We advocate for the interests, rights and wellbeing of children and young people

July 2019 Newsletter:

Newsletters

23 July 2019

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Tēnā tātou katoa,

Over the past few weeks we have seen a call from Māori to have a genuine decision-making role in ensuring the wellbeing of tamariki Māori. This includes recognition of the critical importance of keeping Māori babies with their whānau, or wider hapū and iwi.

When the Oranga Tamariki Act (1989) came fully into effect on 1 July, it set the scene for a potential revolution in the way Māori children and young people in particular receive care and support from the state.

I believe these changes have the power and the potential to deliver a new model for the way the state cares for and supports children and young people – and not before time.

Over the past 30 years, our care and protection system has had no less than 7 major reviews. Now, more than ever, our opportunity for revolution has become an obligation for change.

We must listen to the voices of whānau. We must work together to better to support whānau to ensure all our children can live lives safe from violence and harm.

The good news is these changes show us a positive and constructive way forward to work together as families, whānau, iwi, Māori authorities and state agencies. The call to action is loud and clear – now it is time for New Zealand to embrace it.

You can read more of my comments about the need for change here.

On another note, never has it been more important to actively commit ourselves to hearing from children and young people. I am increasingly sensing a growing nationwide commitment to seeking out children's views. This is a great encouragement and a cause for real optimism. I’ve put the call out previously for a genuine discussion around reducing the voting age to 16, and I presented a submission to the Youth Parliament last week on the issue.

There’s the age-old adage that children should be “seen and not heard” – that they will have an opinion worth listening to once they are adults, but there’s no need to take notice of them until then. But children and young people have valuable and important insights right now. It is their right to be heard and taken seriously by adults. What children and young people have to say matters. And it is long past time we adults engaged with them productively.

Ngā mihi mahana

Andrew Becroft
Children’s Commissioner

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Children's Commissioner and Auckland Girls Grammar students at the MYSTORY Youth Summit

Children's Commissioner reappointed!

We are pleased to announce that the Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft has had his appointment extended until 30 June 2021. The scope of the Children’s Commissioner’s role will also be extended to young people under the Oranga Tamariki Act, up to the age of 25.

Commissioner Becroft emphasises that the role has huge opportunities to advocate for change for children and young people and it is “a privilege to be part of a very effective, professional and hardworking team at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.”

“We are all committed to improving the outcomes and wellbeing of all children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand” he says.

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The Children's Commissioner speaking to the young people at the Youth Service Wellington: Work and Income Youth Camp

MYSTORY Youth Summit

Last month, Peter Foaese and Kelsey Brown from our Mai World child and youth voices team had the opportunity to hear from Pacific young people and present the key findings of the ‘What makes a good life?’ report at the MYSTORY Youth Summit.

The MYSTORY Youth Summit, facilitated by South Seas Healthcare, was a two-day event designed and led by young people. Over 100 Pacific young people and their families attended the summit alongside some government agencies, such as Oranga Tamariki and the Ministries of Education and Youth Development and community organisations. Our Office was on board as a collaborative partner.

Following the presentation, the Children’s Commissioner shared his own story with the summit audience. “I believe in the power of young people sharing their views and their stories,” the Commissioner said, describing the importance of listening to children and young people.

MYSTORY provided a platform for Pacific young people to share their stories, but also to discuss four of the challenges they believed Pacific young people in New Zealand face; employment, wellbeing, education and culture. The young people were able to come together to tackle issues and build solutions from their own perspective. The role of the government officials or community organisation representatives was to listen to the young people as they shared their perspectives.

MYSTORY creates a place for Pacific young people’s voices to be heard. For more information on the MYSTORY framework see the South Seas Healthcare website.

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“The MYSTORY framework has helped me to understand the art of storytelling and how it can empower and give hope to others as well as myself.” Antonio Afaese, 16, MYSTORY Youth Intern

What is a thematic monitoring review?

We are an Independent Crown Entity and part of our regular work includes the mandate to assess the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki (Children’s Commissioner Act 2003, s13). A key part of that work is conducting thematic monitoring reviews.

A thematic monitoring review investigates a key concern or challenge for children, young people and their whānau in relation to Oranga Tamariki. We talk with various groups such as iwi and community groups, Oranga Tamariki, Police, and schools to scope the issue. We scope how we will carry out the review, who we will talk to, how many children and young people we will identify in our cohort, and finally what our question will be.

Once the scope of our review has been finalised, our monitoring staff will talk to children, young people and their whānau as well as key stakeholders. These stakeholders may include iwi, Maori organisations, community groups, social workers, teachers, nurses, or anyone who has had a role to play with a specific child and their whānau. Through this, we build a picture around a child’s experience to answer our question. It can be a humbling experience for us to hear the stories of those who have often felt disempowered by the systems that are meant to support them.

We analyse the information we have gathered to see what themes arise; what are the barriers to success, what is going well, and what can be done to help things improve. These findings help to inform recommendations we make to Oranga Tamariki and the Minister for Children.

Finally, we release a public report based on the thematic monitoring review, and these are published as part of our State of Care series. Our full series can be found on our website including our most recent report published in May. We do at least two thematic reviews a year, and these can take up to six months to complete.

Our next thematic review, which we are beginning to scope, will focus on the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki when tamariki Māori aged 0 to 3 months old are at risk of coming into state care, following notification of serious care and protection concerns. This thematic review will take a ground-up approach by starting with whānau voices first. We anticipate an initial public report will be available around Christmas.

In the news

This editorial from The Southland Times focuses in on the main recommendations of our most recent State of Care - 'Supporting Young People on Remand to live Successfully in the Community'.

The Children's Commissioner speaks to Radio New Zealand about research out of the University of Otago which asked children's thoughts on junk food advertising.

"If we mean business about wellbeing, it's got to start with our children and young people". Listen to the Children's Commissioner speaking on Budget Day.


 

Recent publications

Our most recent State of Care report: the Office of the Children’s Commissioner conducted a thematic monitoring review focused on the quality of Oranga Tamariki’s practice with young people appearing in the Youth Court in respect of remand decisions, and their whānau.

The Children's Convention Monitoring Group's latest report on how well the government is implementing the Children’s Convention is out now. 'Are We Listening?' is the second report in the Getting It Right series, and it focuses on children's participation rights.


 

Follow the Commissioner on Twitter

The Children's Commissioner has joined Twitter! You can now follow the Children's Commissioner for more views and opinions.

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A community group from West Auckland, Ranui 135, visited our Office to hear about what we do and to share the grass-roots activities they do with children and young people