Where children are unable to be cared for and kept safe within their own families of birth, they can be cared for away from home until such time as it becomes a safe place for children to be, or if the home cannot be made safe to meet the needs of the child.
Child, Youth and Family has seen a steady increase in the number of children in care. As at June 2016, there were approximately 4,400 children and young people living in formal out-of-home placements in New Zealand. At the same time, there has been a reduction in the number of people willing to take on the vital role of caregivers.
The changing social and economic climate, in particular the pressure on two-income families and women in employment, has made it increasingly difficult to recruit caregivers. Additionally, the needs of children and young people requiring care are diverse and increasingly complex, and the pool of people willing, and suitably skilled, to provide the level of care required for these children and young people is limited.
Child, Youth and Family recruits the majority of caregivers however a number of non-government organisations also recruit caregivers. Each organisation has its own recruitment policy and process which can be applied at a national, regional or a local level. This includes advertising, information and training sessions through to assessment and induction. Final approval decisions sit with Child, Youth and Family.
There is no overarching nationally co-ordinated approach to caregiver recruitment and often organisations are competing for the same pool of caregivers. Additionally, no single organisation has an overall picture of the range and needs of the caregivers, what works in their recruitment and retention, and what kind of support is needed in order to retain them.
In order for us to more successfully match children in care with a caregiver, we need to recruit and retain caregiver families who have the capacity, knowledge, skills, resources and support to build and maintain loving, stable, long-term relationships with children, young people and their birth family.
Dave and Sandy’s experience
Dave and Sandy passed a billboard in Hamilton inquiring whether passers-by might “have room in their heart for a child”. Before long, Dave and Sandy had completed a training class and were approached to take in a little girl in need of a permanent home.
The girl moved into the Dave and Sandy’s house on her second birthday. Her year-old sister followed within months. The girls’ brother was born later that year. The Lindbloms picked him up when he was one day old. The children’s eldest sibling moved in when she was nine.
In 2011, two more brothers moved in – a 2-year-old and another newborn. Two years later, their younger sister was born. She came to live with the Lindbloms, too. The process was overseen by CYF.
Keeping the siblings together has always been the Lindbloms’ priority. Despite best efforts, the children have had no contact with their birth parents in the past five years.
Even though the children had been abused and neglected by their birth parents, they are still mentioned every night in their bedtime prayers.
Today, five children remain in the Lindbloms’ 3-bedroom house in Westport, where they moved in 2005. The eldest, who has moved out, changed her surname to Lindblom when she became a legal adult. The children, aged 3 to 20, have a range of special needs, including foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The Lindbloms, now in their 50s, take this in their stride.
“I don’t give a darn about their grades – not one of these kids is going to be scholars,” Sandy says matter-of-factly. “But they’re going to be good citizens. That’s what we’re raising.”
This is a real-life story. Read the article on Stuff here
- The changing social and economic climate, in particular the pressure on two-income families and women in employment.
- The needs of children and young people requiring care are diverse and increasingly complex.
- Recruitment of caregivers is handled differently by each organisation, this results in a lack of consistency in the process.
- No overarching nationally co-ordinated approach to caregiver recruitment and we are often competing for the same pool of caregivers.
- The range of supports, including training, provided to caregivers varies.
- There is instability in placement due to an inability to match children and young people to a suitable caregiver.
- No single organisation has an overall picture of the range and needs of the caregivers, what works in their recruitment and retention, and what kind of support is needed in order to retain them.
- There are a number of inefficiencies and delays when people register their interest to become a caregiver which may deter prospective caregivers.
- Insufficient information for caregivers to make an informed decision about proceeding to training and assessment.
- Approval decisions need to be more consistent, child-centred and transparent.
Why is this the right time?
The Expert Advisory Panel on Modernising Children, Youth and Family (CYF) produced an Interim Report which found that there is insufficient focus on the recruitment, approval and retention of caregivers in terms of:
- No overarching, nationally coordinated approach to caregiver recruitment,
- No national picture of the needs of the care population, the range and needs of caregivers, what works in their recruitment or retention and what kind of support is needed, and
- Concerns that children who have complex and significant needs are being placed in households where resources may already be stretched and the capacity of the caregiver to meet needs may be constrained.
In December 2015 the Final Report recommended changes to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. The Expert Advisory Panel agreed that care support services will entail:
- investment to create a larger and more diverse pool of caregiver families that have the capacity, knowledge, skills and support to build and maintain loving and long-term relationships,
- creating a larger and more diverse pool of Māori and Pacific caregiver families who have the capacity, knowledge, skills, resources and support to build and maintain loving and stable long-term relationships with children, young people and their birth family,
- more intensive assessment of caregivers and a greater level of independent scrutiny of caregiver approvals.
What does success look like
Success is a more diverse pool of caregivers that have the capacity, knowledge, skills and support to build and maintain loving and long-term relationships with children, young people and their birth families. Communities would have flexibility around what recruitment and retention approach works best for them. Caregivers will understand what the role requires and what supports are available to them.
A solution to this problem would:
- A national caregiver recruitment strategy with a mix of national, regional and localised responses across all aspects of the recruitment process eg, advertising, information and training sessions through to assessment and induction.
- Enhanced and specialised caregiver training, and better information about the training that is available.
- Relationship-based support for caregivers that is easy to access.
- Expand on the existing enhancements identified by the Investing in Children Programme (IIC).