Over the last few months, the NZ government has faced multiple demands for independent inquiries: to uncover alleged war crimes undertaken by NZ military forces against Afghani civilians, to acknowledge NZ women who were forced to have their new-borns adopted, and to understand the experiences of the thousands who endured abuse within NZ’s state care system. To all these victims, the government’s response has been ‘no’, ‘go away’.
The proposed changes to our child protection legislation take us back in time. They bury the vision of Püao-te-Āta-tü and signal a return to rescue-mentality foster care. The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act, 1989 set out to combat the effects of institutional racism by ensuring that children are understood in the context of whanau, the primary unit of Māori society. This emphasis is radically undermined by the proposed law changes. Securing safe and loving homes at the earliest opportunity is the new driving purpose. The outcomes will be discriminatory for Māori – not for middle class whanau mind, but for those at the bottom of the social and economic pile. This, according to the language of accountants, is where the unacceptable fiscal cost associated with benefits and prisons is generated. The most effective way to fix this is earlier removal, permanency and de-traumatisation. Cultural links can be maintained as part of individual identity but failing whanau can be written off. When it is stripped to the bone, this is the racist, classist and eugenic thinking we are up against. How have we come to this?
The following are my thoughts. I am Pākehā. I guess this makes them Pākehā thoughts – my Pākehā thoughts that is. I don’t have a problem acknowledging this and I think it is important to do so. I also think the following things.
A guest post by Irene de Haan, lecturer in social work in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland and a registered social worker. Irene’s previous roles include Senior Advisor at the Office of the Chief Social Worker and Principal Community Engagement Advisor at the Families Commission. Currently Irene is involved in reviews undertaken for the Family Violence Death Review Committee. Her research focuses on the promotion of child and family well-being and the prevention of maltreatment and family violence.
In my first ‘pictures in our heads’ post, I noted that assumptions about how problems and their solutions are to be understood are implicit in policies of all kinds. These assumptions influence how we frame the key issues. Therefore, the changes proposed by the Vulnerable Children’s Act and Children’s Action Plan contain assumptions that shape the way we think about the causes of, and solutions to, child abuse.
@DeborahMTNZ from the children’s charity Unicef says the government needs to provide parents with more advice and support to reduce the number of children being killed.
Originally aired on Radio New Zealand Checkpoint Wednesday, 15 April 2015.