27 Aug 2015

Kids probably no better off in state care

5:12 pm on 27 August 2015

The Children's Commissioner's first annual report has strongly criticised Child, Youth and Family for what it calls a dump and run culture of neglect

Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills.

Dr Russell Wills says it is doubtful children are better off in state care. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

In his first annual report, State of Care 2015, commissioner Russell Wills finds systemic failures in the service and says it is doubtful children are better off in state care.

Read the full report here. (pdf)

If you have fostered a child for CYF and want to share your story, email us at iwitness@radionz.co.nz

"We don't know if children are any better off as a result of state intervention, but the indications are not good," it said.

The report said too many children were bounced from one placement to the next.

"In the course of our preparation for this report, we heard of children who had had upwards of 20, 40, and in one case over 60 care placements in their short lives," it said.

Supervisors and social workers did not understand their roles and responsibilities, and there was often very little supervision of children.

"Some providers went so far as to characterise CYF's attitude to these placements as 'dump and run'."

Many workers lacked the right qualifications or experience, and were not properly supervised.

Dr Wills said other ministries, such as justice, health and education, must work with CYF, to get the changes needed. "I think we've got a culture where the other agencies expect CYFs to do all the work, that's not right and that's not fair," he told Morning Report.

District health boards, adult mental health indiction services and child and adolescent mental health services and paediatricians should prioritise these children, he said. "We don't do that nearly enough, and yet these are the most vunerable kids we have, and they are there through no fault of theirs."

The report also found a high staff turnover - many workers would burn out and leave due to stress.

"Some sites and residences told us they struggle to recruit staff and many hold unfilled vacancies," it said. Others would gain some experience at CYF, then go elsewhere in the sector.

Key points from State of Care 2015:

  • Abuse: 117 children in CYF care were reported to have been abused in 2013/14. Of these, 88 children were in the care of a CYF caregiver, 25 were living with their parents but officially in CYF custody and 5 were living with an unapproved caregiver or in an unapproved placement. Physical abuse was the most common.
  • Education: About 20 percent of children in care left school with NCEA Level 2 in 2012. For Maori children the figure was 15 percent.
  • Court: In 2014, 328 young people aged 14-16 with open care and protection files committed an offence which ended in the Family Court. 30 percent of children in care between the ages of 14 and 16 are being charged with offences, compared to about 1 percent of children this age from the general population.