questions to Ministers, Hansard, 16.03.2017

Govt signals change of heart on child placements, but will not go back to 'whanau first', NZ Herald, 16.03.2017

Kin care best for children, Interview with Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft, Waatea News, 16.03.2017

Wider consultation needed on whanau-first wording, Interview with Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Jan Logie, Waatea News, 16.03.2017

Govt respond to pressure over Oranga Tamariki Bill, Māori Television, 16.03.2017

Govt backs down over whānau-first care, Radio NZ, 16.03.2017

Govt change of heart on child placements, Otago Daily Times, 16.03.2017

Tolley reconsiders whanau first care, Waatea News, 16.03.2017

Oranga Tamariki Bill goes back to the drawing board, tekarere, OneNews, 15.03.2017, also see the original broadcast on YouTube

VIEWPOINT: Whānau, hapū and iwi-first must remain a priority for Māori children: Marama Davidson, Mana, 15.03.2017

Back to the table over controversial 'whanau first' clause, Government to soften stance, Stuff, 15.03.2017

Backdown on whānau-first placements a victory for Māori, Media release: Green Party, 15.03.2017

Oranga Tamariki Bill flaws highlighted, Waatea News, 15.03.2017

“Muddled” and “confusing” Bill must be fixed, Press release: Labor Party, Scoop, 15.03.2017

Child welfare bill: 'Scrap it and start again', Radio NZ, 07.03.2017