While it may seem satisfying to see CYF clobbered for failing our children and families, there seems little in the proposed changes that will improve matters. The changes are in line with the National government’s privatization agenda that it has already applied significantly to prisons and schools and is seeping by stealth into health and most other government services.
CYF’s role could be improved by instructing and funding it to provide better support for the families and ‘placements’ it works with. Many more problem parents need effective help to conform with society’s expectations as parents rather than having their children ripped from them (although there will be some cases in which the abuse of depriving children of their biological parents will be less than the abuse of leaving them there). CYF needs to choose its interventions on the basis of good research evidence, not feminist ideology. CYF needs to apply strictly the law, not its own invented standards concerning parenting approaches. CYF social workers need to practise with more respect and common decency towards parents, and they need to be prevented from pursuing personal vendettas against parents whom they felt slighted by. CYF needs to adapt its interventions on the basis of the real outcomes for the children it serves. More broadly, government could usefully promote the importance and integrity of biological families rather than incentivizing sole parenthood and supporting organisations that encourage family separation and/or spread anti-family propaganda (such as Women’s Refuge and most other feminist groups).
But none of that will happen. Instead the Key government plans to contract out services thereby moving responsibility for outcomes a few steps further away. It believes that forcing foster families into a factory-type business model in which they are responsible for buying in what services they can afford will improve matters. Some extra money it promises to provide for this will almost all be taken from existing health and other budgets. See what they did? (Clue: the privatization model in which people pay for services that government has traditionally provided.) And of course, Minister Tolley envisages ‘philanthropists’ and charities providing much more of the support required.
More sinister, Tolley plans to move children into foster families more quickly under a belief that getting them into a ‘loving family’ as early as possible will benefit them. Hah, not based on what we know already about the fate of children ripped from their biological parents, even those with significant shortcomings in the eyes of the wise social workers.
Under the planned changes, CYF appears destined to become more fully a social police force, imposing its ideology on those unfortunate enough to be targeted then farming them out to the privatized services. It’s difficult to see anything in these changes that might improve outcomes for the lives of the children the state interferes with.