New child & youth advocacy service, VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai, to start April 2017

Image: Pixabay

The Government has announced a new youth advocacy service, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, will begin operating as a new non-government organisation (NGO) in April 2017.

The service is intended to help connect children and young people in state care with each other, and to ensure young people's views are included in developing Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai stands for ‘Voice of the Young and Care Experienced - Listen to me.’

A Ministry of Social Development press release outlines VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai’s primary functions:

  • "to connect children and young people in care,
  • to advocate for their needs, 
  • promote a positive care identity,
  • build leadership,
  • and create a ‘community of care’ around each child."

The service is being set up in partnership with children and young people who have been in care; four philanthropic funders (Tindall Foundation, Foundation North, Todd Foundation and Vodafone Foundation); Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children; and NGOs such as Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services and Dingwall Trust. Initial government funding of $1.2 million has helped set up the new service, with a further $6.9 million to be contributed by the government through to June 2019 to help build its capability.

The Ministry of Social Development's FAQ says "In order to effectively respond to the needs of Māori children and young people, the service will need to work closely with Iwi, urban Māori organisations and other Māori academics, clinicians and leaders to align the advocacy model to the needs of Māori children and young people. The VOYCE -Whakarongo Mai Governance Board will also reflect the high proportion of Māori children in care."

VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai will have a national centre in Auckland, with a network of local partners and communities. Its services are intended to expand to include an intensive individual advocacy function with networks and regional hubs throughout the country over the next four years. Recruitment is underway to find a Chief Executive to lead the NGO.

For more information, see the Ministry of Social Development's FAQ about VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai.

Minister Anne Tolley said "In addition, a Youth Advisory Panel made up of young people in care or with experience of being in care, will continue to advise me on all aspects of the overhaul and the implementation of a completely new care system."

Background information

The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Advocacy, Workforce, and Age Settings) Amendment Act 2016, passed in December 2016, enabled the service to be established. This was the first bill implementing the Government's reforms to child protection. Submissions are open on the second bill, the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill until Wednesday 15 February 2017.

Media

Foster kid's advice: 'don't forget the love factor', Stuff, 26.01.2017