CYF 'racist' says Tariana Turia

7:54 am on 19 April 2016

Child Youth and Family (CYF) is a racist institution and iwi should be given the right to care for children in state care, former Māori Party leader Tariana Turia says.

Tariana Turia.

Tariana Turia. Photo: RNZ

Māori comprise 60 percent of children in CYF care and the findings of a review last week showed mass failures in the organisation, leading Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley to say the system was broken.

Now, some Māori dealing in social services say the organisation should face the same standards as non-government organisations and where it has failed to meet targets should lose taxpayer funds.

Dame Tariana is known for using her tongue as her taiaha and wasted no time sharing her thoughts on the latest CYF review.

"Here we have an organisation that has been failing for many, many years, miserably," she told RNZ News.

Dame Tariana believes there is an unconscious bias in CYF system.

"I have to say institutional racism is rife right throughout government agencies including CYF. The whole way in which they view certain groups of people, their attitudes against those groups of people and the way they use their power against those groups of people, is horrendous."

For that reason, she said, iwi should be given statutory rights to care and protect their children where they can.

MP Peeni Henare's Tamaki Makaurau electorate is home to the largest number of children in state care and he works closely with social services.

He said no community organisation should bear the burden of removing children from their families - that, he said, was the role of the state.

But he called for more transparency from the government. "There are a heck of a lot of records and work that Child Youth and Family have taken which records just exactly what's been involved in this young person's life, and yet when we try to track that, I don't think accountability has gone to where it should be."

Dame Tariana said there were goals in the latest CYF review which were impossible to achieve, such as cultural competency, which she said could not be taught.

Former Māori social worker Peter Douglas was seconded to the panel reviewing CYF after complaints it had no Māori representation.

He said the recommendations were to make the child the focus, which could mean placing Māori children outside of whānau and iwi if a better option was available.

"Children look for stability and love whichever setting you want to put them in, so you have to work out those things are the most important thing for a child.

"If you can do that within their whānau then that's good. If you can't then you have to look at whatever other alternatives you have."

But Dame Tariana said this was a mistake, and Mr Henare agreed. "We talk about the urban drift and by removing tamariki away from their kāinga, their whakapapa, its only going to perpetuate the problem whereby in another 30 years we're going to be continuing the same conversation about the sense of disconnect to whānau," he said.

But, Mr Henare said, while they need to stay within their whanau setting care was needed. "We need to make sure we're not throwing them back into the fire."

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley agreed too many children were being failed, and gave the organisation five years to implement changes to the system.

She said that was why the system was being transformed.

"Six out of ten kids in care are Māori. They deserve better and as part of the overhaul new ways of working effectively will be developed with academics, social service providers, iwi and Whānau Ora.

"If these kids have to be removed to keep them safe, then my youth advisory panel told me they want a stable home as soon as possible. If this can't be with family, then they want access to their culture," she said.

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