New Zealand Law Society - Law changes to aim for more stability for children in care

Law changes to aim for more stability for children in care

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Legislative changes aimed at providing more stability and continuity of care for children in care will be introduced to Parliament by the end of this year, says Social Development Minister Anne Tolley.

The changes are part of the revamp of Child, Youth and Family into the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki.  

Mrs Tolley says the proposed legislative changes to the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 will underpin two important aspects of the new model – early intensive intervention and improved care support services, while taking into account of the views of the children involved. 

She says a Youth Advisory Panel, which was made up of young people with experience of state care, told her they wanted the state to stop experimenting with their lives. 

"They want a child's first placement to be the best and to ensure it delivers a loving, long-term and stable home." 

Mrs Tolley says under the current system some children as young as seven have already had eight placements "and the resulting trauma can affect these young people for the rest of their lives. Wherever possible, we need to get it right first time for these kids."

The proposed changes include early intervention to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and assisting parents and guardians to provide a safe, stable home. The young people involved will also be able to have their say in the process.

If a child has to be removed from the family home, then they "must be placed with a safe, stable and loving family at the earliest opportunity" and their needs and views must be taken into account during the process. "Young people should be placed where they can develop a sense of belonging and attachment, while maintaining personal and cultural identity."

The legislation will also include a set of National Care Standards, which will spell out the rights and needs of children in care, the standard of care they should expect and standards for caregiver training, monitoring and support. Financial support for caregivers will be "responsive to the changing needs of children".

The new operating model and the new Ministry is scheduled to get under way in April 2017.