Thursday, July 06, 2017
Racial justice meets the child welfare system
Originally posted on The Spinoff Parents November last year, re-posting here to support the Human Rights Commission taking their open letter to parliament today (event page). You may have heard the Crown have had a series of bad reports for their child welfare work. Really bad reports. So bad that the Crown has set up a new ministry and is proposing changes to the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act. What they really need to do is give up and admit this isn’t their thing. The Crown has been horrible at child welfare. The Crown has taken children from families for almost arbitrary reasons, like skipping school or being poor—that in itself is an inexcusable act of violence. It has taken those children from safe homes and put them in dangerous situations where many have been abused and neglected. Can you imagine how you would feel if this was your kid? How angry, devastated and useless you might feel, what that would do to a whānau? Māori have been especially targeted, both in who the Crown has taken and who is most likely to be abused. Two Crown reports last year showed the extent of the Crown’s responsibility for the abuse of children. The Crown has blamed CYF, which is kind of like when my kid blames her foot for pushing the cat. According to the Crown, it’s all CYF’s fault: we need a new model, the law needs simplifying. The changes that the Crown has announced are a signal that there will be no real change—it will be the same stuff with a different name. Many reports have identified the problem, but the Crown doesn’t get it. The problem is not the name of the ministry or that the law was too complex. The problem is that the Crown is colonising, controlling and authoritarian. That strategy has failed, it is time for a different strategy—like sharing the responsibility with the communities that are most affected. A Crown report in the 1980s identified that institutional racism was shutting Māori out of child welfare decisions, while at the same time Māori children are the majority in the child welfare system. For decades, Māori have argued that the best solution for our children is to give the responsibility to Māori. The Crown seems allergic to the idea of sharing power. Like so many patriarchs, the only way it knows to respond to criticism is to tighten control. But surely we all want the same thing: an actual solution. A solution means solving this mess, so we won’t have endless reports on how useless and abusive our child welfare system is, so children are protected and stay out of the system, so they don’t carry that trauma through their lives, so we are moving towards a future we want. To protect children and undo the damage that the Crown has inflicted on whānau, the enduring solution is to take that power from the Crown, and give decision making, resources and responsibility to appropriate rōpū, communities, hapū, iwi. The Crown’s task then becomes supporting rōpū to prepare for that responsibility. Our task is to work out how to make it happen.
Posted by Kim McBreen at 1:12 pm