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

A Hard Place To Be Happy - Insights Report


7 October 2019

This report shares insights from 52 children and young people who were living in secure care and protection residences, run by Oranga Tamariki and Barnardos, between August 2017 and September 2018. It describes those insights and includes quotes from children and young people.

This report is not a systematic or comprehensive analysis of children and young people’s experiences of residences

We heard from children and young people across Aotearoa New Zealand about their experiences in secure care and protection residences. They told us what it was like to spend time in the residences and how their experiences affected them. This report is a snapshot of insights from 52 children and young people.

Five key themes emerged from our analysis of the interviews. These themes do not quantify how many individual children and young people had any particular experience. Instead, they provide valuable insights into children and young people’s experiences of the residence, and how the wider system impacted them. The themes are summarised here then followed with further details and the voices of the children and young people.

1. Being in a secure residence is hard

Children and young people experience an institutional environment in residences. They talked about the physical conditions, the lack of freedom, independence and choice, and how they coped. We heard about the difficulties of being confined in close contact with children and young people of a range of ages with different needs.

2. This place doesn’t always work for me

Children and young people told us about the realities of living in a secure residence and how it impacts on them. They talked about the day-to-day practices, including rights, restraints, grievances (complaints) and behaviour management.

3. People who work with me can help

Children and young people told us about the staff who care for them and provide activities and other services. We heard about what they liked and didn’t like about the way they were treated.

4. Contact with my family and friends is important

Children and young people had varying experiences of contact with their families. They shared their need to see and talk to their family and friends, and the difficulty of maintaining contact with them while in residence.

5. My culture matters

We heard from children and young people who wanted opportunities to participate in more cultural activities. We also heard from children and young people who identified as Māori, enjoyed opportunities to engage with te ao Māori and wanted more.