This blog includes reflections on recent developments regarding Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill and includes part of the submission by Associate Professor Leonie Pihama on behalf of Te Kotahi Research Institute to the Social Services Select Committee.
Over the past months the collective #Handsoffourtamariki has been working to raise both awareness and opposition to the governments proposed restructuring of the current Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) to the Ministry of Vulnerable Children. The date for the new structure has been determined to be April 1st 2017, and with only a week until the launching of the new Ministry of Vulnerable Children there remain many critical issues yet to be fully engaged by the government let alone any meaningful process of resolution.
What is clear across all of the processes at play is the ongoing denial of the Crown to undertake a meaningful Treaty relationship with our people. In this case, and across all current government arrangements, there continues to be a denial of the fundamental rights of our people to care for our tamariki and mokopuna. Within all current arrangements the Crown assumes its right to remove tamariki from whānau without any involvement of the wider whānau, hapū, iwi and Māori organisations. This runs in direct contradiction to the agreements within Te Tiriti o Waitangi for we as hapū and iwi to assert our tino rangatiratanga over our lives and the lives of our whānau. Where many political players and commentators continue to deny this right, the Waitangi Tribunal report ‘He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti / The Declaration and the Treaty’ (WAI 1040) found that Māori did not cede sovereignty, and as such we never ceded the rights and authority over the wellbeing of our tamariki and whānau. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/63196127/Maori-did-not-give-up-sovereignty-Waitangi-Tribunal , https://forms.justice.govt.nz/search/WT/reports.html)
Dame Tariana Turia has stated consistently that these actions are a further act of Institutional Racism. Evidence highlights that such State violence has been perpetuated upon generations of tamariki and mokopuna who have been removed and placed into State institutions. Both Māori experience and research in the field highlight that successive governments have been seriously remiss in fulfilling its obligations to our people.
In regards to the current legislative developments we have, as a collective, 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 across the country including both the previous and current Commissioner for Children.
The Ministry of Vulnerable Children may launch as a new structure on April 1st however there is nothing new about how it will go about it’s business in fact there is more indication that it will re-entrench some very unhealthy and failed practices of the 1960’s era of adoptions where thousands of Māori children were denied their fundamental right to know who they are and where they come from.
Research undertaken on the ‘Vulnerable Childrens’ papers by Rihi Te Nana indicates that the limited engagement by government, suggests that this has been a deliberate move on the government’s part to maintain power and control over Iwi/Māori. Ms Te Nana highlighted:
“The Government continues to see Iwi/Māori as consultants who provide advice or provide services to whānau, and fail to undertake a meaningful Treaty relationship that would see our people exercise our right to being self-determining in regards to the wellbeing of our children.”
In her latest interview with e-Tangata, Paora Moyle makes the following statement:
“Anne Tolley has ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead her ministry consults and engages with and privileges organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation.
It’s the same old policies of propping up white-is-right foster care organisations, but failing to support parents and whānau as the first and fundamental carers.”
CYFs and associated Agencies have a history of disrespectful behavior towards whānau and of being dismissive of whānau input into the placement of tamariki.
Furthermore it has been well documented that Māori children are placed into contexts by the Government agencies where their needs remain largely unmet because the legislation, policies and interventions lack cultural context or appropriateness. The previous Children’s Commissioner provided clear evidence that CYFs does not provide for the needs of the children that they remove and that there is little evidence that supports the current, and proposed model is actually working as an intervention process. In providing a summary of the ‘State of Care’ report he writes:
“We don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention
There is little reliable or easily accessible data available about the outcomes of children in the care system. In our view, Child, Youth and Family and MSD’s systems are not routinely measuring and recording the information that matters, and the integration of data between MSD and other government agencies is poor. Better collection and analysis of data is essential for Child, Youth and Family to improve its services and for the Government and the public to have confidence that Child, Youth and Family and other state agencies are improving outcomes for vulnerable children. We don’t have enough information to say conclusively whether children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the limited data we do have about health, education, and justice outcomes is concerning.”
Many Māori who have experienced State institutions and foster care experienced physical, psychological, spiritual and cultural abuse. Much of the abuse suffered by Māori in State ‘care’ has been perpetuated within State validated institutions. It is reported that
“Judge Carolyn Henwood, who headed the panel that has been hearing grievances since 2008, said: “Foster caregivers and extended families, social workers and staff, teachers, the clergy, cooks, gardeners, night watchmen, even other children and patients, all took part in abuse.
“We heard of people using their fists and their feet, as well as weapons and other instruments on occasion, to attack children,” she says in the report.
“When we asked people why they had come, they said they wanted to be heard, they wanted an apology and accountability, and they wanted to improve state care for children, for the next generation.
Even now, New Zealand had no official “duty of care” towards children written into its law, Henwood said.”
The abuse as a result of State Intervention is noted in the Henwood report as follows:
“As many boys as girls were sexually abused. About 57% of the men we saw had been sexually abused and 57% of the women. The damage done sometimes seems to be irreparable. Many people reported that they felt helpless and enraged that there was no one to whom they could report it. Many of the children who had been abused in State care fell into anti-social and criminal behaviour and ended up in prison or psychiatric hospitals in later life. It is estimated that about 40% of prisoners grew up in state care. Their lives were set on a dangerous and damaging path during this time. There are many people who have been living on the edge ever since their experience of State care as children.” (p.12)
There has been increased comment made about the impact of the changes on Māori whānau. Emma Espiner writes a compelling piece titled ‘Closing an ugly chapter in our history’, opening with the following statement:
“In a remarkable reversal by the government, Māori children taken from their families by the state may yet win back the right to be re-homed with whānau, hapū or iwi Māori. The priority to consider Māori whānau when rehoming Māori children uplifted from unsafe homes had been a central feature of Child, Youth and Family protocol for over 30 years.
This priority was dropped when the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Oranga Tamariki) Legislation Bill was presented to Parliament. As recently as Waitangi Day, Prime Minister Bill English was immovable on the issue, asserting he had no problem with the wording. But last week Social Development Minister Anne Tolley agreed she is open to reinstating this important right. Due to the unusual coverage of the issue in the media (Māori issues aren’t typically given prominence in non-Māori media unless there’s a crime or expensive Treaty claim involved) the topic came up in conversation frequently in the past few months.
“But Māori children are more likely to be abused when they’re put in Māori homes, aren’t they?”
“Why do Māori want to put kids in unsafe homes, just because they’re Māori?”
“Shouldn’t the safety of children be the most important consideration?”
This blog speaks primarily to the impact of the proposed changes and some of the justifications for the changes. Looking at the questions raised by Emma Espiner in her article we can track that what in fact underpins these questions are statements from CYFS and the Minister which call into question the safety of whānau placements. Paora Moyle has highlighted that the Minster has perpetuated this view,
“Her justification all along has been that Māori children are more vulnerable than non-Maori when returned to their whānau because they are at high risk of being re-abused.
But what she failed to mention is that this was occurring most often as a result of the dump-and-run, patch-and-dispatch practices by social workers who don’t value the needs of Māori children as highly as non-Maori.”
It is important that people understand that the statements that abuse is more likely to occur within whānau placements is in fact largely unsubstantiated and denies the clear evidence that the current system is highly abusive of Māori children and there is documented evidence that tamariki have experienced serious acts of physical and sexual abuse whilst in State ‘care’. The Henwood report alone highlights that for many tamariki Māori the abuse perpetuated by State Institutions exceeds that which is documented for tamariki returning in to ‘Kin’ care.
What underpins the governments push to remove the current Section 13 which gives priority placement within whānau is an Internal Report by the Ministry of Social Development (2012) ‘Outcomes for Children Discharged from CYF Care in 2010’ has provided some impetus for the proposed removal of Section.
This report is referenced also in the Expert Panel Report (MSD 2015). In reviewing the report it is essential that it be recognized that the report as a research document is flawed on multiple levels and should not be consider robust or be used to inform any changes or amendments in relation to the placement of tamariki Māori.
Key flaws in the Ministry of Social Development (2012) ‘Outcomes for Children Discharged from CYF Care in 2010’ Report include;
(i) lack of clear indications as to the what constitutes ‘kin’ care;
(ii) the inclusion of ‘friends of family’ in ‘kin’ care figures;
(iii) lack of information in regards to whānau included in figures;
(iv) no peer or external review of the document and the ways in which data is presented;
(v) no information as to how placements were determined;
(vi) no evidence or indication of any involvement of whānau, hapū , iwi or Māori organsational engagement in processes of placement;
(vii) no evidence of inclusive Family Group Conferences in regards to placement and return;
(viii) an assumption that CYFs itself devoid of any responsibility for determining how and where tamariki are placed and;
(ix) a deficit approach is taking throughout the report with the location of ‘blame’ on whānau and Māori more generally for repeat abuse when there is not indication that whānau, hapū or iwi had any decision making in any of the placement processes and with no meaningful or robust evidence to back that positioning.
As a Research Director these shortcomings and fundamental research flaws in regards to the Ministry of Social Development (2012) ‘Outcomes for Children Discharged from CYF Care in 2010’ report raise serious issues as to the validity of it’s findings and as such it should never have been used to inform any changes in regards to Section 13 of the Act.
The current proposed changes to the legislation is not only a fundamental breach of our Treaty rights to care for our people but it is also incredibly irresponsible and negligent on the part of the Ministry and the Crown.
The Children’s Commissioner (2015) provides clear evidence that CYFs does not provide for the needs of the children that they remove and that there is little evidence that supports the current, and proposed model is actually working as an intervention process. This has particular impact on tamariki Māori who make up a significant number of those in State Care. In providing a summary of the ‘State of Care’ report the Commissioner writes:
“We don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention. There is little reliable or easily accessible data available about the outcomes of children in the care system. In our view, Child, Youth and Family and MSD’s systems are not routinely measuring and recording the information that matters, and the integration of data between MSD and other government agencies is poor. Better collection and analysis of data is essential for Child, Youth and Family to improve its services and for the Government and the public to have confidence that Child, Youth and Family and other state agencies are improving outcomes for vulnerable children. We don’t have enough information to say conclusively whether children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the limited data we do have about health, education, and justice outcomes is concerning.” (my emphasis)
In this process the Ministry of Social Development has taken significant backward steps in regards to the wellbeing and care of tamariki and mokopuna Māori through the intended removal of clauses within the Act that provide for the cultural wellbeing and safety and the affirmation of whakapapa and whanaungatanga for our tamariki.
In doing so the Ministry of Vulnerable Children, increases the risk to Māori children through an increases ability to place them within non- Māori families disconnected from their identity and cultural ways of being. Positive identity through knowing and understanding one’s whakapapa is
a foundation for success. Morehu (2005, p.46) stresses the link between whakapapa and nurturing children,
“children are our whakapapa, and whakapapa is our past, present and future. As whānau and wider community we have a responsibility to nurture our children so that they are provided with opportunities and are encouraged to reach their potential”.
Cultural identity is framed through an understanding of whakapapa and locates us in relationship to each other with whānau, hapū and iwi. It also provides a way to understand our future through our connectedness to our past. As Pere (1982, p.61) states;
“if a child is to determine his or her own future or course of direction, then the assumption is made that the child will need to learn as much as possible about his or her “roots” in the past”.
The significance that whakapapa has in ensuring identity and connectedness continues to be acknowledged today. Socially and educationally, whakapapa, connectedness and identity are important factors for the wellbeing of Māori children. Dr Melinda Webber (2012) reports,
“Positive racial-ethnic identity and cultural connectedness are essential ingredients in the educational success of Māori students. Positive racial-ethnic identity can shape Māori students’ dispositions, attitudes, engagement and connectedness to others in their racial-ethnic group. It can also influence their connectedness to school and learning.” (p. 26).
Traditional Māori childrearing practices were developed within a context where whakapapa, whānau and collectivity were central to the way in which society functioned (Joseph, 2007). Raising children was a collective effort shared amongst extended whānau. This form of childrearing alleviated stress on parents whilst providing children with an environment conducive to their development and wellbeing (Pere, 1982).
Whānau is the fundamental building block within Māori society. Anyone who works to support Māori communities recognise the primacy of whānau as a preferred relational system of the Māori, we are enabled to understand a basic framework of cultural imperatives.
Whānau is not the same as family. Within discussions related to the reforms the dominant terms used are family and kin. These terms do not equate to whānau and they act to marginalise the extended nature of whānau. Whānau structures provide for a system of accountability and responsibility. It is a structure through which Māori societal and cultural norms may be reinforced and acts as a resource through which to obtain support, knowledge of the world and to receive necessary values and belief systems essential to both the individual and the society. In a comprehensive discussion of Māori concepts titled ‘Te Hinātore Ki Te Ao Māori: A Glimpse Into The Māori World’ (Ministry of Justice 2001) whānau is described as:
“The basic unit of Māori society into which an individual was born and socialised… a unit for ordinary social and economic affairs, and making basic day to day decisions. Its members had close personal, familial and reciprocal contacts and decision-making relationships with each other. (p.30).
It is within this context that tamariki and mokopuna are linked to hapū and iwi and secure their whakapapa links. The importance of maintaining links, of knowing one’s whakapapa, remaining connected to one’s identity and having a sense of belonging are essential elements to the wellbeing of children within the whānau context. It is through whakapapa that Cultural Identity and Connectedness is maintained and passed through intergenerationally.
International Indigenous Research related to Indigenous Peoples and the impact of Historical and Intergenerational Trauma highlights that culture and cultural connectedness is important to prevention and intervention of personal trauma (Walters et.al.2002). Research in the area of Historical and Intergenerational Trauma for Māori highlights that dominant approaches to the wellbeing of whānau, hapū and iwi do not recognize the significance of whānau and collective approaches to wellbeing, as such there remains a focus on individual approaches that fail to see the centrality of whānau for Māori wellbeing.
Dame Tariana Turia (2016) stated that these actions are a further act of Institutional Racism and Iwi should have statutory rights for the care of our tamariki and determine what is the best interests for tamariki Māori. Acts of Institutional Racism deny Māori our rights to live as Māori and to have control over our lives and the lives of our tamariki and mokopuna.
Research by Allan Cooke (2013) provides a significant overview of the legislative history related to the role of the Crown in providing for Māori children in the State care system, highlighting the consistent marginalization of whānau, hapū and iwi in regards to the wellbeing of tamariki Māori.
Paora Moyle (2016) has indicated an alarming rate at which Māori babies are being uplifted and placed into non-Māori environments. She states:
“In New Zealand, the statistics of newborns uplifted by the state are not made public; these requested through the Official Information Act process. In the 2012 – 2013 year, 13 new-born Māori, from a total of 26 were removed from the birthing table, and 80 Māori babies from a total of 157 were removed from their mother within 30 days of their birth. (Bernadette McKenzie, Deputy Chief Executive, Child Youth & Family, personal communication, June, 6, 2014) In the first instance, these infants are most often placed with state approved non-Māori caregivers until the concerns held can be addressed via an FGC. Māori make up 15% of the total New Zealand populations and the uplift of nearly 100 infants a year from their mothers, many of who are not returned, essentially wipes out future generations of Māori.” In 2015, the trafficking of these infants significantly increased, more than 60+% of those uplifted were Maori and these are the ones that were clearly Maori. The actual number is likely to be much higher as the primary ethnicity is recorded by the social worker and often this is discretionary…depending who that social worker decides the child may go to.”
International Research highlights the opposite, that it is culture, language and cultural connectedness that enables Indigenous tamariki and mokopuna to overcome experiences of trauma, both Historical and Intergenerational (Duran & Duran 1995; Duran 2006; Walters et.al. 2002)
The current training processes for Social Workers within CYFS is inadequate. A focus on very basic cultural competency does not equip Social Workers within Agencies to work with whānau Māori. The Henwood report (2015) highlighted that many working with CYFS and associated Institutes hold flawed assumptions about Māori children and their whānau. There is a need for greater numbers of Māori working with tamariki, whānau, hapū and iwi, including in positions of greater decision making within the Ministry. A number of submissions to the Social Services Select committee highlight that mainstream social work training fails to provide adequate training for social workers to understand the context of colonization and its impact on Māori whānau, hapū and iwi, nor do they require social workers to develop a consciousness of either personal or institution racism and it’s impact on Māori, Pacific communities or other minority groups living within this country.
In order for tamariki, whānau, hapū and iwi to be served effectively all workers within CYFS and associated institutions need to undergo training with skilled Māori Providers to understand issues of Historical Trauma, Institutional and Personal Racism, Obligations in regards to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and fundamental understanding of te reo and Tikanga Māori. No Social Worker should do anywhere near tamariki and whānau Māori within this basic skill set. The legislation fails to provide adequate definition of what is required in this area. The preface of Pūao Te Ata Tū states, “At the heart of the issue is a profound misunderstanding or ignorance of the place of the child in Māori society and its relationship with whānau, hapū iwi structures.”
The current reforms will see a return to this position with the removal of any legislative ability for whānau, hapū and iwi to enact their rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to have rangatiratanga over the wellbeing of their tamariki and mokopuna.”
There is greater need for the Crown to give effect to a meaningful and equitable Treaty partnership and too ensure that whānau, hapū and iwi organisations are well resourced to take on the role as primary organisations working with tamariki and whānau Māori. The evidence is clear, the longer Māori remain in a position of having the lives of our tamariki and mokopuna being determined by the existing state systems, the more likely our life outcomes will continue to diminished.
Cameron, N., Pihama, L. Leatherby, R., Cameron, A. (2013) He Mokopuna He Tupuna: Investigating Māori Views of Childrearing Amongst Iwi in Taranaki. A Report by Tu Tama Wahine o Taranaki Inc to the Lottery Community Sector Research Fund December 2013
Cooke, A., (2013) State Responsibility for Children in Care, Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Dunedin: University of Otago
Duran, E., & Duran, B. (1995). Native American postcolonial psychology. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
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Henwood, C. (2015) Some Memories Never Fade: Final Report ofThe Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, Wellington
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New Zealand Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Māori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. (1988). Puao te atatu: Day break : the report of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Māori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. New Zealand: Department of Social Welfare.
Office of the Children’s Commissioner (2015) The State of Care Report, Wellington
Pere, R. R. (1982). Ako: concepts and learning in the Māori tradition. Wellington, New Zealand: Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust Board.
Turia, T (2016) http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/20 1797579/tariana-turia-says-cyf’s-racist-and-iwi-should-get-rights
Walters, K. L., Simoni, J. M., & Evans-Campbell, T. (2002). Substance use among American Indians and Alaska natives: Incorporating culture in an “indigenist” stress-coping paradigm. Public Health Reports, 117, 104-117.