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A petition calling on the government to restore critical funding to the Growing Up in New Zealand study has gathered thousands of signatures within days of being launched. Organisers believe funding the study should be a priority for the next Government. Labour finance spokesperson, Grant Robertson, has committed to restoring full funding, if a Labour government is elected.
Growing Up in NZ (GUiNZ) is Aotearoa’s largest contemporary study of children and families. Tracking the health and development of over 6000 children since before they were born in 2009 and 2010, GUiNZ was designed to follow the children until age 21. The study provides rich information on the drivers of child health and wellbeing for the public, practitioners, and policy makers, aimed at improving interventions.
Where previous research conducted in Aotearoa/New Zealand had much narrower frames of reference, GUiNZ is the first study specifically designed to look at outcomes for Māori, Pasifika, and Asian children.
However, just ahead of the study's eight-year data collection wave, researchers and the families involved learned that the government had cut funding to the study. Only 2000 of the study's 6853 children would be included and followed from now on.
"It was so disappointing," says Dr Katie Tuck, the Auckland based paediatrician who organised the petition, "We have invested so much time in this study over the past eight years and for the government to cut funding when the children are so young seems so short sighted.” Dr Tuck, whose daughter is in the study, says that study families have still not been told why the government has decided to not fund the full cohort.
The eight-year data collection wave is especially significant because the children have started school and this is the first time children will answer the questionnaires for themselves. “The 8 year old survey is the first time the child's voice is heard,” says Dr Mae David, a Māori GP in Auckland whose 8 year old daughter is in the study. “[The children are] asked about their favourite foods and activities and most importantly about their mood.”
Questions about children’s mood are particularly important given UNICEF’s recent finding that New Zealand has by far the highest rates of youth suicide in the OECD. “Growing Up is a once in a generation opportunity for us to find out what is driving these terrible statistics” says Dr Tuck.
Dr Tuck is concerned that the government's new social investment approach means that child health studies like GUiNZ aren’t seen to be as important. "You can’t get the same sort of rich information from administrative datasets which don’t include people's voices, let alone children's voices. [These datasets] don't have the biological samples that allow genetic studies either."
NZD$1.4 million is urgently needed to ensure that all the children and families are included in this data wave. Dr Tuck says this is a very small sum when compared to the tens of millions of dollars that has already been invested in the study, and the value that will be created from the data’s insights.
20 September 2017
1. Every Children’s Aid Society has committed to tangible Reconciliation actions
On July 6, 2017, the Ontario child welfare sector unanimously agreed to prioritize Reconciliation with Indigenous communities through eight key commitments. Some of these commitments require tracking and reporting specific data points, and others focus on building and strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities.
Each Children’s Aid Society (CAS) has committed to:
• Track and report the percentage of Indigenous
children in their care
• Track and report the number of court files where the families are Indigenous
• Track and report the number of Indigenous children placed in customary care*
• Track and report the number of Indigenous Board members
• Implement mandatory Indigenous training for their staff
• Change their inter-agency protocol to include Jordan’s Principle** as a fundamental principle
• In consultation with the Indigenous communities they serve, develop a unique agency-based plan to further address the needs of those communities
• Continue to develop relationships between their agency and the Indigenous communities they serve
2. Child welfare’s Indigenous commitments are rooted in historical injustice
The Indigenous commitments are connected to the historical injustices perpetrated against First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities by the Canadian government and Provincial child welfare systems, including residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. These colonial legacies have resulted in community impairment, intergenerational trauma, and the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in child welfare.
The commitments made by the Ontario child welfare sector represent an acknowledgement that it must do better, be held accountable to results, and work in a framework that recognizes and supports Reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
For more information about the historical context of child welfare’s Reconciliation efforts, read our 2016 interview with OACAS’s Director of Indigenous Services, Karen Hill.
3. Child welfare will apologize to Indigenous communities at a gathering in October 2017
OACAS will host an acknowledgement and Reconciliation gathering October 1-3, 2017. The purpose of the event is to facilitate dialogue between non-Indigenous child welfare agencies, Indigenous agencies, and representatives from Indigenous communities and leadership across Ontario.
At the event, OACAS will apologize for the role the child welfare sector has played, and continues to play, in the lives of Indigenous families. The 2017 Indigenous commitments will also be presented to attendees to seek their feedback, and to demonstrate accountability to the Indigenous communities served by Children’s Aid Societies. The gathering, apology, and commitments mark a significant milestone in the child welfare sector’s journey to Reconciliation. Learn more about the Reconciliation process and the upcoming gathering here.
4. Child welfare will monitor and report on the commitments
An Indigenous Commitment First Look Tool has been developed by OACAS to assist agencies to prepare to honour the commitments. The tool links the commitments to each agency’s individual resources, capacity, and current practices, in order to help them assess their limitations and strengths toward meeting the commitments. The tool is designed to support accountability and transparency for local agencies, the sector, and Indigenous communities. Children’s Aid Societies will complete the tool ahead of the October gathering as a way to tell their story and mark their progress toward the eight Reconciliation commitments. CASs will report back on their progress annually.
*Customary care is a permanency strategy that prioritizes placing children within their Indigenous community.
**Jordan’s Principle is a child-first principle aimed at ensuring that services to First Nations children are not denied, delayed, or disrupted due to jurisdictional disputes. The principle is named for Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba.
18 September 2017
Transgender youth are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, a new study finds.
Researchers examined survey data from more than 900,000 high school students in California. They found that 35 percent of transgender youth said they'd had suicidal thoughts in the past year, compared with 19 percent of non-transgender youth.
The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
"It is crucial that studies of adolescent health include measures of gender identity alongside sexual orientation to better understand and create programs to address the needs of these youth across the United States," study lead author Amaya Perez-Brumer, from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said in a journal news release.
Increased rates of depression and victimization among transgender youth partly explain their higher risk of suicidal thoughts, the researchers said.
"Like all students, transgender youth deserve to be safe and supported at school. These results show that reducing depression and victimization for transgender students should significantly reduce their suicide-related risk," study co-author Stephen Russell said in the news release.
By Robert Preidt
15 September 2017
ACT Leader David Seymour has announced Part 2 of ACT’s youth justice policy – boosting youth justice penalties and facilities while also promoting education for young offenders.
“This continues ACT’s determination to be both tough and smart on crime,” says Mr Seymour. “First we need to protect innocent New Zealanders. Then we need to ensure young offenders gain the skills needed to lead peaceful and productive lives.”
1. ACT would increase the period that young people can be sentenced to these facilities to 1 year, to remove them from the situations they were in when they were offending. Currently youth justice facilities are available for young people on remand or sentenced to the youth court for 3-6 months.
2. ACT would fund more youth justice beds to house our most serious offenders. This will protect the public and reduce pressure on police cells.
There have been numerous examples since 2014 of our most serious youth offenders being held in police cells or bailed when they should be in a youth justice facility. No one wants to see young offenders locked in police cells due to overcrowding or equally out on bail if they are a risk to the public. There are four youth justice facilities in New Zealand, with a total of 130 beds. ACT would increase the budget for secure youth justice residences from $33 million to $48 million (a $15 million boost).
3. ACT will prioritise education in youth justice facilities, and implement ACT’s highly commended Rewarding Self-Improvement in Prisons Policy in youth justice facilities so young offenders who achieve NCEA level 2 can get up to 6 weeks early release. This could eventually be rolled out to other qualifications.
The best way to break the cycle of youth offending is education. The 2013 Education Review Office report into the education services delivered in youth justice facilities found that the quality of education across most of the facilities was “not of a consistently high standard” and that “the quality of education at the residential schools needs to be improved”.
80% of children and young people taken into CYF care have less than a NCEA Level 2 education. And a 2009 study of young people in a youth facility found that the overwhelming majority (84% boys and 100% of girls) had been truant from school – hence ACT’s policy announced yesterday to hold parents accountable for truancy.
13 September 2017
Press Release: ACT New Zealand
Renowned photographer and director Rankin has joined forces with UNICEF to create a 60-second film highlighting the plight of children uprooted by war, poverty and disaster, especially those separated from their families as they become refugees. The thought-provoking video urges people to see past the refugee and migrant labels and value each child as a child, first and foremost, no matter where they’re from.
The film, set to Bastille’s poignant track ‘Four Walls’, depicts refugee and migrant children watching footage of children in danger around the world. Many of the children who are featured in the film are themselves refugees who have fled the horrors of war and are now trying to rebuild their lives. The film aims to challenge refugee stereotypes and prejudices by giving children a platform to express that they have the same hopes, fears and dreams as any other child.
“I love filming with kids - they are so expressive, they don't hold anything back,” said Rankin. “I'm a dad, I can relate to kids, but every now and then, while we were shooting this, it would hit me what some of these kids had been through.
“Three Syrian children who were supposed to be in the film couldn’t come. The day before the shoot, their father found out that his brother had been killed in a bomb attack in Aleppo. These children still have close relatives in Syria who are in danger. They told me they miss their families and worry about them every day.
“We shouldn't label these kids and judge them when what they really need is love, safety and warmth. ‘Refugee’, what does that even mean to a child? A child is a child. And that is all that matters.”
Around the world, nearly 50 million children are living outside their country of birth or are displaced within their own country, at least 28 million of them driven from their homes by war and conflict.
The number of refugee and migrant children moving alone has reached a record high, increasing nearly five-fold since 2010. At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in 2015-2016, up from 66,000 in 2010-2011.
13 September 2017
Press release: UNICEF
National will help more young people become drug free, move off the benefit and get a job to help ensure they reach their potential, Social Development Spokesperson Anne Tolley says.
“Most of our young people are doing incredibly well. There are more job opportunities and more support than ever in our country, as a result of our strong economic growth,” Mrs Tolley says.
“But some young people on a benefit need more support. National is committed to helping them into work to ensure they can stand on their own two feet.”
National will invest $72 million over the next four years to support beneficiaries under 25 years of age by:
• Guaranteeing work experience or training for those who have been on a jobseekers benefit for six months or longer, and financial management training to help them develop financial responsibility
• Providing rehabilitation services if drug use is identified as a barrier to employment
• Ensuring all young people under 25 who are on a job seekers benefit receive intensive one-on-one case management to get a job.
“Only 10 per cent of young people who go on a jobseekers benefit stay for more than six months – but for those that do, their average time on benefit is almost 10 years,” Mrs Tolley says. “We want to invest early, and give them one on one support so they can develop the skills they need to move into the workforce.
“We will guarantee them access to work experience or training courses designed specifically to get them ready for work.
“In addition, one in five beneficiaries tell us that drug use is a barrier to them getting a job – so we are increasing the support we give them to kick drug use and get work ready.”
National will also place obligations on those who do not take up the significant opportunities available in New Zealand to start work or training.
Job seekers without children who refuse work experience or training or recreational drug rehabilitation will lose 50 per cent of their benefit entitlement after four weeks of not meeting their obligations, with further reductions if that continues. This will also apply to those who continue to fail recreational drug tests, where these are requested by prospective employers.
The lower benefit payments will only be able to be used for essential needs such as rent and food – like we currently do with our Money Management programme for 16 to 19 year olds.
“This significant extra support we are announcing today will come with obligations and personal responsibilities, so those who won’t take the opportunities available to them will lose all or part of their benefit until they take steps to turn their lives around.
“We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, as 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meet their obligations within four weeks.”
Any benefit reductions will be made at the discretion of WINZ staff, to take account of individual circumstances. And once individuals decide to meet their obligations, benefits will be reinstated.
“New Zealanders are creating real opportunities for themselves and for New Zealand, through hard work and a commitment to doing better. National supports those efforts and is focused on helping all New Zealanders get ahead, even our most vulnerable,” Mrs Tolley says.
National will roll out the changes from 1 July next year.
6 September 2017
Press Release: New Zealand National Party
A Liberal-led committee will urge the government to ban Australian involvement in orphanage tourism as a matter of urgency.
The government is currently examining the introduction of a modern slavery act, which would seek to crack down on exploitation, human trafficking and forced labour, particularly in corporate supply chains.
Last month a committee considering anti-slavery laws heard extensive evidence about the involvement of Australian money in one form of modern slavery: orphanage tourism in developing nations.
The practice – which mostly involves children who are not, in fact, orphans – is propped up by Australian donations and volunteers, particularly in south-east Asia.
The committee is now recommending that Australia’s involvement in orphanage tourism be dealt with as an immediate priority, without waiting for a modern slavery act.
The foreign affairs and aid subcommittee is preparing a letter to the attorney general, George Brandis, and the justice minister, Michael Keenan, urging them to consider an immediate ban on Australian involvement in orphanage tourism.
The committee’s chairman, the Liberal MP Chris Crewther, said dealing with Australian involvement in orphanage tourism could not wait for parliament to establish a modern slavery act.
“It could be another year and [in that time] you’ve got more people helping and aiding traffickers – that’s a circumstance we really don’t want to be in,” he told Guardian Australia.
The letter is expected to be approved by the subcommittee on Thursday.
In Cambodia, an estimated 80% of the 16,500 children in orphanages still have a living parent.
Children are frequently subjected to exploitation, abuse and slave labour, according to the United Nations children’s fund (Unicef) and others.
Many of the institutions are run to profit their owners, propped up by Australian money and volunteers sent by churches, schools, universities, travel agencies and nongovernment organisations. Even well-run orphanages can tend to have negative impacts on children. Studies have shown institutional care for children, which no longer exists in Australia, makes them more likely to develop reactive attachment disorders, developmental delays and behavioural issues.
On Monday, the education minister, Simon Birmingham, announced the government would examine policies that could reduce school and university funding for orphanage tourism.
The ban proposed by the foreign affairs and aid subcommittee would make the government’s response considerably stronger.
“Not many countries have really taken action, we’re probably leading in terms of any other country in even considering taking action on this issue,” Crewther said.
“The fact is that it’s a money-making exercise and people are being made orphans by traffickers because it feeds into a human-trafficking scheme and it pulls on people’s heart strings.”
Details on how such a ban would work in practice have not yet been considered.
Experts have urged the government to take care not to cut off all Australian funding at once but instead seek to redirect it to aid agencies and nongovernment organisations working to keep children with their families or communities.
Crewther said a transitional model was needed, one that did not immediately cut off all funding to orphanages.
By Christopher Knaus
5 September 2017
A new adviser to support young people leaving the care system has been appointed by children's minister Robert Goodwill.
Mark Riddell has been appointed as the national implementation adviser for care leavers, and will work closely with local authorities as they drive forward the new duties introduced through the Children & Social Work Act 2017 which became law in April this year.
The role includes helping councils to develop a stronger local offer of support for care leavers, offering personal adviser services for all care leavers up to age 25 and delivering on their special responsibilities as a corporate parent - principles set out in the legislation.
Riddell was previously leaving care manager in Trafford, the first local authority judged by Ofsted to have "outstanding" care leaver services.
The Department for Education said he also acted as an "informal adviser" on the development of the government's care leaver strategy, which sets out the additional support provided by local and central government to help care leavers succeed.
Riddell will have a particular focus on supporting those councils that have had their leaving care services rated as "inadequate" or "requires improvement" by Ofsted.
Goodwill said: "Young people leaving care is one of the most vulnerable groups in society and we are determined that they should get the high-quality support they need to help them make the transition into adulthood.
"I am delighted that Mark has taken up this post and look forward to working closely with him as we continue our drive to improve the experiences and outcomes of care leavers across the country.
Riddell said: "I am delighted to be offered the post and am passionate about improving support for care leavers.
"Young people leaving care face many challenges as they prepare for independence, and crucial to making that transition successful is the support from their ‘corporate parents', the local authority."
By Neil Puffett
4 September 2017
A sold-out event on Monday will showcase the latest thinking in solving New Zealand’s youth suicide problem – by hearing from young people themselves.
The Co-Design for Youth Wellbeing Symposium will feature young people, policy-makers and community leaders who have been connected by Lifehack and Ara Taiohi.
Lifehack is an organisation focused on promoting and supporting collaborative, youth focused initiatives that support young people’s wellbeing.
Lifehack have collaborated with Ara Taiohi, the peak body for youth development in Aotearoa, to develop the programme and champion rights based and strengths based approaches to working with young people.
The youth wellbeing symposium happens against a challenging national backdrop. New Zealand has the worst youth suicide rate in the developed world, according to a recent UNICEF report.
About 130 teens die by suicide here each year.
“The reasons for these horrifying statistics are complex, but Lifehack’s work over the last four years has produced a really strong evidence-base for involving young people in the solutions,” says Lifehack spokesperson Penny Hagen.
According to Hagen, the event at Massey University in Wellington will highlight the effectiveness of involving young people in decision-making, a process called co-design.
“The challenges that young people face need to be responded to at the community, organisational, and system level - so our approach has been looking to involve young people in the process.”
A holistic approach to youth wellbeing contributed to reducing suicide rates, Hagen said.
“At every level, all along the spectrum, we believe there are opportunities for young people to be more involved in interventions.”
“That’s what we’re advocating for. Whether it is being involved in organisations and processes, or leading programmes and services, their input is critical. Our work has been about helping organisations acquire the skills for involving young people in design and decision making”
The Co-Design Symposium also features Handle the Jandal, a community organising campaign led by Maori and Polynesian youth and supported by Ko Awatea, aimed at building youth resilience to improve mental health and wellbeing; and VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, an innovative new organisation which works with young people in state care to amplify their voices and perspectives within and beyond Oranga Tamariki (The Ministry for Vulnerable Children).
The symposium is the last event for Lifehack, as it’s Ministry of Social Development funding has ended.
Final reporting on the success and learnings of the organisation is due in October.
1 September 2017
Press Release: ENSPIRAL
500-600 children leaving state care upon reaching the age of 18 will from tomorrow (Friday 1st September) have the right to an aftercare plan to identify any future supports they may require, according to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone.
Minister Zappone is confirming that there will be a statutory obligation to provide an aftercare plan which will identify supports required for children as they prepare to start adult life.
The Minister says resources, including aftercare workers, have been put in place to ensure this happens before a child leaves care.
Confirming that this new right is about to commence Minister Zappone added:
“I am conscious that the transition to independent adulthood can be challenging for many young people.
This is particularly true for children and young people in care. Planning a young person’s new independent living needs to begin years prior to leaving care and continue as part of the care planning process.
This preparatory work is facilitated by a social worker and is based on collaboration with the young person, their carers and partner agencies.
It is specific to the individual young person's needs. During the preparation for leaving care an aftercare worker is introduced to the young person. They are involved in the preparation for the leaving care process.”
Jim Gibson, Chief Operations Officer, Tusla said:
"Tusla – Child and Family Agency welcomes the introduction of the Child Care Amendment Act 2015 which will strengthen the legislative basis for the provision of Aftercare services.
Tusla has advocated for this important change to assist young people in making the transition from a young person in care to adult life, and to ensure consistency of support to these young people/ young adults in aftercare from 18 years and up to 21 years of age.
This may be extended if a young adult is in full time education or accredited training to the age of 23 years. Aftercare Services are an adult service but are integral to the provision of alternative care."
31 August 2017
Department of Children and Youth Affairs