Media Release 8 May 2014
Family First NZ is calling for an official inquiry in to the policies and procedures of CYF. The call, which accompanies their ongoing call for an independent CYF Complaints Authority, comes as a result of two recent cases – the manager of a Whangarei Child Youth & Family home today found guilty of sexual and physical abuse, and yesterday’s acquittal by a jury of a couple on all 14 charges of assault and ill-treatment of three boys between 2004 and 2010 brought by CYF against the couple.
“In the first case, these allegations of abuse occurred over a two year period (2011 – 2013) and disturbingly in a CYF-owned family home, where caregivers are directly sought and employed by CYF. There is obviously some huge flaws in the vetting system of caregivers, and in the level and frequency of care and communication between social workers and children in care. Parents of some of the victims are claiming to have gone to the police directly after hearing their children’s claims of abuse, and that CYF had been aware of the abuse for some time, yet failed to act swiftly and notify the families of the children. One would also question the idea of having multiple children, both males and females of varying ages, in one place,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“In the second case, it highlights that caregiving is a thankless task and CYF are making it even more thankless. Caregivers are being referred very difficult and demanding children yet are being rendered completely powerless, lacking support, and at risk themselves when dealing with unacceptable and defiant behaviour. This couple was ‘hung out to dry’.”
“We’re are also questioning why the couple has been completely acquitted in court yet CYF claim they have still committed abuse. Does CYF operate under a different law which excludes reality, common sense and the rule of law?”
In the same week, a report was released by the NZ Council for Educational Research which found that a survey of Principals were not positive about CYF support. 70% said CYF workers were ‘not useful’ or of ‘mixed use’. Only 4% said they were ‘very useful’.
“However, of most concern is that there is no external and independent accountability. CYF perform a necessary function but their lack of accountability to their process and procedures should concern all families,” says Mr McCoskrie.
A report last year supported Family First’s call for an independent CYF Complaints Authority. However Family First rejected the recommendation that the Children’s Commissioner be responsible for it.
“We note that a key feature of the Police watchdog (IPCA) which they promote is that they are not part of the Police, is established by law to be fully independent, and is headed by a District Court Judge, and supported by independent investigators.”
The call for an official Inquiry and an independent complaints process also comes in response to a number of recent cases – including a case of shocking abuse by two parents on their four young children – where the agency had been shown to have acted inadequately or irresponsibly on serious cases of child abuse and with dysfunctional families. At other times, CYF have not acted when there was clear evidence that they should have. Where do families turn when they believe CYF isn’t performing?” says Mr McCoskrie.
“We need to have a mechanism that ensures that families who have been notified to CYF as being at-risk are actually monitored in an appropriate way, but also to prevent abuse of families by the State. It is vital that there is independent accountability for an organisation that can make decisions to uplift children and potentially destroy families without even having to produce concrete evidence of abuse. CYF currently has an internal complaints process but virtually nobody trusts it, or knows about it, or uses it.”
“CYF work in very difficult circumstances but it is essential that there is external accountability for their actions. We are being contacted by far too many families saying that either CYF aren’t listening to serious concerns or that CYF are a ‘law unto themselves’,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“An official Inquiry will be in the best interests of the social workers, will result in public confidence and accountability for actions and decisions by CYF workers, and will protect families from abuse, and from abuse by the state,” says Mr McCoskrie.
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