8 improvements for Oranga Tamariki

CYF (Child, Youth, Family) have a controversial record. They ceased to exist at the end of March, and have been replaced by the Controversially named Minister for Vulnerable Children, known less cringingly as Oranga Tamariki.

Stacey Kirk suggests there are Eight things the new Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Vulnerable Children must do better than CYF.

It’s carrying the weight of a record number of children placed in CYF care in the past year, and Government expects the ministry to usher in a new era of child care and support.

Here are 8 things it must do better, if it’s to be a success:

1. Children must be heard

A panel of former CYF kids has advised on nearly every facet of setting up the new system. Above all, they told Minister Anne Tolley and a panel of experts leading the overhaul that they only ever wanted to be in a safe, stable and loving home.

That may or may not be with their parents, but a child knows where they feel the most comfortable to thrive and often, it will be with family. Wherever possible, the children’s voice can’t just be heard but listened to.

Not just listened to but given priority to, except in exceptional circumstances.

2. All rates, (but in particular Maori rates), of re-abuse must come down

Rates of re-abuse among Maori children, once they leave the care of Child, Youth and Family, are startling.

It’s a given that abuse and especially re-abuse rates have to come down. It’s not just up to Oranga Tamariki but they will be an essential part of many solutions.

3. Children cannot be passed around 

Ministry research shows that countless numbers of children in state care said they wanted to stay in the same place. They wanted stability.

Taking a child away from their family is traumatic, but in some case the act of moving them back again multiple times can be just as harrowing.

After safety stability is important, but it can be difficult to achieve. There have to be enough stable alternatives to family.

4. Resources must be adequate

This new system will change the emphasis to working with families at the earliest opportunity, to make sure children don’t have to be removed.

For that, resources need to be bolstered and used far more efficiently than they are now.

If significant funding increases aren’t in next month’s budget then it will be an ongoing struggle to make any progress. Investing more money now should save it in the longer term.

5. Information sharing

Information between agencies like social workers and health professionals and police is very contentious, but kids have fallen through some very big cracks due to a lack of information being available to the right people.

6. Cutting down the paperwork

Many cry out for more social workers – they of course, would be helpful. But hiring more social workers is a wasted exercise if they’re still having to spend more than 50 per cent of their time on paperwork.

Tolley says work is being done by the new Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss to cut down KPIs – or targets – from more than 200, to 60.

Good paperwork is essential, but too much paperwork takes too much time and there is a risk of information overload that detracts from effective care.

7. Reduce the number of children going into care

Tolley has set a lofty target here herself: “That within a generation of care we’re talking hundreds of children in care, rather than thousands.

The latest figures showed a record high of nearly 5500 children in CYF care at the year to December, 2016. Taking that down to the hundreds within a generation is a target many would be happy to hold the Government to.

That’s a huge improvement – if it can be achieved. It won’t be easy.

8. Support families to help themselves

The biggest measure of success surely has to be a country of families in which CYF does not need to have a presence.

There will always be some who need help. But if this work is a success, within that same generation it shouldn’t be hard to imagine a circuit breaker where New Zealand families thrive together and don’t abuse or neglect their children at all.

Abuse and neglect can’t be eliminated altogether, but it has to be significantly reduced. Massively reduced.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  2nd April 2017

    For some of those 5,500 in CYF ‘care’ this is a substitute for prison where they would be if tried as an adult. The chances of rehabilitating them by that stage must be poor.

  2. In response to one of the heart rendering stories about a child in need I enquired by asking was the child the progeny of a marriage or civil union, whether the mother was a single parent, what ethnicity, and whether the natural father was acknowledging his financial and caring responsibilities. I was publicly admonished by a well known academic asking what the hell was I asking those intrusive questions for as I had no right to be interfering.
    That, ladies and gentlemen, is the beginning and end of the attitude that has to change in New Zealand. Yes, people in the community have an obligation to seek out the facts of a battered or mistreated child and a right to do so, trumps any individuals rights to privacy. Let light shine on the situation so the truth comes out. After all, who pays in the end for the consequences of child rearing tragedies. Yes once again the taxpayer! And it is not just the money they have to pay it is the threatening and antisocial behaviour that goes with it. Me, I am on the side of the child and will not stand inactive if I see an injustice, whatever the cost.

  3. patupaiarehe

     /  2nd April 2017

    “Oranga Tamariki”??? 😀 Seriously??!! Who comes up with these silly names? I know that ‘ginger’ kids often get a hard time at school, but surely the ‘Department formerly known as CYFS’, could have come up with something better. Google translate tells me that it means “Child survival”. IMHO, children should be helped to thrive, rather than just survive.
    I’m tempted to submit an OIA request, to find out how much money was wasted on this rebranding exercise, that should have been spent helping disadvantaged children…

    • Bill Brown

       /  2nd April 2017

      Totally agree with you. Wonder if will be another disaster for kids in NZ like the family court is.

  4. Patupaiarehe, I have similar reservations about the name that means to me, because of my Indo-Malay cultural influences, “The Young People”, Where they get “survival” from, I don’t know, but over the years starting with the London-based Missionaries, Te Reo oral has been bastardised to fit with an English grammar tradition in the written form, moreover iwi traditions have been subsumed by local so-called language experts.
    However, what is in a name?
    The most important thing that we need to do for the sanity, safety and future growth of our children is to accept that old statement about a child being the responsibility of a community. I accept that not as a burden so much as a guardianship for our most precious taonga, if you understand that approach ?

    • patupaiarehe

       /  2nd April 2017

      Couldn’t agree with that approach more BJ. What I don’t agree with, is a pointless rebranding exercise, which will achieve sweet FA for anyone, except for the consultants who were paid to do it.

  5. Griff

     /  2nd April 2017

    We need to encourage people in the welfare system to stop breeding .
    Children born into family’s dependent on welfare have worse outcomes .
    Offer any man on a benefit $5,000 to “snip”
    Pay woman to get the injection.

    Talk from the politicians is cheap.
    Actually doing something worth while is a lot harder

    Cfy’s Or whatever they call it has to focus on the needs of the child .
    Those that I know who have dealings with CYFs don’t have complementary story’s.
    A lot of promises made to support those who foster children that CYF’s have failed to delver.
    Agendas of social workers getting in the way of good outcomes . .
    Box ticking rather than monitoring those in care.

    • Blazer

       /  2nd April 2017

      so only the rich should breed…in your world…what a world..that..is!

      • Griff

         /  2nd April 2017

        Paying money is not compulsion.Give those on welfare the choice.

        Soooo ya get this woman
        Indiscriminate breeder and incapable of looking after her self.
        Children are removed at birth.
        No 12 on its way .
        You are quite happy for her to pop out another 5 or 6 children into care?

        The right to breed is balanced by the obligation to care for your offspring.
        You do not have the right to breed and expect society to care for your progeny.

        • patupaiarehe

           /  2nd April 2017

          Allow me to share a little story Griff, about a certain household in my neighbourhood…
          Several years back, when we were first viewing the property that we now own, my wife & I had to park a couple of houses up the street from it, due to the level of interest in it. Where we live, is far from Remuera or Ponsonby, economically speaking, but most folk around here work for a living. Except for one household. It was pretty obvious how they made their money, judging by the number of cars full of ‘hoodrats’ that came & went, in rapid succession, during the ten minutes I spent on my phone to my solicitor, after viewing the property. My wife witnessed what I did, and said something like, “Fuck this neighbourhood! I’m not living next door to a tinny house!”. She loved the house though, and after a long sermon from yours truly, about how “These people want no grief from the law, so won’t piss in their own pond”, she agreed that we should make a cheeky offer. So we did, & got it for a bargain. 😀
          After moving in, we introduced ourselves to our immediate neighbour. An honest, hardworking solo mum, who was proud to not be ‘on the benefit’. After giving us the ‘once over’, she was more than happy to let her kids hang out at our place, until she got home.
          We asked her about ‘that house’, at the top of the driveway. Simply because when we viewed the property, there were no kids to be seen anywhere. Then suddenly, there were six of them playing on the driveway, every night when I got home from work. I thought this was a little strange, because my children have strict instructions to NEVER play on a driveway. The following is my recollection of what she told me….
          “The kids are back, because he is in jail”
          “Really? What for?”
          “Probably for beating her up. Or beating someone else up. But most likely her.”
          “Um, OK…”
          “Don’t let your kids go up there, & don’t let those kids into your house. They will pinch anything that isn’t tied down. They’ve already done it to me.”

          • patupaiarehe

             /  2nd April 2017

            The really sad thing, is that they are good kids. They come & go, at 6 monthly intervals usually, but have been gone for the last 9 months. I well remember the last time that I saw them. The whole lot of them were playing on the driveway, as usual, and scrambled out of the way, when I pulled into my driveway. I stopped, & got out to check my letterbox. The eldest, who is just under half my size, struts towards me, and says “What are you up to, honkey?!”.
            I replied, “I’m checking my letterbox, smelly!”.
            And all 5 of his siblings erupted in laughter! 😀

  6. Bill Brown

     /  2nd April 2017

    Interesting to see Susan Pilbrow still in the mix. She’s no stranger to behaviour that’s not what you’d expect from someone in her position – in 07 she perjured herself, and she also did not report assaults / sexual assaults

  1. 8 improvements for Oranga Tamariki – NZ Conservative Coalition

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