Hands off our tamariki: An open letter

An Open Letter to Whānau, Hapū, Iwi, Iwi Leaders Forum, Māori Members of Parliament, Māori National and Iwi Organisations

from Te Wharepora Hou

E ngā Pou Whirinaki o tēnā iwi, o tēnā iwi e whiri i ngā nuku, e whiri i ngā rangi tēnā koutou katoa. He whakaaraara tēnei mō te ture hou o te Kawanatanga e pā ana ki a tātou tamariki mokopuna. E kii ana te Kawana he ture tiaki mokopuna. Ehara! He ture huti rito, he ture pare awhi rito, he ture e kato rau tipu, rau rangatira i te pā harakeke a ka tuku ki ngā hau waho ki reira marara haere ai. Inā tipu pā harakeke kore a tātou tamariki mokopuna, ka tipu pēhea rātou otirā tātou. Ka mato, ka mate rānei?

Over the past months a number of Māori women have worked collaboratively across Aotearoa to raise issues regarding the documents released by the Crown related to the restructuring of the current Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) to the Ministry of Vulnerable Children. We have advocated strongly against the development of a Ministry that is based upon deficit approaches to tamariki in this country, and in particular to tamariki Māori and whānau. We have not been alone in such a position, which has been advocated by a range of organisations including both the previous and current Commissioner for Children.

The recent announcement that the government will remove the requirement to prioritise the placement of tamariki with whānau is alarming to us all.

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2 replies on “Hands off our tamariki: An open letter”

I totally tautoko this korero. I am alarmed at Minister Tolley’s suggestion that all children need is a loving and safe environment without adequate consideration of their cultural connection or other ethinic/religious etc needs. This harks back to the old Child Welfare Act and the continued disenfranchisement of Maori from a sense of belonging. CYF have not done right by the current CYP & F Act in placing children within Hapu and Iwi when the immediate whanau is not an option. However, I would go further to say they have not been resourced well in the past decade and a half, nor have there been adequate systems in place for CYF SW’s to easily access iwi connections for safe placement of Maori children.

The title “Ministry of Vulnerable Children” is a double edged sword. On one hand it fails to acknowledge that all children are vulnerable to some degree; on the other hand it suggests that only those deemed vulnerable require some form of intervention or support.

Much has been said on previous blogs about the potential and real impacts of the new changes to CYF (or whatever it will be named sometime in April 2017 when it is launched). What stands out for me is that these changes target those children in families who are experiencing the most deprivation – and as previous blogs have stated, Maori figure highly alongside of Pacifica peoples. If CYF cannot currently find adequate placements for children … where do these new placements appear from and who will be providing them?? The new proposal to better fund and support caregivers should have been happening under the existing Act. In my own practice I can recall at least half a dozen whanau placements in the last five years that have broken down due to lack of adequate funding, support to the whanau caregiver and funded supportive services for the children. These have sadly been perceived as whanau lacking commitment to the children in their care.

I fully support Maori to stand united against the changes being proposed. The deficit approach is harmful and creates longer term and more expensive impacts. Why are we not looking at systems and processes that support, guide and enhance safe/loving parenting for all children; and address the nationwide issues which contribute to family distress and dysfunction.

Not sure if I’m the best to respond to this Shelley – but you are dead right – stats about ‘churn’ and re-abuse in whanau care disguise a lack of adequate support for whanau care – instead it has been used as an easy option – repairing, supporting, empowering whanau is a process – not a matter of dropping a child on the doorstep after an FGC. The whole care system took second place to the front end timeliness that Managers and Ministers demanded – everyone in the game knows this! Ian

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