Wills on CYFS and kids

Outgoing Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has featured on Breakfast and Paul Henry this morning talking about what needs to be done to improve the care of children and the services of Child, Youth and Family.

NewsTalk ZB also covers this: Dr Russell Wills: Must listen to kids in CFYs care

The Children’s Commissioner said we need to know the meaning of “child-centred” if the new Child, Youth and Family system’s going to work.

Dr Russell Wills has today released his second New Zealand State of Care report – his final act in the role – it argues upcoming reforms don’t do enough to put children at the centre of CYF’s work.

He said child-centred literally means listening to the child – because that’s the only way we’ll ever actually meet their needs.

“The key thing that we want to see from Child Youth and Family for children in care is a much clearer idea – from the national office right the way down to the coalface – about what it means to be child-centred when looking after these children in care.”

He’s made three recommendations in the report, including getting a plan in place to reduce the risk of a dip in performance during the transition to the new Child, Youth and Family system.

“60,000 kids are going to come into contact with CYFs this year. These are the most vulnerable kids in our country, and we can’t afford a dip in performance for those kids.”

More people on the frontline of social work is being put forward as the solution to a possible drop in Child Youth and Family’s work.


“We have seen real change. I think the team have done a really good job [over the last 5 years]” Dr Russell Wills, Children’s Commissioner

Wide support for new Children’s Commissioner

Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has been appointed as the new Children’s Commissioner.

NZ Herald: Outspoken child advocate overcame doubters

Mr Becroft, now 58, has been Principal Youth Court Judge for 15 years. He is an active member of the Karori Baptist Church and chairs the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship.

“Most of the serious young offenders are really struggling with neurodisability disorders including fetal alcohol syndrome, traumatic brain injury, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia and communication disorders,” he said.

This appointment has support across the political spectrum.

His appointment as Children’s Commissioner was welcomed yesterday across the political spectrum. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who was consulted on potential candidates, said Mr Becroft would be “fantastic”.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei said the decision was “exciting”.

Good to see that Ardern was consulted and that she and Turei strongly support Becroft.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said Judge Becroft would be seconded to the role for two years in what Ms Ardern described as a “change-manager” role to monitor CYF’s transformation into a new agency with a huge $1.3 billion annual budget to buy extra education, health, employment and social services for the families of about one in every five New Zealand children.

Judge Becroft said the proposed changes were a “visionary” approach to tackle the nation’s “utterly unacceptable child abuse and neglect record”.

“I hope there is an opportunity for even more of that vigorous debate to say this cannot continue and how is it that it is happening,” he said.

The CYF transformation and Becroft’s appointment will hopefully ensure ensure big steps forward in the State care of children.

Major changes for CYF

Today Social Development Minister Ann Tolley announced major changes to the way Child, You and Family will care for vulnerable children.


It’s a year since I announced that there would be a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family, led by an independent expert panel chaired by Dame Paula Rebstock. Since that time the panel has delivered a compelling case for change in its interim report, while just before Christmas it delivered its final business case, which included 81 recommendations.

Today I want to talk you through the Government’s response to that final report, and the major changes that will take place over the next few years in care and protection, as we take radical steps to provide a system that works for the long-term needs of children, and that supports staff and caregivers.

There is no doubt that we need wholesale change.

In its first six months the panel took an in-depth look at the current system and the long-term outcomes for vulnerable young people.

A study found that by the age of 21, for children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to June 1991:

  • Almost 90 per cent are on a benefit
  • Around 25 per cent are on a benefit with a child
  • Almost 80 per cent do not have NCEA Level 2
  • More than 30 per cent have a Youth Justice referral by age 18
  • Almost 20 per cent have had a custodial sentence
  • Almost 40 per cent have had a community sentence

The panel concluded that the agency is not effective in intervening early to provide the support that these children and young people deserve, and that demand for CYF services has increased as a result of children re-entering the system on multiple occasions.  64 per cent of the 61,000 children notified to CYF in 2014 had a previous notification.

The average age of children placed with family is 7 to 8 years old and they have already had an average of 7 to 8 care placements by this stage.

We already knew from a previous workload review that around fifty per cent of staff time is spent on administration.

On top of this the panel found that:

  • less than 25 per cent of CYF staff work directly with children in need of care and protection, and
  • Less than 1 per cent of staff have a dedicated professional support role, such as psychologists and therapists.

Quite simply the current system is not delivering effectively for vulnerable children and young people. It is not allowing our social workers to do their job, which should be spending most of their time supporting vulnerable children and families.

So that’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. We are going to do something about it.

Transformational change is going to take place.

She goes on to detail the changes that are being suggested.

NewsHub summarises: Five things you need to know about the overhaul:

  • The new system will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing offending and reoffending
  • Legislation will go through Parliament this year to raise the age of state care to a person’s 18th birthday, with transition support considered to the age of 25. Cabinet will also look at raising the youth justice age to include 17-year-olds.
  • The new model will mean CYF staff can directly purchase vital services like health, education, trauma and counselling, instead of having to negotiate with providers
  • Reducing over representation of Maori children is a high priority. This will mean building strategic partnerships with iwi groups
  • The new model, instead of being scattered across multiple agencies, will mean one agency responsible for the long term care of vulnerable children. It will be in place by March 2017

A good analysis from Stacey Kirk:Q+A: What does the CYF overhaul mean for vulnerable Kiwi children?

Last year’s: Interim Report of the Expert Panel: Modernising Child Youth and Family (PDF)

Final Report of the Expert Panel on Modernising Child Youth and Family

The Government has announced major state care reforms and a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family to improve the long-term life outcomes for New Zealand’s most vulnerable population. The Minister for Social Development, Hon Anne Tolley, says that the whole system needs to be transformed if we are to give vulnerable children and young people the protection and life opportunities they deserve.

“After making a very clear case for change in its Interim Report, the Expert Panel advising me on the radical overhaul of Child Youth and Family has delivered a final report with a bold set of recommendations for a new child-centred system which the Government is taking action on,” says the Minister.

The package of reforms, which is expected to take up to five years to be fully implemented, will include:

  • A new child-centred operating model with a greater focus on harm and trauma prevention and early intervention. It will provide a single point of accountability for the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable children, with the voice of the child represented in planning and strategy.
  • A social investment approach using actuarial valuations and evidence of what works will identify the best way of targeting early interventions, to ensure that vulnerable children receive the care and support they need, when they need it.
  • Direct purchasing of vital services such as health, education and counselling support to allow funding to follow the child, so that young people can gain immediate access to assistance.
  • A stronger focus on reducing the over-representation of Maori young people in the system. Currently, 60 per cent of children in care are Maori. Strategic partnerships will be developed with iwi groups and NGOs.
  • Legislation this year raising the age of state care to a young person’s 18th birthday, with transition support being considered up to the age of 25. Cabinet has also agreed to investigate raising the youth justice age to 17.
  • Legislation establishing an independent youth advocacy service to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard in the design of systems and services.

Intensive targeted support for caregivers, including some increased financial assistance and better access to support services. For the first time, National Care Standards will be introduced so that there is a clear expectation for the standard and quality of care in placement homes.

The system will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing reoffending. Delivery of these services will require a suitably trained workforce, with a requirement for a greater range of specialist skills, to better prevent harm and trauma.

The Report notes that CYF staff, agencies and the Government can’t do this in isolation. Communities need to be engaged and play their part. Work is already underway on attracting and retaining a wider pool of quality caregivers, who will receive increased support to take on such an important role.

Fuck and run fathers and male irresponsibility

A comment on Sensible reaction from Little on Tolley/contraception raises some of the most important issues when it comes to at risk CYF kids and contraception.

I have worked on construction sites where the usual minimum wage day labourer sorts brag about the number of females they got pregnant. One had 4 kids to 3 females and was very proud of that.

Thats a lot of low quality sperm getting sprayed everywhere and fertilising equally low quality eggs and its the tax payer that will be paying over and over for it as the low IQ progeny work their way through the welfare, education and justice system.

It has to stop.

For every women (or girl) who has a baby who is born into an at risk family/lack of family situation there is also a father (I doubt that many of these kids are the result of artificial insemination or immaculate conception).

It’s known that it’s common in the problem demographics for struggling or incompetent mothers to have multiple fathers of their children.

Not all multiple father families are a problem, far from it.

But irresponsible father families – or no responsibility father families – are a major part of the problem, from fuck and run fathers to those who can’t cope and move on.

Why is it common for males to actively have sex knowing it may result on offspring that they have little or no intention of taking any financial or parenting responsibility for?

Like drink driving forty years ago it is probably seen as a joke by some, and an achievement by others.

But the victims are many, and they include the mothers who get pressured or conned into having unprotected sex, but most importantly the victims are the many kids born into hopeless situations because they have hopeless fathers.

This is a substantial systemic male problem.

So this needs male leadership. Not the easy male leadership in politics, business and sport.

It’s very difficult leadership that’s required, both because it’s a difficult issue, and because males seem to have difficulty in taking joint responsibility for male problems.

Many males are either a part of or do nothing about masculine culture irresponsibility when it comes to contraception and fatherhood.

How about it male political leaders? Who is willing to to stand up and confront the fuck and run father mentality?

John Key?
Andrew Little?
Winston Peters?
James Shaw?
Te Ururoa Flavell?Peter Dunne?
David Seymour?

Sensible reaction from Little on Tolley/contraception

While there has been a lot of silly over-reaction to Anne Tolley’s comments on contraception on Q & A (for example see Why did Tolley talk about contraception?) there has been a sensible reaction from Andrew Little, saying more access to contraception is a good thing and he doesn’t think Tolley would take it further.

A report by Newstalk ZB detailed Concerns over CYFS’ contraceptive tough line and first quoted critics:

Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie said it feeds into an undercurrent of thought that has dangerous consequences.

“In the last few years I’ve been disturbed at the number of people who are just going on quite an aggressive position of saying these people shouldn’t be allowed to have children and they are seeing people in these situations as less than human.”


Massey University’s Deborah Russell said if the state was to tell mothers how many children they can have – its control over our personal bodies – which is the definition of slavery.

She thinks we can’t control when people can or cannot have children, because no one has the right to make that judgement.

Russell was Labour candidate for Rangitikei, she was the party’s first selection for the 2014 election. She was 33 on their list.

But a sensible reaction from Little:

Labour leader Andrew Little said more access to contraception is a good thing, and he doesn’t see the rest of the minister’s remarks as meaning the Government plans to take the scheme any further.

“My own personal assessment of Anne Tolley is that she would be uncomfortable with that level of intervention.”

Tolley was asked about preventing at risk parents of having more babies and gave a careful and moderate response – see the transcript: Why did Tolley talk about contraception?

Why did Tolley talk about contraception?

The Q & A interview with Anne Tolley yesterday set off a lot of discussion about contraception and sterilisation in relation to at risk children.

Tolley and National have been accused of many things including deliberate diversion (from the TPPA or whatever) and promoting ‘eugenics, again.

Anthony Robins at The Standard:

Are we still “not quite” at the stage of compulsion, or are the Nats going to cross that line? It’s obvious from their record that they have a thoroughly unhealthy obsession with the idea. John Key “thinks” (despite all the evidence to the contrary) that parents on the DPB are “breeding for a business”. That kind of sick and stupid attitude can never be allowed to control reproductive rights.

Paul at The Standard:

The National Party have set up a predictable diversion to knock the TPP off the headlines just as Groser is being taken to court to release the text.

Danyl McLauchlan at Dim-Post:

Clickbait government

This government would never actually carry out the daunting legal and policy work required to implement mandatory contraception for beneficiaries, but they sure do like floating the idea whenever there’s a dip in the polls, to outraged cries from liberal pundits and roars of approval from the talkback radio moronocracy. This is the third or fourth time the Nats have said we ‘have to have this conversation’ about beneficiaries and eugenics.

Threatening to force women to be sterilised is far better for the Minister’s media monitoring statistics than the actual pedestrian work of delivering the option of contraception to women who might desperately need it. As always with these buffoons, generating headlines is the core role of government.

So why did Tolley “float the idea”? Actually she didn’t. She was asked about it seven minutes forty seconds into a ten minute interview. She responded to it, she didn’t float it.

Michael Parkins at 7:40 : You talk about early intervention a lot here, isn’t obviously the most early form of intervention stopping some people from having children, or having more children?

Anne Tolley: Well that’s very difficult for the State to do. I  certainly think we should be providing more family planning, more contraceptive advice to some of the families that we know are, I mean I know of cases that CYF have taken a sixth and seventh baby from.

The question I’ve asked is so what advice is now going in to that parent?

Parkins: So how could you stop them from baby three and four, because you know they’re going to fail at it?

Tolley: Yes, yes that’s exactly right.

Parkins: If you were really tough about these things that’s what you’d do though isn’t it?

Tolley: Well we’ll wait and see what the recommendations are. That’s a conversation that New Zealanders perhaps need to have.

Parkin: Could that be the result of this?

Tolley: Well that’s a big step when the State starts telling people, you know, deciding if you can have another child and you can’t. I mean that’s a huge step for the State to take.

Parkin: But you’re not ruling that out being part of this next report that comes.

Tolley: Well I’ll wait and see what the panel report. I expect that they will be saying that we should get much faster contraceptive advice in, we should be offering you know tubal ligations, all sorts of things. Um and counselling those families.

Full interview: Overhauling our child care services (10:03)

That was brought up and pushed by Parking with I think very moderate responses from Tolley.

A Green Dunedin City councillor tweeted:

Hey , I thought over the weekend we went forward an hour, not back in time?

That was favourited by Green co-leader Metiria Turei. She’s over in the US at the moment so can be partly excused for perhaps not knowing the full context, but Hawkins doesn’t have that excuse.

This is either ignorance of how the topic came up and how it ran through the interview, a cheap shot, or deliberate dirty politics.

‘Forced contraception’ versus ‘encouraged responsibility’

Yesterday Anne Tolley was interviewed on NZ Q & A about dealing with the ineffectiveness of CYF (Child, Youth, Family) at dealing with child protection.

While changes to how CYF are currently being looked into Tolley raised a contentious issue – “forced contraception”.

@AnneTolleyMP raises impt issue re contraception for vulnerable families @NzMorningReport. Estimated 9,000 babies born at risk each year.

Radio NZ reports Minister considers ‘tricky subject’ of family size

Anne Tolley admitted it was a tricky subject, but said something had to be done about the women who have multiple children taken into care.

Mrs Tolley said she was talking about a small number of families, where Child Youth and Family was removing more than one child at birth, most from homes with a history of abuse and neglect.

“I know of a case where they were taking the sixth child from that woman and of course the first question I ask is; ‘So what sort of family planning advice is being made available to that woman, is it there immediately for her to think about?’

“It can’t be great for the mum involved to be continually pregnant and then losing that baby,” she said.

So is Mrs Tolley suggesting limiting the size of families?

“That’s not the New Zealand way. We don’t live in a dictatorship like that, but for some of these families I think it’s very distressing that we are removing four, five and six babies from them. And of course there’s a huge cost then that goes on to the general taxpayer,” she said.

But she said there was an underlying problem – referring to the Growing Up in New Zealand study that found just under a third of pregnancies were unplanned.

Mrs Tolley said in this day and age there was no need for that.

“Are we making sure that family planning and contraceptive advice is getting to the very people who need it, the families showing the most dysfunction and the most stress,” she said.

That doesn’t sound like an intention to force contraception but that’s a very tricky issue.

Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said she felt uncomfortable about the minister’s comments.

She said women could not be forced to use contraception and she would oppose any move to punish them by cutting their benefit if they did not agree to.

“My view would be that of a different approach and one that isn’t reactive and punitive. Providing contraceptive advice needs to be part of a package that the social work practitioner takes with them when they start working with the family. But you can’t just stomp in on day one and say ‘right here’s the pill’,” she said.

Nothing like that has been suggested by Tolley.

This is a very difficult thing to deal with, and is similar to people with high genetic risks of having children with serious medical or mental problems.

Forcing sterilisation and contraception should perhaps be reserved for extreme situations, but educating about strongly encouraging sterilisation and contraception for some people must surely be a responsible way to deal minimising children being born into at risk family situations.

It’s not dissimilar to forcing/encouraging vaccinations. Or forcing/encouraging blood transfusions and other medical help that is against the religious beliefs of parents.

Certainly these are issues that should be talked about without overstating and scaremongering.

There’s a difference between ‘forced contraception’ and ‘encouraged responsibility’, but the degree of difference may depend on the nature and degree of encouragement.

Video of interview: Overhauling our child care services

Tolley on CYF reform and child protection

Anne Tolley was interviewed on The Nation on a damning report on a lack of child protection from CYF (Child Youth Family) despite decades of patch-up changes.

Far too much time is spent on administration/form filling and too little time is spent engaging with and helping children.

Tolley says that how CYF  operates needs to be dismantled and rebuilt with the primary focus on the needs of children.

Much of the questioning – demands about costs and solutions – as a report is expected in December that will make recommendations.

Dealing with children from the most dysfunctional families (or non-families) in New Zealand is extremely difficult. It is often an inter-generational problem, so putting children into the care of wider family can be risky.

Here’s the interview (video): Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Here’s an excerpt confirming that there is no intention to outsource core functions:

The Panel: Matthew Hooton, Laila Harre & Bernard Hickey – Hickey is worthwhile, Hooton is ok and Harre is pushing a socio-political barrow.

The media release with interview transcript:

Lisa Owen interviews Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Tolley says NZ needs “a lot more” caregivers and “definitely looking” at paying and supporting them more; reveals plans for a new ‘A team’ of caregivers for the most troubled kids.

“We’d be looking for some people with some extra special skills that we might pay more, we might provide specialist services to take care of things.”

Says it’s “not ideal” that 50% of caregivers are on a benefit as children will be going into homes under financial stress

Commits to putting in place all the recommendations of the Rebstock report on CYF, saying previous reviews have not been fully implemented.

Says that “may well” lead to more social workers but a better mix needed. “We need more specialist services, so we need more psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists.”

Rules out outsourcing care and protection services, as it as a “state responsibility” and “there’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility”.

Says she’s not backing Labour’s private member’s bill to register all social workers because the timing is wrong, has asked Social Workers Registration Board to review Act and report back to her in December

Says frontline CYF social workers spend more than half their time on administration work because every time there’s a crisis “there’s been another layer put in there to deal with that response,”

“What I’m saying is, ‘Yes, we’re going to have to put more money in, but let’s make sure we’re putting it into the right places that are going to get the best outcomes for the kids’.”

Lisa Owen: Good morning, Minister.
Anne Tolley: Good morning, Lisa.
You’ve talked repeatedly about how radical this is, so is it a major shift to focus on children at risk and to integrate services better?
Yeah. So, you know, as you say, we’ve had 14 different restructures of CYF over the years, and the reality is not much has changed for the children that come through that system. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take the system completely apart, and we’re going to put it back together, but this time it’s going to be absolutely focused on the needs of those children.
You say ‘this time’, but the thing is, in that question, I was quoting from your predecessor Roger Sowry from a press release in 1998. And then in this bundle here, there’s ones from Steve Maharey, all of them talking about charting a new direction, quality outcomes for children. So why should anyone have any confidence that you’re going to deliver something that’s better?
Well, we are. We simply have to. And when you look at the results that the system is getting for those children that we take into our care, we should be ashamed of those results. And all of us have a role to play in that. So the chief executive and I are absolutely determined that this time all the recommendations are going to be implemented. And when you go back and look at the previous reviews and restructurings, not all of those have been put into place. We’ve done a little bit here and a little bit there, and often responding to crisis and putting more into managing crisis.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because everybody sets out with the best intentions, but this is your seventh year in power, so why are you just acting now?
I think when you look at what we’ve been doing with work around vulnerable children, we started and there was the Green Paper and the White Paper, which culminated in the Vulnerable Children’s Act, so my predecessor Paula Bennett started with that wider group of children who are in vulnerable circumstances – about 100,000 at any one time. That’s all in place. We’ve got children’s teams; we’ve got the community; the $330 million that MSD invests each year, that’s been redeveloped and refocused. And so now we’ve got the very tip of the iceberg, which is the top of that triangle.
I understand that, but some of the figures that you referred to this week that you said you were horrified and embarrassed about; one in particular was from 2010 showing that 23% of kids that go back to their biological families are revictimised, reabused. But those figures, as I said, from 2010. So why wasn’t something done about that in the past five years?
So, it was at the time. It fed into a review which made some recommendations, and some things were done. What’s clear—
Another review, other recommendations, more paperwork.
But what’s clear is that no one has ever gone back and monitored and checked and evaluated if what they were doing is actually working. You know the old adage – if you keep doing the same things the same way, you’ll get the same results. And so that’s very clear from the expert panel’s review. They’ve got underneath all that data. For years we’ve heard how the notifications were increasing. We’ve put more money into more social workers, because they were overworked and overstretched. What the review panel has found is that now almost two-thirds of those children are now known to CYF already, and they’ve been churning back through the system, so we’ve been creating that extra workload by not dealing with those children well and their families in the first place.
Let’s look at—
It’s stuff like that that the panel’s got underneath for the first time.
Let’s look at the panel’s report, then, and look at some of the things they have identified. Front-line social workers have spent more than half their time shuffling paperwork. Why?
That’s because this is a system that has responded. Every time there’s a crisis and another child is horrifically abused and killed, there’s been another layer put in there to deal with that response, there’s been another review done, part of the recommendations have been taken up, and small changes have been made, which is why I’m saying I’m not going to be rushed into making a patch-up job. We have got to take this system apart and rebuild it, centred on the needs of those children.
Because you’ve just identified what is the system’s fault here. But when The Nation has talked to social workers this week, we hear that they’re flat out finding emergency placements; they’re ferrying, they’re like a taxi service for kids, taking them to school, taking them to other appointments; they’re working on paperwork, at the expense of long-term care that you want and they want.
And the system has demanded that of them.
I just want to finish this, Minister, because you’ve said, despite all those pressures on them, you’ve said that we shouldn’t expect a massive change in the numbers of staff.
Well, what I’ve said is when I’ve been asked, ‘Will social workers lose their jobs?’ We need those social workers. I can’t see that we would need viewer social workers. But actually, the report tells you only about 25% of the workforce are actually working directly with children. We’ve got lots of managers and supervisors and people who are filling in forms.
But isn’t that because there’s not enough of them?
Well, there’s 3000-odd staff, but only 25% of them are actually working with children. And of that 25%, they’re only spending 15% of their time actually with children.
So are you telling me that we need more back-room staff to allow those people to get on to the front line and deal with the kids?
What we need is a system that is designed to look after those children when they first come to our attention, we need good interventions with them and their families, and we need to free up the front-line social workers to do the work they come in every day to do which is to work with children, not a system that’s built on layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration, which is what we’ve got now.
But, Minister, you talk about the research and the reviews and evidence based… going ahead with evidence. But some evidence that was provided last year was the case-load review, which said that you were 350 social workers short. So can we expect more social workers?
We may well. We may also expect, and you talked to front-line—
But ‘may well’ is not a definitive answer, is it, Minister? So yes or no? Will we get more?
I don’t know, because the final system proposal will come to me in December, so I’m not going to pre-empt what the panel’s coming up with. What they’ve done in this interim report is give us the building blocks. They will come to me in December with the final system design and the costings for that. So there may well be more social workers. What there will be is a different mix. Because you talk to front-line social workers with the increasingly complex family dysfunction that they’re seeing and some of the complex needs of these kids; we know more about them, we can diagnose better. We need more specialist services, so we need more psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists.
All right.
All of that. So that will be a different mix that I’m expecting to get.
So you do – you do need more. Does that mean you’re going to hire more?
Well, we’ll wait and see what they put in place. But as I say, we’ve got 3000 social workers who work for us now in CYF. Only 25% of those are working with children. Surely we need to release some of those supervisors and administrators and whatever they’re doing filling in forms and bits of paper to be out there working with children. That’s what we want – a system that’s focused on the needs of those children.
Okay. Well, the report indicated you also need better social workers, so Labour’s got a private member’s bill would register all social workers, which means they would be police-checked, they would be professionally-trained. Are you going support that bill?
No, I’m not supporting that bill, and I’ve talked to Carmel. It’s not that I don’t support it. I’ve said to her that her timing is wrong. So I have asked the Social Workers Registration Board to do a review of their Act and to match with the final report that I get from the expert panel. They’re reporting back to me in December. So they are looking exactly at what do we mean by a social worker, what’s the career path. There’s a lot of people who work in the social sector that call themselves social workers, but what should a qualified, registered social worker look like?
One thing you have promised immediate action on is this nationwide drive to get more caregivers. How many do you think you need?
I think we need a lot more. A lot more, and that will be defined. But it’s not just about caregivers. Look, I think- What the report identifies is more and more of these children have very high and complex needs. We saw this when the chief executive and I went overseas earlier this year. Some caregivers, we will need people with high, specialist care, being able to provide that for some of these children. The average family is not going to be able to provide that. So we might need a structured system of caregiving.
Okay. Well, one of the statistics that you brought up was half of the caregivers that we’ve currently got are on benefits. Is that an ideal situation?
I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is for the family who are on a benefit that we know- I mean, it’s pretty hard to survive on a benefit. And for the children that go into those homes, they’re going into a home that will – that is under financial stress. What we want for these children is a better life, so we need to be looking broader and wider to New Zealand families to take- to take these children under their wing. Now, some of that will be fostering; some of that might be home for life, which is sort of a modern adoption.
Basically , am I right, you’re thinking – you’re looking for sort of an A-team of caregivers?
Yes. Yes, we are. We saw it in Norway, actually, where children that were identified with those high and complex needs – they described them as an A-team; I wouldn’t say that. I’d just say- I’d just say we’d be looking for some people with some extra special skills that we might pay more, we might provide specialist services to take care of things.
Okay. Well, you talk about more paying more, and I just want to pick up on that, because CYF caregivers are paid about $150-250 a week. We know one private company is paying $600 a week. Should you be matching that kind of figure?
Well, I think you’ve always got to be very careful that you’re not setting up a professional caregiving regime. And when you talk to people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money. What we need to do is make sure that they are well- those children are well-supported financially so that they are able to do all the things that other New Zealand children can.
So that’s definitely something that you’re looking at – increasing payments.
We certainly are, and the support that we give to caregivers. I mean, the Children’s Commissioner have talked about a ‘dump and run’, so- and that comes through to me clearly from those foster kids organisations.
But everything I’m hearing screams money. It screams money, and your own panel says this is going to take significant investment. So why do you keep saying you don’t want to throw money at this?
It’s because we want to invest money sensibly in areas where we know it’s going to make the greatest difference for kids. So- So the immediate reaction from people when the Children’s Commissioner’s report came out was, ‘You’ve got to put more money in here. You need more social workers. You need more money.’ We’ve seen that over the years every government has done exactly that, and nothing’s changed for those kids. What I’m saying is, ‘Yes, we’re going to have to put more money in, but let’s make sure we’re putting it into the right places that are going to get the best outcomes for the kids.’ And that might be in getting them more psychological support to deal with their initial trauma. That might need getting them caregivers at that very early stage. The kids themselves tell us – and I’ve got a youth- I’ve set up youth advisory group of young people that have been through care; we’ve got a couple of them still in care – they say make that- they say to us, ‘Make that first placement the best placement for us.’
Okay. Just in terms of money, you are asking, or wanting to set up an agency that advocates for the kids, but you’re not going to pay for that. You’re looking for philanthropic people to step in. So the report-
No, I haven’t said- I haven’t said the government won’t pay for it.
The report says – and you announced – that you’re talking to the charity sector, basically, to fund this. Isn’t that core government business, though?
No, what – no, what we’re saying is we’re actually going to do what I’m talking about, which is let the young people decide how they want that organisation to work. I don’t have any objection to putting government money into it, but I want it so that it works for them. So what I’m saying to my youth advisory panel, the Dingwall Trust panel; I think there’s another group out there – ‘There’s a group of philanthropists that are out there. They want to help you, and they’re looking for ways to assist you. I’m happy that you can, with the panel, have those discussions, and then come back to us in the final report.’ If there’s going to be Government money needed, I don’t have a problem with that. But I don’t want to design it. I want the young people to design it.
Okay, because some people would regard that as almost like outsourcing by stealth, having to go to another agency or charity to fund-
Well, if they become a lobby group that wants to be able to criticise Government and hold Government to account, they might need some independence.
But are you saying-? There are other Government bodies, or funded by Government. Are you saying they don’t have independence, like the Independent Police Conduct Authority, like the Ombudsman, like the Children’s Commissioner? They’re independent, and they get funded.
They are set up- they have- Yes, they are, but they are statutorily independent, so – this is an advocacy group. As I say, I want them to design it, and if they come back to say, ‘We want some seeding money underneath that from Government to keep it going,’ I don’t have a problem with that.
There’s a couple of things I want to get through in the time we’ve got left. Very quickly, the PM – the Prime Minister hasn’t ruled out more outsourcing. The report makes little mention of that. Can you rule out today that you won’t be outsourcing front-line care and protection services?
Look, I- Let’s put it to rest – this is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.
Okay. One last thing before we go – you are looking at placements in family/whanau situations, because there’s been bad outcomes and reabuse, revictimisation. Do you have the numbers? If you want to change that family-first approach, which is in the legislation, do you have the numbers to make a change to that?
I think the report’s making the case that we have to think differently. In many cases, families can take care-
But would you have the numbers to get that through? Because the Maori Party is not going to support it; Peter Dunne says that he likes the approach of Tariana Turia, which is giving those families more support, not taking the children away.
I think where I come from – I don’t have the numbers, because I haven’t started talking, but I think it’s a good conversation we have to have – whose agenda is most important? Is it the children’s and their lives, or is it the adult agenda? So for me, I’m unashamedly on the side of the children. If their family can be supported and get themselves back on track and provide a safe and great environment for those kids, I’m all for that. But I want those kids to have the best opportunity for a good life.
All right. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. Minister Anne Tolley.
Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

Looking beyond CYF for solutions

To vulnerable children and at risk families CYF may look more like a problem than a solution.  The Children’s Commissioner’s State of Care Report found that at times they create more problems than they solve when they place children in state care that doesn’t care for them adequately.

CYF (Child, Youth, Familiy) is a Government department that has a responsibility to help keep children safe.

Who we are and what we do

We help families help themselves. We believe all children belong in families that will love and nurture them. We team up with many different groups and people so that families have the support they need to help their children thrive.

What we do

We work closely with families to help them find their own solutions, so they can:

  • deal with their problems
  • make the changes they need so their children will be safe and well cared for
  • achieve their goals for the family.

When children need secure, loving, long-term homes, we’ll work with family and whanau, caregivers, and adoptive parents to find them one.

When young people offend, we want them to get back on track and make good decisions in the future. We’ll organise a conference for the young person, their family and the victim of their offending to meet and talk about the impact of their actions. We’ll then help them get back on track for a successful future.

We partner up with hundreds of social services providers to get the message to communities – together we can help all our children be safe, strong and thrive!

So they have an important role to play – but one of their most effective roles may be to work with and refer to solutions beyond themelves.

An NZ Herald special report looks at this – A child abuse solution beyond CYF.

Fixing child abuse and neglect is all about building relationships with families in need, social workers say.

It requires respect and time and an ability to connect through a common culture. And that is likely to require far more fluid ways of working than the fixed roles and rigid time limits that have been part of the culture of Child, Youth and Family (CYF).

A succession of inquiries into CYF has found collaboration has been sacrificed to deadlines. Repeated reviews of the worst cases, such as the 13-year-old boy who killed Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar featured in the Weekend Herald, have found children fall through the cracks.

Grant Wilson, a social worker for West Auckland’s Te Whanau o Waipareira who worked with the boy’s drug-addicted family, says CYF can’t hope to build a trusting relationship with such a family under current rules. Last year the average CYF worker looked after 14 families and saw them for a total of only 13 per cent of their paid hours each week.

“My method is to build a substantial relationship with those people,” Mr Wilson says. “Having a shared experience is a really important thing when you’re trying to build a relationship with someone who’s been in prison, who thinks their life is more ratshit than anyone else’s.”


Katie Murray of Kaitaia-based youth agency Waitomo Papakainga says that as 58 per cent of children in state care are Maori, CYF must work with agencies like hers.

“You cannot be sending non-Maori into our hard Maori homes,” she says. “But I can send any of my crew in there and it doesn’t matter which gang it is, they all know us in town.”


The Maori Women’s Welfare League has told the Rebstock panel CYF needs to share investigation and decision-making with community groups, hand over running family group conferences to community leaders, hold the conferences on marae instead of in CYF offices, place children with extended whanau, and work with their parents so the children can return if possible.

“[We] need to develop a culture within CYF that they are there to help, not to prosecute,” it says.

While CYF is the Government agency with overall responsibiklity for the safety of children in families the solutions have to be found withion families and within communities as much as possible.

Children’s Commissioner’s State of Care Report

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russel Wills has just released the first of what will be an annual report. It’s damning of the poor quality of State care of children and notes grave concerns about the safety of children in Sate care.

Radio NZ report: ‘Dump and run’ culture at CYF

The Children’s Commissioner’s first annual report has strongly criticised Child, Youth and Family for what it calls a dump and run culture of neglect

In his first annual report, State of Care 2015, commissioner Russell Wills finds systemic failures in the service and says it is doubtful children are better off in state care.

“We don’t know if children are any better off as a result of state intervention, but the indications are not good,” it said.

The report said too many children were bounced from one placement to the next.

“In the course of our preparation for this report, we heard of children who had had upwards of 20, 40, and in one case over 60 care placements in their short lives,” it said.

Supervisors and social workers did not understand their roles and responsibilities, and there was often very little supervision of children.

“Some providers went so far as to characterise CYF’s attitude to these placements as ‘dump and run’.”

Many workers lacked the right qualifications or experience, and were not properly supervised.

Dr Wills told Morning Report other ministries, such as justice, health and education, ministries must work with CYF, to get the changes needed. “I think we’ve got a culture where the other agencies expect CYFs to do all the work, that’s not right and that’s not fair.”

From State of Care 2015: At a glance:

What do we expect from Child, Youth and Family?

CYF is the statutory service charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect, providing secure care to those who need it, and the care of children who have committed an offence.

New Zealanders expect CYF to keep children safe from immediate harm and hold children who have committed offences accountable, but more than that, we expect CYF and other government agencies to take good care of children and improve their life outcomes.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner expects best practice

Our independent monitoring of CYF provides a tool to ensure CYF, as the primary service responsible for the care of vulnerable children, provides high quality services that improve children’s lives. We examine CYF’s policies and assess its practices, and consider how well these meet the needs of children. Our expectations of CYF are set out in our monitoring framework.

We expect CYF to deliver high quality services, plan for the future, make good decisions, learn from mistakes, work effectively with other agencies, seek children’s views, and improve children’s lives. Part 1 summarises the findings of our monitoring of selected CYF sites and residences against these expectations between January 2014 and June 2015.

Children expect to be treated with care and respect

Children also have expectations of CYF. They expect CYF to tell them what they are entitled to, provide them with high quality social workers and caregivers, help them maintain relationships with their birth family/whānau, give them a voice in decisions about their care, and, crucially, listen to what they say.

Children can tell us a lot about whether CYF is meeting its objective of putting children at the centre of everything it does. Part 2 summarises what children told us about their experiences with CYF between January 2014 and June 2015.

Children should be better off as a result of state intervention

A fundamental expectation we have is that children who come into contact with CYF should be better off as a result. Part of our monitoring function is to consider the outcomes CYF is achieving for children in care.

CYF’s practice framework talks about keeping children safe from abuse and neglect, providing them with secure care, addressing the effects of any harm they have already suffered, and restoring and improving their wellbeing.

CYF has recently developed an outcomes framework that will require CYF and other agencies to ensure that children are safe, healthy, achieving, belong, participate, and have improved life outcomes. As CYF develops indicators to measure these outcomes, we thought it would be timely to provide an assessment of how well CYF is currently doing at improving children’s outcomes.

Part 3 attempts to do this, based on the available data, our overall findings, and feedback we received in our engagement with key stakeholders.

Is CYF meeting these expectations?

CYF’s practice is not consistent

Some of the CYF sites and residences we monitored in the past 18 months met or exceeded our expectations. CYF generally has strong frontend systems and processes for investigating and making decisions about cases of potential abuse and neglect, which means it generally does well at keeping children safe from immediate risk of abuse and neglect.

However, CYF’s overall performance against our monitoring framework was highly variable. Across most of the sites and residences we monitored, we found inconsistent vision and direction, variable social work and care practice, and insufficient priority given to cultural capability. Underpinning these findings was a core issue with workforce capacity and capability.

CYF does not put children at the centre of everything it does

Some children report positive and life-changing experiences with CYF, but others report negative and harmful experiences. Generally speaking, the longer a child spends in CYF care, the more likely they are to experience harmful consequences.

The feedback we received from children suggested a system that is not centred on their needs, and that does not take into account the potential negative consequences of CYF’s actions and decisions on children. We have a number of suggestions to help CYF ensure children are at the centre of everything it does.

We don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention

Accessing data about children’s outcomes is core to our monitoring framework. Yet there is little reliable or easily accessible data available about the outcomes of children in the care system. In our view, CYF and MSD’s systems are not set up to measure and record the information that matters, and the integration of data between MSD and other government agencies is poor.

Better collection and analysis of data is essential for CYF to improve its services and for the Government and the public to have confidence that CYF and other state agencies are improving outcomes for vulnerable children. We don’t have enough information to say conclusively whether children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the limited data we do have about health, education, and justice outcomes is concerning.

CYF focuses more on keeping children safe, and less on improving their long-term outcomes

CYF has become oriented towards front-end processes for investigating and making decisions about cases of potential abuse and neglect, at the expense of on-going support for children in all types of care placements.

We make this observation based on our monitoring findings, which found strong intake and assessment practices in most of the CYF sites we monitored, but poor case management and oversight of young people in specialist care placements. It is supported by what children and other key stakeholders told us about their experiences with CYF.

This observation is consistent with the conclusions in the recent Workload and Casework Review undertaken by the Office of the Chief Social Worker within CYF.

The reasons for this focus on front-end services are complex and historical, and we have not attempted to analyse them here. Rather, we have focused on ways to support CYF to maintain its focus on initial safety, and to expand this to include the on-going support necessary to improve children’s outcomes in the long term. This will require a greater level of investment in children in all types of care placement.

CYF can’t do this on its own. Some changes are within CYF’s power to effect, but some will rely on other state agencies, service providers, and NGOs working effectively in partnership with CYF. It is our view that all the participants in the wider care
and protection and youth justice systems need to work together much better to deliver effective, high quality services to vulnerable children.

Health and education services in particular need to support children in care to achieve better outcomes. This will require leadership from the Ministries of Health and Education to be accountable for achieving better outcomes for these children, and for ensuring local providers in their sectors are supported to meet explicit expectations about what they deliver to children in care.


We made 53 recommendations to help CYF lift its performance and improve outcomes for children in our monitoring reports between January 2014 and June 2015. Some were directed at individual sites or residences, while others were changes CYF national office could make to improve policies and practice across multiple sites and residences.

The 53 recommendations were aligned to the key themes that recurred in our monitoring findings, and can be grouped in the following categories:
• Clarity of purpose, direction, and strategy (nine recommendations);
• Ensuring child-centred practice (11 recommendations);
• Improving the quality of social work practice across all types of care placement (nine recommendations);
• Building workforce capacity and capability (eight recommendations);
• Building cultural capability (five recommendations);
• Improving integration of services between CYF and other agencies (three recommendations);
• Strengthening partnerships and networks (four recommendations);
• Improving the physical environment in residences (two recommendations); and

Other recommendations relating to operational systems and processes (11 recommendations).

For this report, we have reviewed all our individual recommendations within the context of the themes emerging from our monitoring findings, our engagement with children, and the available data about children’s outcomes. From this review, we have developed a set of seven aggregated, future-oriented recommendations that we believe will help address shortcomings in the current system and improve children’s outcomes in future.

Aggregated recommendations, in brief, are:
1. Set clear expectations about CYF’s core purpose and the outcomes it needs to achieve;
2. Ensure CYF is fully child-centred in all its activities;
3. Invest more in on-going support for children in all types of care placements;
4. Address capacity and capability issues across the CYF workforce;
5. Improve cultural capability across the organisation;
6. Collect and analyse relevant data to drive improved outcomes for children; and
7. Set clear expectations for other state agencies responsible for improving the outcomes of children in care.

PDF: State of Care