Friday, August 28, 2015

Only 64 Asian children in state care

Talkback and news yesterday was dominated by the report from the Children's Commissioner citing the inadequacies of state care and CYF.

It has inevitably been heavily politicised, for example by the DomPost this morning. They like to bitch at the current Minister.

A crucial failing: while 58 percent of the children in care are Maori, the system often fails to meet their needs. Some extra senior Maori staff have been appointed, the report notes, but many Maori staff are overworked. Major change is needed here. What is the Minister, a Pakeha with no obvious empathy or experience in Maori issues, doing about it?
So, the "system" often fails to meet the needs of Maori children.

First and foremost their parents and families failed to meet their needs.

All of these problems would disappear if every child had a parent or guardian dedicated to their needs. Pie in the sky? Not really. The Asian community almost achieves it.

The 0-17 Asian population in New Zealand is around 119,500 according to the last census. There were 237,500 Maori of the same age.



So the Maori population is double the Asian yet has 46 times more children in state care.

New Zealand, instead of overtly or covertly disapproving of Asians, should be looking at what they do that keeps their children safe and protected.

That would make more sense then yet another overhaul of CYF.





Thursday, August 27, 2015

The latest CYF instalment

The Children's Commissioner has released a report about children in state care, and Simon Collin's coverage extends to the general state of CYF and intended overhaul.

I have read histories of child welfare work in NZ. I've read every author who knows anything worth knowing on the subject. Commissions of inquiry, radical organisational changes, transfer of responsibility between departments, name changes and reforming legislation are the norm.

The nature of CYF is chaotic because it deals with chaotic people. The organisation is in crisis because it exists to respond to crisis. No law changes, or system revamps, or 'best practice' applications will change that.

I feel sorry for the people who work with deeply dysfunctional families. The best of them burn out, and the worst become desensitized.

This latest from the Commissioner, and then Paula Rebstock's panel to "transform" CYF are just part and parcel of the ongoing drama that is chasing the tail of  inter-generational social malaise driven by paying people to have babies.

One particular statistic stood out from the Herald item though:

Maori make up ... 68 per cent of young people in the nine CYF residences, compared with 24 per cent of all children under 15. 

Tragic. Especially when a good chunk of it evolves into 50 percent of adults in state residences.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

But you knew that in advance

Simon Collins has a lengthy piece in the NZ Herald today detailing the costs parents face when they want to return to work. 

He describes the case of one young couple whose second child is 8 weeks old with a mum who is considering a return to work,

But if she goes back fulltime, paying for childcare for Bryn plus after-school care for Amelia, and allowing for extra petrol, the family will be hardly any better off than they are on one income.
"I need to work financially because my husband's income is $200 short of our expenses," Mrs Jones says.

But they surely knew this when they decided to have another baby?

 Mrs Jones would like to be able to stay home with her baby for at least his first year."I'd like it to be a choice," she says. "I'd much rather be able to spend at least the first year at home with the baby. It's not fair on them being shoved out the door just because we can't afford to feed them."

It's so depressing hearing this kind of complaint. They will already be in the enviable position of effectively paying no tax and yet somehow it's still "not fair" that more public money isn't provided to subsidize their choice.

Nothing frustrates me more than witnessing people who walk into situations knowingly then whine about the injustice of it all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rarely reported in MSM

Jarrod Gilbert calls for a "dispassionate" response to child deaths and provides background for his position:
Children are more likely to be murdered within three years of being born than at any other time during their life. Even more surprising, given the acute gender focus of domestic violence campaigns, women are equally as likely to kill as men and most often the culprit is the child's biological mother.
A Family Violence Death Review Committee reported that of the 37 child homicides resulting from abuse and neglect between 2009 and 2012, at least 41 per cent were killed by their mother. In very young children this figure increases. The other perpetrators - stepfathers, fathers, and female caregivers - lagged well behind.
Given that babies and toddlers are entirely dependent on adults for their survival; that they deprive people of sleep and create significant hardships; and that mothers are the most likely to live with their children, then perhaps these data aren't as surprising as they first appear.

Here's the data Gilbert  refers to:


None of this detracts from the particular danger that non-biological 'dads' pose. Those crimes may be the most preventable.

But for children, especially newborns, the risk from their birth mother is statistically higher. Suffice to say the risks of death are minuscule and volatile.

"Kai time" krap

The government is all over us with their surveys about this; surveys about that. They even want to know how often we eat together.

Kai time keeps Kiwis connected
How good are our family relationships? states that 59 percent of couples-without-children shared eight or more meals weekly. This compares with only around one-third of couples-with-children and sole-parent families. 
“This difference is perhaps a result of staggered meal times, but it’s interesting to see that people without children share more meals together than those with children,” Ms Ramsay says. 




The 'couple without children' will contain a large number of retirees. There are potentially 21 meals a week. Busy households with children and teenagers jostling over bathroom use in the morning won't be sitting down to eat together. And they won't be home at lunch time. Dinner? Very young children eating early, partners working late or doing shifts, teenagers in out-of school activities, etc.

Using 'eating together' as a proxy for relationship quality is troublesome in other ways too. I remember as a child all six of us ate together at six sharp. But we didn't talk. It was news time and woe betide anyone who talked over something Dad wanted to listen to.

Good time with my children is often in the car going into the city. Yes I ferry them in some mornings when their lessons/lectures coincide simply because we generally laugh a lot.

Anyway, what social policy will this revealing research 'inform' as they say?  A major multi-member-meal education campaign? Far-fetched maybe, but so would the very idea of the survey been once, especially using public money.







Friday, August 21, 2015

Australia : "Adoption Advocacy"

The following piece is written in an Australian setting but it is just as relevant in this country. I recall Don Brash behind bagged for suggesting adoption become a more widespread practice. It's kind of odd that people of a leftist persuasion use the argument of 'urgency' for reducing child poverty yet support the CYF philosophy of keeping children at risk with their natural families as long as possible. And it's even odder that adoption by NZ Europeans is almost unmentionable yet whangai (unregulated Maori adoption) is culturally kosher.




A mere 89 children were adopted from 'out-of-home care' last year. At the same time, more than 30,000 children had been in care continuously for longer than two years.

This is a proxy figure for the number of children potentially available for adoption, were adoption not officially taboo within the child protection world. Many children in long-term care have been subjected to prolonged maltreatment at home  and highly damaging instability while in care (multiple entries, exits, and reentries) as endless efforts are made to preserve and reunite dysfunctional families.

The taboo reflects the complex history of adoption, including the legacy of the Stolen Generations and discredited forced adoption practices. But the tragic lessons of these episodes have been learned. Modern adoptions are 'open', meaning adopted children can have contact with birth parents and knowledge of their family and cultural heritages so they do not grow up strangers unto themselves.

A promising sign is that the debate is changing due to the growing realisation that many children would be better off having a safe and permanent adopted family for life.

Diana Bryant, the Chief Justice of the Family Court,  and Megan Mitchell, the  National Children's Commissioner have both expressed support of greater use of adoption for some children in care.

But there is still a long way to go. Political leadership is needed to drive cultural change in child protection authorities, but politicians are wary of supporting adoption for fear of being accused of repeating past mistakes and 'stealing' children all over again.

On controversial issues such as adoption, politicians prefer to lead in the direction the public is already prepared to head. This is why it is crucial for organisations like the CIS, and adoption advocacy groups such as Adopt Change, to lead the debate and build community support for adoption.

Adoption from care will not become a standard part of Australian child protection, as it should be, until the idea that modern, open adoption is a socially acceptable practice is embedded in the hearts and minds of the Australian public. 

Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. His book, The Madness of Australian Child Protection: Why Adoption Will Rescue Underclass Children, will be published by Connor Court in November. He is speaking today at the CIS Consilium conference session Changing Minds to Change Lives: Breaking the Adoption 'Taboo' in Australia.




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Drilling down DPB numbers


In Parliament this week the Prime Minister said:

"... through a strong economy and the welfare reform measures this Government has undertaken, we now have the lowest number of people on the equivalent of the old DPB since 1988."

Strictly speaking this is true and surely very good news?

The complication is benefit changes.

To get a clearer picture I asked MSD for the number of sole parents on any benefit and compared it to earlier data. Roughly, this compares pre to post GFC.

At September 2006 there were 107,628 sole parents on welfare. (By December 2007 to number had dropped further to 103,366 but I don't have the additional info for that date.) The following table provides a breakdown of sole parents by benefit type. Note that 88 percent were on the DPB.


By June 2015 the percentage of sole parents on the "equivalent of the old DPB" - Sole Parent Support - had dropped to 76 percent.




So we can frame this another way.

The percentage of sole parents on welfare benefits other than "the equivalent of the old DPB" has doubled. 

That is because sole parents with children 14 and older, and 'women alone' have been moved onto the Jobseeker benefit; and sole parents caring for someone who would otherwise been hospitalised have been moved onto the Supported Living Payment.

Of course, it's good news that there are 12 percent fewer sole parents on welfare since December 2007. The employment rate of sole parents has steadily increased. But as my previous post illustrated, the core behaviour that drives long-term  welfare dependency and child poverty is relentless. Beneficiaries continue to add 'newborn' children to existing benefits, most commonly, Sole Parent Support. 35 every day in the six months to March 2015.

I reserve my excitement for the day that steady trend line, which dates back to at least 1993, starts to decline.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

35 children a day added to an existing benefit

In the six months to March 2015 6,347 children under the age of one were added to an existing benefit. That's 35 every day. Half are Maori. Just under half have a mother/caregiver aged 24 or younger.

The welfare reform policy which aimed at stopping this poverty-inducing habit has failed. That's hardly a surprise. The threat to make someone with a child as young as one go to work is empty when there are no jobs.

For context the number is down on the 2014 equivalent (6,634) but still up on the 2006 equivalent (5,854).

All annual births to March 2015 (57,476) are down on March 2014 (58,515) in any case, which will explain the drop at least partially.

Here is an age breakdown. Note these figures pertain to the caregiver so differ from total children ie some caregivers have added more than one child.




And here is the ethnicity breakdown:


Under 1 year-old is proxy for newborn. It's the best I have ever managed to get from MSD. And children's ethnicity is assumed to be the same as the parent/caregivers. Of course that will not always be the case but information on the child's ethnicity is not recorded.

The point is - and I hammer it again - people with no independent ability to raise a child continue having them. And their actions drive the child poverty problem.

The Left are fond of telling us it takes a village to raise a child (the financial implications of which are clear). It does not take a village to conceive and produce it.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Can the Greens be expected to acknowledge this?

Child hardship is easing albeit slowly.

Material hardship is assessed by what people are doing without. The more items forgone, the worse the hardship. The EU method is used to provide comparability across countries. From a companion report to the incomes report released yesterday:

Table G.3
Material hardship rates (%) and numbers for children
HES year
EU ‘standard’ threshold
EU ‘severe’ threshold

rate (%)
numbers
rate (%)
numbers
2007
14
145,000
6
65,000
2009
16
170,000
9
95,000
2010
20
210,000
9
90,000
2011
21
220,000
10
105,000
2012
17
180,000
9
90,000
2013
15
165,000
9
100,000
2014
14
145,000
8
80,000

The graphs in Figure G.1 below use the 9-item DEP-COMMON to create a time series from 2006/07 to 2013/14. There are two particular features of the trends that stand out:
·         for the less stringent threshold (top lines), the clear rise of hardship rates through the GFC and the strong fall in the recovery phase
·         for the more stringent threshold (bottom lines),
o    for the population as a whole - neither the rise nor the fall is very strong
o    for children the rise and fall are clearer
o    though in both cases rates in 2013-14 are the same as in 2008-09 as the GFC began to impact.




Without a doubt there are children in this country who are doing it very tough. But every social policy attempt to address the problem has fish hooks. More welfare - the Green's favoured approach - is extremely risky. The available evidence should convince against it.

The report makes some notable observations:

·         Whatever else poverty is understood to be, it is in its essence an unacceptable state-of-affairs – it carries with it the implication that something should be done about it. How best to address poverty, especially child poverty, is a vigorously contested area where empirical evidence, social norms, personal values, views on inter-generational equity, political philosophy and pragmatic compromise all play legitimate parts. Different judgements on these matters lead to different “solutions”.
 ·         Yet, just as with the question of where to set low-income or material hardship thresholds, there is in practice a fairly limited range of options for governments when it comes to seeking to reduce child poverty. All MEDCs have adopted a multi-pronged approach, reflecting the range of causes of poverty. The difference from one government to another and one state to another reflects to a large degree the different understandings of the relative size of the impact of different causes, decisions on trade-offs with other priorities, and the consequent different weightings given to the different interventions.
The current govt's approach is a mix of welfare reform, education reform, targeted cash assistance, support for private initiatives, etc but with the long-term view foremost. That matters.