Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Tauranga charity forced to turn away more than 30 children

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Homes of Hope chief executive Hilary Price said they had seen a significant increase in referrals year on year. Photo/File
Homes of Hope chief executive Hilary Price said they had seen a significant increase in referrals year on year. Photo/File

Homes of Hope has had to turn away more than 30 abused or neglected children in the past three months.

The Tauranga-based charity takes in children who have been abused or neglected and provides them with a safe, loving place to live until they can be reunited with their family or a new forever home.

While each of the children turned away had been placed in another foster home, Homes of Hope chief executive Hilary Price said they had seen a significant increase in referrals year on year and a significant increase in demand this year.

This was for a number of reasons including an increase in the need for out of home care for vulnerable children in Tauranga.

They were offered these children because of their unique ability to keep brothers and sisters together, their therapeutic wrap-around support, and the stability of placement for the duration of needing care, she said.

The cost of a child on average for the home was about $42,000.

"For children with extreme needs this can be much higher. Overall operating expenses are over $600,000 of which we have to fundraise at least 52 per cent."

Mrs Price said people did not realise how common it was for children in care to be separated from their brothers and sisters, and to be moved constantly from home to home.

Homes of Hope communications adviser Lynne Matthews said because their homes had been at capacity since the beginning of the year, they have had to turn down large sibling groups.

"It's heartbreaking," she told the Bay of Plenty Times.

"We see so many children in situations which rob them of a childhood, deprive them of the things most of us take for granted and limit their chances of a fulfilled life.

"Families in the community can't take on four, five, six children from one family either.

"You can understand how traumatic that is. They have already been uplifted from their family of origin and then not even being able to go with their siblings which would then give them some sort of consistency, often the only consistency they have had in their lives."

Homes of Hope's Hilary Price. Photo/File
Homes of Hope's Hilary Price. Photo/File

Homes of Hope can house up to 16 children. They now have two new satellite homes where they can place another four children to be looked after off site.

Sue Critchley, regional director for Midlands Child, Youth and Family, said no child was removed from their parent's care unless the concerns were of a serious nature.

Child, Youth and Family had a number of options available when looking to place children which included providers such as Homes of Hope, placement with a child's wider family, Family Homes and CYFs caregivers, she said.

"It's about matching the right caregiver to the right child, so the wider the range of caregivers we have, the better."

There were also three family homes in the wider Tauranga area where caregivers live and take care of up to six children within a home environment, she said.

When finding placements Child, Youth and Family would approach a number of providers, she said.

"Tauranga Child, Youth and Family works to ensure that there is always a placement available where children at risk can be kept safe. In each instance where Homes of Hope were unable to accept a placement, the children were safely placed elsewhere.

"Where siblings could not be kept together immediately, they were reunited as soon as possible."

The Ministry of Social Development would not comment on whether they could provide Homes of Hope with more funding.

"We have a current contract with them to provide care services which is within the current resource we have available. We maintain regular contact with them."

Tauranga grief and trauma counsellor Naarah Simpson acknowledged constantly moving children around the foster care system could affect their sense of belonging and attachment.

"If they don't have any stability or routine, the long term impact, including on their education and general well being, can be huge.

"When a child comes from a home where the family has broken up for what ever reason, they can thrive in a foster home, as long as that foster home is really stable and secure.

"If they move around constantly, they may disengage and lose trust in adults. They learn not to bond or get attached."

Home of Hope can be contacted by emailing communications@homesofhope.org.nz or calling (07) 578 9826.

How to help:

To combat the problem Homes of Hope have set up two new initiatives.

- The organisation was aiming to find more families who could act as satellite homes. A satellite home would see caregivers take sibling groups into their home but would be paid and supported and by Homes of Hope.

- Encouraging locals join its Friends of Homes of Hope initiative. Friends of Homes of Hope was a fundraising scheme where people would be become regular donors to the charity.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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