Continued focus is needed to ensure the basic rights and interests of children in state care are met, says Chief Children’s Commissioner Dr Claire Achmad.
Experiences of Care in Aotearoa, a report from Aroturuki Tamariki | the Independent Children’s Monitor, annually assesses how agencies such as Oranga Tamariki comply with the National Care Standards Regulations (NCS).
This year’s report shows that little has changed in the implementation of these standards, finding that caregivers still need more resources and support to fulfil their role. Improved coordination and communication is also required across agencies in order to better serve mokopuna in care and their whānau.
“While some improvements to the system have been made, I am disappointed to learn that basic standards are still not being met for mokopuna in care, despite a number of reports and promises to urgently address issues,” says Dr Achmad.
Specific areas of concern are identified in the report, including the mental and physical health and safety of mokopuna, their access to grievance processes, transitions in and out of care, and social work practice.
Despite fewer children and young people in care, more are suffering harm and neglect. Some significant safety risks remain unaddressed, despite assurances from Oranga Tamariki to remedy these urgently last year.
“All mokopuna have a right to be safe, including those in the care of the state. I want to see every part of our system providing safe care for mokopuna, and taking an approach that helps recovery from trauma, so that they can fulfil their full potential.”
The report also found barriers to mental health services for mokopuna in care remain, and strengthened support is still required for those who transition out of care back to family and whānau, and into independence and adulthood. It found fewer young people are having the required life skills assessment before they leave care.
“We want to see these mokopuna set up to succeed – let’s stop letting them down at those key transition points in their life, where we know wraparound support and services can make a huge difference.”
While the report found some positive examples of collaboration, poor communication between government agencies remains a barrier to providing better support to children in care and their caregivers.
It also shows mokopuna are still not seeing their social workers often enough, and can sometimes be assigned up to ten different social workers during their time in care.
“The importance of good social work practice cannot be overstated. A strong and consistent relationship between a child or young person in care and their social worker can make a great difference. I would like to see a strengthening of the workforce and a commitment to consistency in working with mokopuna to meet their needs.”
“Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission is calling for a continued focus on improving the experiences of mokopuna in the care of the state. It’s not only a duty under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, but young people themselves have called for urgent change,” says Dr Achmad.
She says that this is again a timely moment to reflect on the clear calls from care-experienced young people of VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, who last year called for their ‘6 Promises’ to be honoured, including core rights such as stability, good education and health care, a feeling of belonging and to have a say in decisions about their lives.
“As the independent advocate for all mokopuna in Aotearoa New Zealand, we want to see every child in our country growing up safe, loved and well – that includes every child and young person in state care. The government has a duty of care here, and that begins with getting the basics right.”
Dr Achmad says Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission is pleased to see Oranga Tamariki commit to improving its practice in its self-assessment report relating to the National Care Standards, and the Commission will be working closely as an Oversight of Oranga Tamariki System partner to monitor progress and advocate for the rights, interests, wellbeing and participation of mokopuna in care.
Find the Aroturuki Tamariki Experiences of Care in Aotearoa July 2022 – June 2023 report here.
Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission is an Independent Crown Entity, and is the independent advocate for all children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Chief Children’s Commissioner is the full-time, visible advocate for all children and young people, and is the Chair of Mana Mokopuna’s Board.
Mana Mokopuna’s role in the Oranga Tamariki Oversight System is to advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of all children, and, where needed, help mokopuna and their whānau navigate the system to resolve problems.
As an oversight of Oranga Tamariki System partner, Mana Mokopuna works closely with the two other partner organisations in this system, Aroturuki Tamariki – Independent Children’s Monitor, and the Office of the Ombudsman. www.manamokopuna.org.nz
Dr Claire Achmad is available for interviews.