Opinion – The Maori Party
Hidden on page 10 of a Sunday paper was a headline, “no track kept of lost kids”. The story told us that Child, Youth and Family did not know how many of our most vulnerable children go missing under their watch, explaining “the problem of lost …OPINION PIECE
The Hon Tariana Turia
Maori Party Co-Leader | MP for Te Tai Hauauru 10 October 2011
Hidden on page 10 of a Sunday paper was a headline, “no track kept of lost kids”. The story told us that Child, Youth and Family did not know how many of our most vulnerable children go missing under their watch, explaining “the problem of lost children was not significant enough to report on a national level”.
What hope is there when the agency established with a statutory duty to care for our children is seemingly indifferent to their plight?
This follows hot on the heels of reports of child abuse experienced by children placed in the care of the state; whether by foster parents or a third party.
Two months ago another report identified some 30 children have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused by foster parents; and a further 41 children in CYF care who had been abused by a third party in the past year.
We’re talking about our mokopuna who have come to the notice of the state because of a crisis situation. The last thing on earth we expect is for the crisis to be compounded by caregiver abuse.
The Maori Party has always said that the state should be the parent of last resort.
Too many children have become lost to their families, by being placed in stranger care. We must reinstate confidence in family-led decision-making; and lessen the dependency on the state to intervene.
Last week I attended a ceremony to honour Maori leaders in health. One of the recipients shared a heartbreaking story about how despite a childhood that was challenging to say the least, the fact that one person believed in her, gave her the courage and the confidence to carry on.
It reminds me of that saying – to the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.
My hope is that every child born is born into a world where they will always know that someone is crazy about them. Someone thinks they are special. Someone has their interest at heart.
That someone will be the person the child turns to in times of trouble and in times of joy. They will provide them with the sense of security and confidence they need to navigate the world. They will nurture that child, love them unconditionally, and move heaven and earth to guarantee their safety.
I believe it is only right that iwi step up to the challenge, to claim every child of their own whakapapa, to know that every child counts. Do we really know our children? Where do they live? Are they safe, healthy, happy? Are they growing in a home where their identity is valued, their heritage protected?
In 1998 a groundbreaking report, Puao Te Ata Tu, challenged the state to understand that the welfare of the Maori child cannot be set apart from the wellbeing of the family – every Maori child belongs to a whanau – and not just their parents. It argued that Maori customs, values and beliefs must be upheld; that Maori methods of decision-making would enable a child to be grounded in their whakapapa.
I fear that the state has never really come to terms with what this means, but I do not give up hope. And this is where our whanau, hapu and iwi must be vigilant.
Our whanau must have the courage, with the support of hapu and iwi, to speak their truth – that whanau know their members best and are the best source of expertise in making any decisions around the placement of children.
We must take back our own. Our future – their future – is all about whanau. Let’s make it happen.