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Press Releases

News from the field of Child and Youth Care

Smurfs team up with United Nations in 2017 for happier, more peaceful, equitable world

The popular Smurfs characters are encouraging children, young people and adults to make the world happier, more peaceful, equitable and healthy with a campaign launched today by the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Foundation.

The “Small Smurfs Big Goals” campaign is designed to encourage everyone to learn about and support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015 by all 193 Member States of the United Nations. A public service announcement video will be used to inspire viewers around the world to champion the Goals, which include ending extreme poverty, protecting the planet and giving everyone the chance to enjoy peace and prosperity.

Members of the public can also join “Team Smurfs” by visiting to find out in multiple languages how they can contribute to achieving the Goals; discover which Goals are best suited to their interests; raise their voices for a better world for all; and share information, ideas and images on social media.

“The entertainment industry moves the hearts and minds of people of all ages, and the UN thanks our friends at Sony Pictures Animation and the Smurfs for this creative effort to mobilize support for the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Public Information. “We hope this campaign will motivate millions of young people and their families to do their part to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet — three key aspects that will lead to the well-being and happiness of all people.”

Team Smurfs will rally behind the 17 Goals until the International Day of Happiness on 20 March. Voice actors from the upcoming animated movie 'Smurfs: The Lost Village' will attend a celebration at United Nations Headquarters in New York on Saturday, 18 March, to honour youth who have already taken action to achieve the Goals within their own communities.

“We know that children and young people are some of the world’s most passionate advocates on issues that matter to them the most,” said Paloma Escudero, UNICEF Director of Communications. “We must continue to find new ways to empower them to help achieve a world free from inequality and injustice for every child,” she added. “This campaign will give children and young people the platform they need to have their voices heard.”

Veronique Culliford, the daughter of Peyo, who created the Smurfs in 1958, stated: “The campaign message focuses on the notion that every one of us can make a difference, regardless of our size. It’s an honour and privilege for The Smurfs to support the United Nations and to continue our long-standing relationship with UNICEF.”

15 February 2017


How to get at-risk families out of “ministerial boxes”

Is a “wraparound” model the answer for New Zealand’s at-risk families? A Massey University psychologist and family violence expert says the holistic, collaborative approach to delivering social services is effective in bringing about long-term change, and has organised a conference to build awareness.

Dr Ruth Gammon, based at the School of Psychology in Wellington, thinks the current system – which she describes as “dividing families into ministerial boxes” – is failing. Dr Gammon has worked with children affected by family violence and who have high and complex mental health needs for the past 30 years, both here and in the United States,. She is trained and experienced in the implementation of wraparound social service provision through her work with the National Wraparound Initiative (NWI) in the US.

In a first for New Zealand, a national hui this week (February 13-14) at the University’s Wellington campus brings together social workers and other professionals who work with at-risk children and families to learn about how the wraparound concept works in a local context.

The event is providing information and training workshops as well as insights and evaluation from government and non-governmental services in New Zealand that have already adopted or are trialling the approach. Keynote speakers are Dr Eric Bruns, co-director of the National Wraparound Initiative in the US, and Dr Gammon.

Dr Gammon says the structure of the current system results in limited improvements to the well-being and future prospects of many families. Too many children fall through the cracks because care and funding is segmented between competing ministries, such as Justice, Education, Health, Housing, Social Development and Vulnerable Children, she says.

In the wraparound model, barriers between ministries are broken down through coordinated planning and delivery of care and funding. The approach works by identifying and trying to build on the existing strengths of families and their community. “We ask ‘where are the family’s strengths?’ The idea is to build the family up, not to pathologise,” she says.

One of the principles of wraparound is; “you don’t give up, you persist. Families are going to slip up, miss meetings. So you look at what the obstacles are and try to work through those.”

Too often, at-risk families report feeling they are not heard, that they feel blamed for their situation and then become alienated from the services supposedly there to help. She says there is a high rate of dissatisfaction particularly with services for youth, and this is reflected in the high youth suicide rate.

The wraparound approach is designed to address multiple, complex and inter-related problems experienced by at-risk families, but it requires real commitment and investment in order for long-term, sustainable change to occur, Dr Gammon says.

At the hui she presented evidenced-based examples of wraparound programmes trialled in New Zealand by the Waitemata District Health Board, Tu Mai Awa (a community-based social change project), Otago Youth Wellness Trust and the Ministry of Education.

14 February 2017


Ontario working with Thunder Bay community to reopen recreation centre for people with disabilities

Ontario is working with Thunder Bay community groups to reopen the Wilderness Discovery Family Resort and Conference Centre on Shebandowan Lake, which provided outdoor recreational opportunities for individuals with impairments.

In 2015, the local organization operating the property decided to redirect its resources to other programming. Local community groups have expressed interest in acquiring the fully accessible property so that they can continue to offer barrier-free services and recreational facilities for Ontarians and their families.

The province will consult with Indigenous partners and will work with the local community to develop a detailed plan for the property, outlining specifics for the centre as well as plans for other community programming to serve youth, veterans and seniors.

Supporting services for communities is part of Ontario's plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick facts

• The Shebandowan Lake property has 2,209 feet of shoreline and is located in the District of Thunder Bay.
• The Wilderness Discovery Family Resort and Conference Centre was established in the early 1980s by the Handicapped Action Group Inc. to promote outdoor recreation for people with disabilities.
• The terms for any transfer of the Shebandowan Lake property would ensure that the lands were used for the purpose for which they were transferred.


“Ontario is committed to working with local community groups in Thunder Bay to reopen the Lake Shebandowan property, to give them a chance to reclaim a beloved fixture of their region and help it grow.”

Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Infrastructure

“The re-opening of the Wilderness Discovery Centre will help enhance the lives of many local residents and others, including those with physical impairments for years to come. This announcement provides an opportunity for local community groups to revive barrier-free services and recreational facilities for Ontarians who use this centre.”

Dr. Helena Jaczek , Minister of Community and Social Services

“I’m happy that we’re finally able to discuss proposed next steps regarding the Shebandowan Lake property. I know how important it is to the Thunder Bay community to get the Wilderness Discovery Family Resort and Conference Centre back up and running again, and as quickly as possible. Additionally, I want to thank the Minister of Community and Social Services Helena Jaczek and the Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli for their support.”

Bill Mauro, MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan

10 February 2017

Ministry of Infrastructure



New Zealand: New child and youth advocacy service, VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai, to start April 2017

The Government has announced a new youth advocacy service, VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai, will begin operating as a new non-government organisation (NGO) in April 2017.

The service is intended to help connect children and young people in state care with each other, and to ensure young people's views are included in developing Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai stands for ‘Voice of the Young and Care Experienced—Listen to me.’

A Ministry of Social Development press release outlines VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai’s primary functions:

• "to connect children and young people in care,
• to advocate for their needs,
• promote a positive care identity,
• build leadership,
• and create a ‘community of care’ around each child."

The service is being set up in partnership with children and young people who have been in care; four philanthropic funders (Tindall Foundation, Foundation North, Todd Foundation and Vodafone Foundation); Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children; and NGOs such as Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services and Dingwall Trust. Initial government funding of $1.2 million has helped set up the new service, with a further $6.9 million to be contributed by the government through to June 2019 to help build its capability.

The Ministry of Social Development's FAQ says "In order to effectively respond to the needs of Maori children and young people, the service will need to work closely with Iwi, urban Maori organisations and other Maori academics, clinicians and leaders to align the advocacy model to the needs of Maori children and young people. The VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai Governance Board will also reflect the high proportion of Maori children in care."

VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai will have a national centre in Auckland, with a network of local partners and communities. Its services are intended to expand to include an intensive individual advocacy function with networks and regional hubs throughout the country over the next four years. Recruitment is underway to find a Chief Executive to lead the NGO.

For more information, see the Ministry of Social Development's FAQ about VOYCE—Whakarongo Mai:

1 February 2017 




€5.1m to develop new services for children and disadvantaged young people

Funding of €5.1m is being provided to develop new innovative services to care of children and disadvantaged young people, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.

The Minister is confirming that the money is being made available from the Dormant Accounts Fund. Making the announcement Minister Zappone added:

“This is a significant investment in services for children and disadvantaged young people.

Over €3m of the money will be targeted at the development of innovative services which will prevent young people falling into trouble.

In the coming year we will undertake extensive research, consultation and evidence gathering to underpin this work which will ensure that Ireland has services in place to meet the future needs of young people.

I look forward to seeing the results as we move to modernise our supports, services and assistance to children living with disadvantage.

In addition we are continuing our preparations ahead of new Aftercare legislation which is aimed at increasing opportunities for teenagers leaving care.

The work we are carrying out now will help ensure that the young people are given every opportunity to live independently, with access to education, training and work.

In keeping with recent trends the supports will not just be in the community but will also be provided through a series of Apps which are being developed to assist those leaving care."

5 February 2017



New Zealand: Get to grips with tragedies first, prevent it second

The loss of two young children’s lives points to a ‘missing step’ in New Zealand’s counselling and mental health services, says the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC).
In recent weeks, two girls aged 9 and 10 are believed to have taken their lives in unrelated incidents. Both deaths have been referred to the coroner for investigation.

NZAC spokesperson and school guidance counsellor Sarah Maindonald says if Kiwis come to grips with suicide, then further tragic deaths can be prevented.

“Many suicides, particularly those of children, are preventable,” she says. “Counselling and robust pastoral care systems in primary, intermediate, and secondary schools can identify signs of psychological distress, depression and other risk factors which may signal a need for further intervention.

“This is no judgment on any school or family, as suicide can be an impulsive decision, but one we must come to grips with as a nation so we can make systemic changes.”

According to the provisional suicide figures released by the Coroner’s Office, eight children aged 10-14 died by suicide in the year ending June 2016, compared to 10 in the same age group during the previous year.

Raising awareness of the benefits of school counsellors and resourcing these services adequately within the school community will help build safety nets for children and young people, Ms Maindonald says.

She says further action will also promote a reduction in New Zealand’s youth suicide rate, which is consistently one of the highest in the OECD.

“I think social activist Mike King had it right when he blamed, in part, NZ’s youth suicide statistics on social disconnection.

“We need well-resourced student support services, like school counsellors, but we’re missing a step. Children and teenagers don’t naturally refer themselves to mental health services they often need a ‘bridge’.

“They need someone like a school guidance counsellor who can follow up with the right questions. There is no shame in talking about your emotions, or how you are feeling. Talking could well be life-saving.”



Helping local children's centres stay safe and accessible: Province supporting repairs and upgrades at community agencies

Ontario is helping community agencies across the province provide better care for children, youth and their families by supporting critical repairs and renovations that will keep facilities well-maintained, safe and accessible.

Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau made the announcement this morning at the Thames Valley Children's Centre in London, which provides specialized rehabilitation services to more than 8,000 children and youth every year. This support will help the centre upgrade its building ventilation and cooling system to maintain safety and comfort for children and youth receiving services.

Ontario is providing support for 70 children's treatment centres, children's aid societies and youth centres across the province through its Partner Facility Renewal program. The support will allow these agencies to complete 140 facility upgrade and repair projects, helping them continue to deliver quality care for children, youth and families.

Ontario is making the largest infrastructure investment in hospitals, schools, public transit, roads and bridges in the province's history.
To learn more about what's happening in your community, go to

Supporting better care for children, youth and families in their communities is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick facts

Ontario is investing $3.8 million in more than 140 facility upgrades and repair projects through this round of Partner Facility Renewal funding, including $399,600 at London’s Thames Valley Children’s Centre.

Approved projects across the province include: upgrading accessible washrooms, replacing windows, repairing roofs, replacing furnaces, expanding program space and installing sprinklers and fire alarms.

Thames Valley Children’s Centre provides services that support a range of special needs, including physical disabilities, communication disorders, developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders.

In August 2016, Ontario invested $16 million through the Partner Facility Renewal program in more than 550 facility upgrades at more than 140 community agencies across the province.

26 January 2017 



UK: Child arrests fall but violence in custody rises

The number of under-18s being arrested is continuing to fall, but levels of violence and self-harm in youth custody are on the rise, government figures show.

Annual youth justice statistics collated by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) show that in the year ending March 2016, there were 88,600 arrests of young people aged between 10 and 17 compared with 94,855 in 2014/15 – a drop of 6.6 per cent.

The number of first-time entrants to the youth justice system is also down, with a total of 18,263 cautioned or convicted for the first time in 2015/16, compared with 20,705 the previous year – a fall of 11.8 per cent on the 2014/15 figure of 20,705. It is the ninth consecutive year the figure has fallen – in 2007 the number of first-time entrants stood at 110,801.

However, despite the falls in arrests and first-time entrants, the annual statistics indicate that youth custody is becoming a more dangerous place.

The number of self-harm incidents has risen from 1,315 in 2014/15 to 1,390 in 2015/16, a rise of 5.7 per cent.

In light of the fact that the number of young people held in custody has been dropping in recent years, the rate of self-harm incidents has reached a new high of 8.9 per 100 young people held in custody each month. This is more than double the rate of 4.1 recorded in 2011.

The number of assaults in custody also rose by six per cent, from 2,736 incidents in 2014/15 to 2,900 in 2015/16.

The number of restraints fell from 4,837 restraints – the equivalent of 28.2 each month per 100 young people in custody – in 2014/15, to 4,300 - the equivalent of 27.8 each month per 100 young people in custody.

The statistics also reveal that there were 190 safeguarding and public protection incidents – serious incidents such as murder, manslaughter, or rape committed by, or against, a young person under youth offending team supervision – reported to the YJB in 2015/16.

This compares with 210 incidents reported in the year ending March 2015 – a drop of 9.5 per cent.

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England said: "We've seen a huge fall in the number of children in trouble with the law in the last decade, and I'm delighted to see that trend continue. Fewer children are being held in custody. However, the increasing prevalence of assaults and self-harm among children in custody is very concerning. This further underlines the need to reform our custody system in line with the conclusions of last year's Taylor review."

A YJB spokesperson said: "It is widely understood across the sector that alongside the welcome, collective, and continued success of reducing numbers, those children in custody present multiple complex needs which require new approaches to effectively address them. At the end of last year the government published Charlie Taylor's review of youth justice, together with their response. The YJB is working closely with the Ministry of Justice and our delivery partners to put education, health and training at the heart of a reformed youth estate, and better meet these children's needs."

By Neil Puffett

26 January 2017


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