Record number of children in state care

There is a record number of children in state care, in part because the eligible age rising from 17 to 18 last year. This could be good or bad news, or both.

If an increasing number of children need state care for their safety and well being it is good that they are being cared for, but it must be a concern at the number requiring care.

RNZ: Record number of children in state care – more than 6000

There are now more than 6000 children in state care – an all-time record high.

Oranga Tamariki said about half of that increase was due to the age of state care rising from 17 to 18 last year.

Up from 5600 a year ago.

But Oranga Tamariki, the ministry that replaced Child, Youth and Family a year ago, is struggling to recruitenough caregivers to keep up with the increasing demand on its services.

Figures provided by the ministry show that at the end of February, Oranga Tamariki had about 3800 caregivers on its books.

It can be a difficult job to do.

The ministry’s general manager of caregiver recruitment and support, Janet Smart, said there was a caregiver shortfall.

For every extra child in state care, ideally there would be an extra caregiver, Ms Smart said.

Jonelle McNeill from Barnardos, which is contracted by Oranga Tamariki to provide foster carers, said there was a large unmet need for caregivers.

“I understand for Auckland, at any given time, there is a shortfall of up to 20 caregivers, particularly for children who have got challenging behaviours.”

Looking after some of society’s most vulnerable children was not easy, Ms McNeill said.

“It’s a really tough job … but not just anybody can be a caregiver.”

Oranga Tamariki said it had piloted a 24-7 caregiver support line, which would be rolled out nationally in the first half of this year.

A hot-line already in use is busy – RNZ: Child abuse hotline overwhelmed by calls

A pre-school manager trying to report an at-risk child to Oranga Tamariki was on hold for over half an hour with no answer, then again for 20 minutes, she says.

The incident yesterday left the manager, Jane*, worried that ordinary members of the public having to wait this long may give up and that cases of child abuse may go unreported.

Set up last year as the replacement for Child, Youth and Family, one of Oranga Tamariki’s main stated objectives is to put the safety of children first.

Those wanting to report cases of abuse or neglect are directed to the agency’s website to call a special toll free number.

Jane said she had gone to do so after being told about an incident involving a child and a parent.

“The child, I perceived, was at risk. There was certainly an erratic, aggressive parent involved and other issues that I had just learned of that day. Certainly the child could be at risk.”

After getting through to Oranga Tamariki’s Auckland call centre and providing some details of what had happened, Jane was told she would be put through to a social worker.

But after waiting for 31 minutes on hold, Jane gave up.

Help lines, and care giving, need to be properly resourced to meet demand. As well as being necessary regardless of cost, it is likely to save money in the long run.

 

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4 Comments

  1. duperez

     /  April 3, 2018

    So many calls to take children out of homes where they are at risk. Where do they go to live?
    Oranga Tamariki can’t get enough caregivers.

    Apropos the story above about prisons: We want as many as needed to be locked away. Where are the staff for the prisons to come from?

    Maybe those who demand the loudest about kids being moved and every criminal being locked up could convince their offspring of the rewarding careers and opportunities to be had by taking up such civic service.

    Reply
  2. Lindsey Jones

     /  April 4, 2018

    You think it’s bad now, just wait another couple of months when the taxes rise, fuel increases and minimum wage increases. there will be a massive round of inflation for the likes never seen in this country which is going to place a huge strain on families when it comes to providing food, health and welfare. You think that truckers, farmers, fishermen, market gardeners will keep their prices the same after these increases ….. yeah right!!!
    The happy times are over people, so suck it up. You voted Labour.

    Reply

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