Foreword by Dr Russell Wills, Children's Commissioner
CYF works with some of the most vulnerable children in New Zealand. We can all do more for these children. In 2013 we refreshed our framework for monitoring CYF. We decided to produce an annual public report to increase the transparency of our work and raise the profile of these children. I am delighted to be able to share it with you now.
While we were writing this report, the Minister of Social Development appointed the Modernising CYF Expert Panel (referred to throughout this report as the Expert Panel) to develop a business case for the modernisation of CYF. I welcome this review as an opportunity to get to the heart of the issues facing our care and protection system and identify ways to improve the system and achieve better outcomes. Because of my office’s legislative mandate and resources, we are limited in what we can monitor and the scope of recommendations we can make. I hope this report provides useful input for the Expert Panel’s more detailed review of CYF.
As you read through this report I would like you to remember what it was like to be a child; time moves slowly, any little changes in your routine are unsettling, and your family is central to your world. Then try to imagine what life is like for the thousands of New Zealand children who suffer abuse and neglect, or are removed from their family and placed into state care each year. Life for them has already been chaotic and confusing – they may have been harmed or mistreated, have severe behavioural issues, or have committed a criminal offence.
Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia o tatou mahi.
This whakatauki urges us to let the uniqueness of the child guide our work. With this in mind, this report makes some challenging statements about the care and services these children receive, primarily from CYF, but also from other agencies. These are not new issues. CYF has been trying to address many shortcomings, and in some areas it is making progress. It is responding positively to our new monitoring reports and recommendations, and working on improvements as a result. This willingness to take feedback on board is welcome and appreciated, and will be necessary to allow CYF to shift from where it is now to where it needs to be.
For the most part, CYF staff members are dedicated individuals who work hard, often with impossible workloads. Nothing in this report should be taken as a criticism of individual staff members, many of whom I admire enormously. Yet as an organisation, CYF’s performance is concerning. There is a high degree of variability among the sites and residences we have visited in the past 18 months. All children, regardless of where they live or the type of care placement they are in, deserve the same high quality of care.
I want to thank all the stakeholders we have met with over the past year for sharing their experiences with us. I want to thank CYF staff at national office and the many sites and residences we visited for being generous with their time and for their genuine commitment to improve the outcomes for vulnerable children.
Finally, I want to thank the many children we met and spoke with – in focus groups, in one-on-one interviews, and in CYF residences. This report is both about and for them, and I hope we have done justice to their experiences.
If we want New Zealand to be a great place for every child, we need to focus on making improvements for our most vulnerable children, especially children in state care. I hope this report contributes to the knowledge and understanding of how CYF and other agencies are delivering for these children. Most importantly, I hope we can begin to make the changes needed to fully realise the intent of current reforms and do better for these children.