The child’s child–centric voice

This creative work was submitted to the blog by Leah Beaumont. Leah is a recent graduate from the University of Auckland with a Master of Public Policy.

The child’s voice is not the cornerstone of child-centric policy and legislation. So – if the neoliberal agenda misinterprets, prevents, and distorts it  – it is our obligation to find a way to elevate it  Here is a poem I wrote inspired by my weekend at the SWAN PSA Symposium on the Child Youth and Family Review.  It is titled The Child’s Child-Centric Voice.

Both my parents love me
They always have
Sometimes they’re happy
Sometimes they’re sad
It’s not all about the money
Even though we sometimes go without
I don’t mean to keep asking for things
They don’t mean to shout

My whānau love me
I know this with all my heart
So who are all these people
Keeping us apart
Social Worker
Counsel for child
Policy maker
All I want is my family together and to live in peace.

I love my whānau
And that is my right
To see, feel, and hear them
Every day and every night
With them is where I need to be
For me to learn and grow
The best interest of me the child
Is the right for me to know
That the ‘help’ and ‘support’ I get
Does not hurt me more
And that the ‘help’ and ‘support’ I get
Never leads to closed doors.

Leah Beaumont

8 replies on “The child’s child–centric voice”

Well said Leah
I have just spent a day in court listening to the story of the hounding of a mother for repayment of an impossible debt on an invalid’s benefit. 15 years ago when her child was 5 she was sentenced for the so called crime of relationship fraud and spent 6 months in prison. She has always manainted her innocence and has spent the next 15 years fighting the repayment of $117,000 alleged debt at $20 a week out of a meagre benefit. What is the cost to society of ignoring the voice of her deprived children and demanding such vindictive retribution? That little 5 yearold is now 18 and suffered a lifetime of material hardship. You are so right- if it does not work for the children it just is plain wrong. Very well put, and I love the forgiving attitude of the child when things are not perfect- and what family is?

Thank you Susan. The social and economic implications of her alleged actions are compounded by the statutory response, it just does not make sense! Both offence and response should be quantifiable. What is the price of a life? Intervention/retribution should not come at the expense of a parent’s sense of well-being, ability to prosper, thrive or provide…and it should absolutely never trickle down to their child(ren).

Very apt poem Leah, you have certainly touched on the Government response to our dilemmas with child protection and policy implemented to better negotiate the ‘high end ‘ risk. More acute means of assessment and lip service to social welfare are indeed the hallmarks of ‘output driven’ social policy makers. I often wonder who’s the bigger problem, the parent who neglects/abuses their child or the legislative process we follow in trying to correct it. My conclusion is that once again Government have grasped the wrong end of the stick and hailed it ‘productive’ and in the interest of child safety. Perhaps the ‘market Government’ should rename ‘public welfare’ to ‘public warfare’.
Did anyone notice the absence of Maori within the advisory team? Bad planning leads to bad decisions.

Thanks Dean.
A professional submission could possibly echo the child’s voice more precisely nor emotively than the child him/herself. Every child in statutory care should be (routinely) asked if they would like to hand write, voice record, or draw the answers to: a) “What would fill your heart with joy?” b) “Where would you feel most safe?” c) “How can we help you?”, and d) “WHY do you think (what ever you do) about cyf?”. Infants? – who (ethically) represents their voice? I believe the child’s voice should begin, maintain, or end the relationship with the dep in most instances – not the other way around. Disheartening stuff.

Kia ora Leah, well you already know what I think of your work and journey. It was great to be able to spend time with you after the symposium and talk shop…there are not so many people in social work who have walked their talk. Thank you for the gift of you and the reminder of what child-centered is.
My next korero is on, where is the indpendent evaluations of our so-called ‘childcentric’ practice? Where are the voices of the children experiencing child protection and youth justice? And I don’t mean internal research where social workers handpick families to speak to an evaluation…I mean a valid and un-biased selection of children and young people feeding back to NZ how they experience the system…oh that’s right there isn’t any or we might find that most children suffer in care, are abused, are culturally alienated and/or shift from one placement to the next.
Keep on the trail Leah, be the beacon for others. 🙂 Nga mihi nui, Paora.

Paora, there were many ‘ah-ha’ moments and synchronicity in our korero and energy, it’s nice to ride the same wave. Much of what you said on a number of topics resonated with me, and in fact the poem was written after our meeting.

I think those who work the front line with children have an obligation to collect qualitative data (and ensure it is free from being led by professionals/parents/whanau).

I would also hope that professional reports refer to and echo the child’s voice when communicating with other professionals/court. I am curious to know how many professionals find it easier to understand and read professional narratives, don’t have the inkling, or the time to understand a child’s hand written statement. Should we be promoting age appropriate ways of collecting the child’s voice? Nah, lets just ask them which method they’d prefer to record it, and facilitate them in doing so. I don’t think any professional report about a child, for any purpose, should be complete without it.
Go well Paora.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.