The Herald recently published an article entitled, "Call for more foster caregivers as children in state care need protection". Basically, the Ministry for Children desperately need caregivers. Unfortunately what is not being spoken about, are the many reasons that are contributing to the shortage.
I have worked as a frontline specialist caregiver for more than 16 years. My husband and I care for high and at-risk teenage boys. We have cared for more than 400 youth and although there have been many successes, we, like other caregivers we know, are seriously considering leaving caregiving.
In my opinion, it has become one of the most high-risk jobs around. We have seen many caregivers shut down due to allegations, and unfortunately some were later found to be false. In our job, you are guilty until proven innocent.
In a country such as ours that is riddled with child abuse, I can accept that. What I cannot accept, is that if false allegations are made, I potentially could lose not only the youth in our care but my own children as well - at least until there had been an investigation completed.
We have had youth arrive at our home and dictate to us that if we do not allow them to do what they want when they want, then they will make false allegations against us and have us shut down.
The more our children are becoming empowered, the more parents and caregivers are becoming disempowered, and that in itself is dangerous and unhealthy.
In addition, more and more children and youth being placed into family homes have severe and irreversible issues which can never be ﬁxed. Many new caregivers last only a year or two, as the reality of caregiving becomes so very different to the original picture they had in their head, of simply loving and nurturing broken kids.
Even as a specialist caregiver, I am coming across an increasing number of youth who actually cannot be helped. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is rife, as is drug induced psychosis, addiction, and violence, just to name a few.
Society is getting worse, and I can only foresee a continual increase in children and youth needing to be placed into state care.
It has been devastating to see ﬁrst-hand just how broken so many kids are. There are waiting lists for serious youth offenders to go into secure facilities, and there are far too many situations where kids are having to stay in motels with 24/7 trackers because there are no placements.
In my opinion, our Government must urgently address the root causes of why so many children and youth are needing state care. Addressing the breakdown of the family unit, generational cycles of abuse and mental health would be a good place to start.
We must remember that in the vast majority of cases, it's not bad kids, it's bad parenting.
Too many people are quick to place full blame on the Ministry for Children. If you ask me, blame ultimately lies with poor decisions and non family friendly policies passed by governments over the years.
In saying that, I do believe there is an urgent need for an independent Ministry for Children complaints authority to be formed. There must be accountability, especially when making life-affecting decisions for children and youth.
• Melanie Taylor is a specialist caregiver in Maungaturoto, Northland.