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Policy Quarterly February 2020

This issue of Policy Quarterly contains three articles and four essays relating to the state of child welfare in Aotearoa.

In the opening article, Kelsey Brown and colleagues explore engagement with children and young people in the development of the 2019 Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy. In 2018, amendments to the 2014 Children’s Act required that children and young people be consulted in the development and implementation of a strategic framework. In their article, the authors discuss the outcomes of surveys and face-to-face discussions, examining what was learned about what wellbeing means to children and young people, but also about the involvement of these important stakeholders in the policy process more broadly.

The restructuring of Aotearoa’s child welfare system in recent years has been the subject of critique, an issue explored in David Hanna’s essay (this issue); however, Polly Atatoa Carr and colleagues examine one outcome of the Oranga Tamariki reform process, namely the establishment of Children’s Teams, which has enabled the identification of significant unmet need among whanau in Hamilton. Through co-operation and innovation among professionals across various sectors, they demonstrate how the Hamilton Children’s Team successfully piloted a new health assessment tool that supported early intervention for children who are at risk of harm. 

Māori are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system, an over-representation that is only increasing over time. Recent media attention paid to the forced removal of babies from their parents and whānau has renewed questions of legitimacy of the child welfare system, particularly among Māori. It is in this context that Len Cook’s article examines the recent crisis in Māori perceptions of the child welfare system, offering suggestions for how to strengthen public acceptance of state institutions.

Finally, building from a Victoria University of Wellington seminar series, the essays of Ian Hyslop, Emily Keddell, David Hanna and Claire Achmad collectively speak to importance of considering and acknowledging the structural inequalities that shape child welfare outcomes. Despite each bringing their own unique lens, they commonly emphasise the importance of centering whānau wellbeing in curtailing child maltreatment, and importantly, the need to transfer authority and mana to Māori.

The attached document contains brief summaries of the key messages from each.