Meanwhile, the little girl waits. It is an image we are all familiar with and one we all feel sadness for when we see or hear about vulnerable children.

Just like all of the vulnerable children and families, they wait for someone to come and show them a light, any light, at the end of their long dark tunnel.

That light could well be the beacon of hope switched on by Social Services Minister Anne Tolley last week, with the review and revamp of CYF.

And, if that light can be switched on, there is hope for the Education, Health and Correction Ministers to follow suit and start throwing on a few solution switches within their own departments, as they are all directly linked up when it comes to the little girl who waits.


For far too long there has been a culture of closed-door thinking when it comes to vulnerable children and until we start putting in place an infrastructure of cross-sector collaboration - and sharing all of the information and answers for the little girl, her sobering statistics and many more like her and her whanau, will continue to climb.

If there is one thing I have learned beyond and above all else within the social services sector, it is that whanau and families, just like our communities, have a unity that holds them together when times get tough, and the last thing we should be doing is disconnecting them from each other and those agencies which can help.

Sure, there are the extreme cases where major social surgery is needed. Not all the answers are easily funded and will go away at the stroke of a contractual pen, but what the minster has highlighted are outcomes that can be achieved by reconfiguring the resources.

So, why not try something innovative, honest and new for the little girl who waits?

As it stands, there are 25,000 kids affected by having a parent in jail. So why wait until dad comes out to start the process of reintegration back into the family?

There are opportunities to start connecting the little girl who waits with her daddy right now, and we should make every effort to make this happen.

Child, Youth and Family receives 150,000 reports of concerns every year. Those at the front-line are desperate for the resources to engage, as early as possible, an intervention for the little girl who waits.

Finally, help is on its way.


Early prevention is the key and we get three shots at it in the social services sector.

Early childhood is the obvious first base we should focus on.

If we get it right there, then they don't come back as a troubled teen where we try and turn them around and reconnect them to their whanau and their whakapapa, hopefully before they put on a patch or a balaclava and head down the long and winding pathway to prison.

And the third and last cab off the life-line rank is when they present as an adult with a little girl who is still waiting for a safe and loving family environment to grow up in.

On the other side of the vulnerable children's coin are the families and whanau who pay the price for a parent who took their inadequacies out on those they were supposed to love and look after.

For our part, Maori need to address their own shortcomings when it comes to stepping up and standing side by side with our vulnerable children.

Staff at a senior and grassroots level should be employed based on their ability to achieve outcomes for at-risk families, especially vulnerable children.

If those in charge of contracts can see beyond the data of red paper reports at their desks, and start to encourage innovative thinking by those who deal with these families and whanau on a daily basis, we all win. No one more so than the little girl who waits for a family to belong to.


- Tommy Wilson is a Tauranga author and writer.