Whaia Te Iti Kahurangi calls for immediate halt to the implementation of The Ministry of Vulnerable Children

Te Wharepora Hou supports the following Press Release by ‘Whaia Te Iti Kahurangi’ and their call for a halt to the implementation of the Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

Tangata whenua social work practitioners met at the PSA Social Work Action Network Conference to discuss the recent changes made to CYFS and the resulting increase in the removal of māori tamariki from their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Paora Crawford Moyle states, “Māori are 15% of the total population, yet make up half of the whānau involved in child protection processes and two thirds of children in the care of the state.” With 73% of the youth in youth justice facilities, institutional racism, worker bias and CYFS being complicit in these staggering statistics shows it is not equipped to recognise that severing ties to whānau reinforces the impacts of historical trauma. The introduction for this new form of child-removal seeks to wreak havoc in families across New Zealand, not just within Māori family groups, but to also familial ties between children and their families with particular focus on Māori and families within the lower socio-economic classes. Not only does this discriminate by legal precedence, against the indigenous people of Aotearoa/New Zealand, but also reinforces the antiquity of class systems to the lower socio-economic spectrum of New Zealand European citizens as well.

A United Nations review is being conducted with the Minister of Social Development, Anne Tolley is being asked to justify the name of the new Ministry. UN Rapporteur Kirstin Sandberg questioned Tolley over whether the Government planned to broaden its focus to benefit all New Zealand children. “Your whole policy focus…seems to be on vulnerable children and you’ve done a lot of commendable work on vulnerable children. But we would like to see a comprehensive policy for the implementation of these rights for all children,” Sandberg stated.

With international and local attention on the proposed changes it’s clear the concerns about the changes to the act being breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and United Nations Declaration on the rights of Indigenous People.

CYFS has been remodelled time and time again with no improvements in how it works with children and their whanau. We seriously question the Ministry defining what makes a child vulnerable and identify state and historical colonial violence, neo-liberal welfare reform and structural inequalities as determinants of vulnerability. We will continue to speak to the ongoing traumatic implications on the tamariki and their parents especially during the uplift of tamariki. These traumatic implications further reinforce colonial and historical truama.

Effective frameworks are readily available to us such as Puao-te-Ata-tu and Matua Whangai. We call for an immediate halt to the implementation of the new ministry of vulnerable children and the new law that would axe a longstanding provision that gave priority to placing a child with “a person who is a member of the child’s or young person’s hapū or iwi (with preference being given to hapū members), or, if that is not possible, who has the same tribal, racial, ethnic, or cultural background as the child”.

In parallel to this, they will also run a recruitment drive to recruit more foster parents to meet the ‘demand’, we renounce the government’s paternalistic intervention aimed at forced assimilation of māori tamariki and call for a return to frameworks that cater to the needs of māori.

Anne Tolley and the new ministry states that a move to a new trauma-informed framework will reduce child abuse. There is no evidence to confirm this. A framework with no understanding or acknowledgment of the cumulative historical trauma experienced by māori due to continuing land confiscations, loss of language and sacred indigenous knowledge and forced removal of māori tamariki from their whakapapa will create more generational loss and separation. Māori Social Workers have to wonder, how could such blatant hypocrisy, to label trauma without recognising root causes of said trauma, lead to anything other than a repetition of the same colonising attributes in this “new” system that we saw and still see within the current one for handling the sensitive task of child-removal from their families. There needs to be a complete overhaul of the current system, yes, but that overhaul needs to consider the cultural importance of the child to the whānau, hapū and iwi groups. If it were a complete overhaul tangata whenua social workers and children and youth involved in CYFS care must be involved in the review. See, the true error in exposing a child to the traumatic experience, of both being uplifted and being entirely involved in the process to partially or permanently remove themselves from within their own family group, is the naivety that comes with claiming this “new” system is to be trauma-informed and focussed.

About Te Wharepora Hou

Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tāmaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.
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