Hard to get into, but harder to get out of: understanding recent trends in child protection

Examination of basic trends in child protection statistics provide insight into the overall functioning of the child protection system. Statistical trends are the ‘canaries down the mine’ of child protection systems, showing how policy changes, practice changes and social conditions are playing out in the child protection domain. This blog presents statistics obtained through the Official Information Act process, as well as publicly available data, to describe patterns in contact with the child protection system. It also provides some speculative commentary as to the causes of emerging trends. As these statistics are gathered from several sources, time periods differ and in places direct comparisons may not be possible. Nevertheless, the clear pattern is one of a care system hard to get into, but even harder to get out of, and increasing inequities for Māori children and whānau.

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The Royal Commission into abuse in state care: where is the survivor voice?

This is a guest blog by Kerri Cleaver (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe), Social worker, PhD candidate.

Is the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the care of Faith-based Institutions (RC) a safe place for Māori and survivors to talk about their experiences and what should we be doing to support them as social workers? It is a question that’s been rolling around my head for quite some time now. I am a survivor.

My story of abuse in the foster system isn’t long, it didn’t go on for years and the traumatic effects for me are now mostly healed and now somewhat subtle in their visibility so it is not something that I put out there. It has been difficult enough through my adult life batting off all the judgements and consequences of being a foster system survivor so I’ve kept the paedophile foster parent experience a secret. It was a tough decision deciding I would engage with the RC, somewhat influenced and inspired by the work of many survivors who have laid bare their experiences for the sole purpose of getting a Royal Commission. Because I want children and young people to be safe, nurtured and have their mana enhanced when they interface with our child protection system, I felt an obligation, to myself, my profession and to my iwi to engage. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi “be the change you want to see in the world”. But lately I have been reflecting on the question “is this process safe for me as a Māori woman?” and what is our role as social workers to support our whanau going through the RC process?

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Oranga Tamariki – Some Food for Thought

When seeking to understand the performance of Oranga Tamariki (OT) it is important to be mindful of the context. Statutory child protection practice is challenging (and sometimes very rewarding) work that is often carried out by hard working and highly skilled social workers. Currently the work occurs within a risk-averse hierarchical bureaucracy which often tends not to provide the required level of support for good decision making in complex situations. Support for careful whānau and tamariki-centred social work is found in well supervised and resourced practice teams where uncertainty is recognised, responsibility is shared and where capable social workers are nurtured.  

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“Watch what you say”: Radicalism in community development?

This guest blog is by: Dr Lynda Shevellar, (Lecturer in Community Development, The University of Queensland), Peter Westoby, (Associate Professor of Social Science and Community Development, Queensland University of Technology), and Dr Athena Lathouras, (Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Sunshine Coast).

“I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal”

– Supertramp “The Logical Song”, 1979

“Watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical’” sang the English progressive rock band Supertramp in the late 1970s, echoing the way that the word “radical” is so often used to arouse ideas of extremism and instability. And given the recent tragic events in New Zealand – and in so many places around the globe – some might question the timing of this reflection. We could all be forgiven for shying away from a call for more radicalism and inviting a gentler framing for our activities. However, a closer interrogation of a radical agenda, and its place in community development, suggests that more rather than less radicalism may be just what social work in the Antipodes needs, and most particularly in these heartbreaking times.

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Aftermath

The following is a personal reflection on the week that has passed. It is – of course – so very difficult to comprehend the bloody horror that erupted in Christchurch on March 15. Waves of shock, disbelief, anger, sadness are rolling through our communities as we all struggle to make sense of this event. Those of us at the edge can only imagine the unfolding grief of those at the centre who have lost friends and kin. There are no adequate words still. Perhaps there never will be. Aroha mai.

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Broken hearted

To our comrades and friends in Aotearoa and abroad. Our hearts are broken. We stand with, and grieve with, our Muslim brothers and sisters. There is a lot to say about what happened in our community this weekend. But not today. Today, we have no words, only tears.

Social work at the end of the world: Again!

A Guest post by David Kenkel

Trigger warning: this post discusses bleak likelihoods that are painful to consider. The unmentioned backdrop to social work’s future is that the world has passed an ecological crisis point of no return and there is little chance that near-term catastrophe can be averted (see Bendall, 2018). This is a situation that the western world has not yet begun to face. This is a post about hope. Not hope that we can avert the coming environmental predicament, but hope that as communities face inevitable crisis, they will rediscover collective solidarity and wiser ways of living together. Social work can have a key role in this transition back to sanity. 

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Sex marker change should not be up for debate? What social workers need to know

A guest post by Kendra Cox and Eileen Joy, University of Auckland

On February 25th, Tracey Martin, the Minister for Internal Affairs, announced that the much-anticipated Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill (‘the Bill’) has been parked until further notice. The Bill contains, among other small changes to deaths and divorces, a number of amendments to the current Act that would make it significantly easier for transgender, non-binary, gender diverse, and intersex people (‘gender diverse and intersex people’) to change the sex marker on their birth certificate to better reflect who they are. According to a Parliamentary press release, the Bill was deferred to clarify some legal concepts and to increase public consultation. There has been some talk over the fact that after public consultation—a standard select committee process—the specific section relating to sex self identification was added. This type of addition (specifically ss22A-J), after public consultation is completely normal, and reflects a democratic process whereby the committee responded to a large number of submissions who requested this change.

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Understanding the Implications of the SOP

A further guest post by John Darroch

Just over a week ago I became aware of significant changes to the Social Work Registration Legislation Bill which I found deeply alarming. These changes are contained in a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) which was introduced into the House by Carmel Sepuloni on 21 December 2018. I wrote a blog post drawing attention to a range of risks I believed the Bill contained.   

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