Most kids in CYF care are Maori

By Mikaela Collins

Maori make up 88 per cent of the 317 kids in state care in Northland.
Maori make up 88 per cent of the 317 kids in state care in Northland.

Maori youth and children make up 88 per cent of the 317 kids in state care in Northland, and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis says it's because parents are not doing their job.

The Northern Advocate asked Child Youth and Family for the number of children and youth in CYF care in the region, After a four-month wait, our enquiry revealed, of the 317 in CYF care, a whopping 279 identified as Maori - a number that did not shock Maori leaders.

"It's parents not doing their part," said Mr Davis "They are failing in their roles and there needs to be an intensive intervention in the kids' lives."

He said, while the numbers suggested parents needed to "sort their mess", at the end of the day it was about the kids and CYF needed to ensure each child was being accounted for.

"In education, when children are not meeting National Standards, the minister wants to know who the kids are, why they are not meeting standards and what the teachers are doing to meet their needs - and the same needs to happen in Child Youth and Family."

A report released last year by Children's' Commissioner Russell Wills painted a damning picture of state care. Mr Davis said CYF needed to focus more on the kids in their care.

"At the end of the day, those kids need tender love and care. They need to be fed and housed but CYF needs to ensure they are able to do what they find interesting. If there is a girl interested in netball, can the family she's placed with get her to training? These kind of things need to be looked at."

Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley said many in CYF care had had tragic lives.

"We must do all we can to ensure that, once CYF gets involved, these kids go on to lead safe and successful lives. That is what the overhaul of CYF is all about - putting children at the very centre of everything the agency does."

She said the overhaul of CYF would include a focus on Maori.

"We need to do better for all children, including Maori children, and I am determined to make that happen."

Ngapuhi Runanga signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CYF in September, 2012. Liz Marsden, general manager at Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services, said they had been focusing on those aged 12 to 15, as requested by CYF, but early intervention was also a focus.

"We want to be involved from the point of notification not wait for a referral, that's far too long. We want to be contacted from the beginning and be part of the picture from the start so we can reduce that trauma."

Ms Marsden has seen the positive outcomes that come when children and youth are connected to their culture. Twelve Ngapuhi kids from Auckland made a trip to Northland where they spent time with youth who already had a connection to their culture. "We partnered them with kids who knew their maunga, and their marae and their awa but these (Auckland) kids had no idea about that. They were able to piece together their whakapapa and for the first time many of them felt like they had whanau."

Ms Marsden said there was a significant resourcing issue with CYF and she'd like to see more flexibility, more connectivity between agencies and a strengthening in partnerships with iwi. She said, nationally, about 50 per cent of Maori children and youth in CYF care ended up back with whanau and believed that number was higher in Northland.

Regional director of CYF Te Tai Tokerau, Colleen McLean, said working with mokopuna and whanau in a culturally appropriate way was a priority.

- Northern Advocate

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