Does the State have a clue how to look after children yet?

The abuse of children while ‘in the care of the State’ in the 1950’s, 60s and 70’s in New Zealand is a dirty smear on our system of so called ‘child protection’. The excoriating interview of Social Development Minister Tolley is making waves for those at the centre of the abuse. The children who are now adults point out that, by ignoring key recommendations from the confidential listening service into the abuse, the Government is not attending to ‘what works’ for them.

I will not spend this post discussing how an independent inquiry for those who have suffered horrendous abuse during the most critical years of their development, could work to improve outcomes for them. What I will say is that without investigation into the scale of the problem (and we currently have no idea of the scale), what happened or why it happened, we have a vacuum of evidence of what went wrong in the system, whether we look like we are in danger of repeating that and how to apply the evidence to do better.

While Minister Tolley says there is no evidence it was a systematic problem, Judge Carolyn Henwood, who led the investigation states that:

“We haven’t investigated the department itself, we haven’t spoken to staff … there’s been no inquiry on the side of the thing, the ledger, so why wouldn’t it happen again?”

So the Government representative’s seems to be saying that because they have not looked at the evidence there is no evidence of a problem, while the chair of the listening service points out that by not looking at the evidence you have no idea of the problem you need to fix.


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