This follow-up report shares the views of a subset of 113 children and young people in care who took part in the project. These children and young people had all been placed in the custody of the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki.
This follow-up report is an opportunity to understand what wellbeing means to this group of children and young people in care. Although the experiences of this group do not purport to be representative of all children and young people in care, their views and experiences can provide insight into the wellbeing of children and young people engaged with Oranga Tamariki and highlight opportunities for improvement, particularly for children and young people who do not live with their family or whānau.
The purposes of the report are to:
- Help to uphold the right of all children and young people to share their views and have those views taken in to account.
- Share the views of a group of children and young people in care on what it means to have a good life, what helps and what gets in the way.
- Share the experiences of wellbeing for that group of children and young people.
- Compare the views and experiences of wellbeing for this group of children and young people in care with those who are not in care.
- Contribute to the development of initiatives focused on the wellbeing of children and young people in care, including the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and the oranga tamariki action plan.
Who we engaged with
The online survey was completed by 79 children and young people in non-family care arrangements aged between seven and 19 years. Of the children and young people in care who completed the survey, 53% were male, 35% female and 12% selected ‘gender diverse’, ‘a gender not listed here’ or ‘I’d rather not say’. In terms of ethnicity, 44% of care-experienced survey respondents were Māori, 29% were Pacific and 41% were New Zealand European (children and young people could indicate more than one ethnicity which is why these figures total more than 100%).
The focus groups and interviews involved 34 children and young people aged between five and 19 years in a range of care placement types (including family and non-family care). We spoke with similar numbers of males (47%) and females (53%). Of these participants, 62% were Māori, 12% were Pacific and 38% New Zealand European.
How we engaged
The survey included a mix of closed and open-ended questions. This report focuses on two parts of the survey. The first part asked children and young people how they are currently experiencing 17 selected elements of wellbeing. The second part asked, “what is the one thing you want to tell the Prime Minister that children and young people need to live good lives, now and in the future?” Answers to this question were used to illustrate the themes from focus groups and interviews (Section Three of this report).
The survey was available through two channels. The majority of the responses came from students of schools directly invited to participate from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Mai World network. The link was also available on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website.
Focus groups and interviews included discussion, drawing, performing arts and activitybased techniques. We worked with seven Oranga Tamariki sites to engage with children and young people in care. We worked particularly closely with Oranga Tamariki youth workers, who were able to ensure the children and young people we spoke with felt supported and able to share their views. Some of the youth workers helped facilitate or co-facilitate engagements with children and young people.
How we analysed what we heard from children and young people in care
Survey responses were included in the analysis for this report where the child or young person indicated a living situation consistent with being in care, that is: with a caregiver, in a foster family, in a care and protection residence, in a group home or in a youth justice residence. This excludes the approximately six in ten children and young people who are in the custody of Oranga Tamariki but living with family or whānau.
The reason the survey excludes children and young people in family or whānau care placements is because identifying that group would have required the survey to include a question about the child or young person’s legal custody status, rather than just their living arrangements. This was deemed too complex for a survey designed to be
completed independently by children and young people.
Survey respondents were asked to use a 5-point scale to indicate their level of agreement with 17 statements that assessed different elements of wellbeing. We then calculated the proportion of respondents in each group (care and non-care) who agreed (strongly agree and agree combined), neither agreed nor disagreed, or disagreed (disagree and strongly disagree combined) with each statement.
Logistic regression was used to test for group differences in the proportion who agreed with each statement. Results were considered statistically significant if p < 0.05 (see footnote 4). A collaborative analysis process was used to analyse focus group and interview data.
The outputs from the focus groups and interviews were analysed by six people as part of a one-day analysis hui, including three members of the project team and three who had not been involved in the project until that point and were there to provide a critical and more objective perspective on the information and discussions.
Throughout this report quotes are presented to illustrate key themes. Children aged 13 and under are referred to as ‘children’, while those aged 14 or over are referred to as ‘young people’. The child or young person’s location is also recorded.
There are four key findings from the focus groups and interviews involving children and young people in care:
- I want support for my family and whānau.
- Oranga Tamariki has the potential to make things better but may sometimes make things worse.
- I want to feel loved and respected.
- I want the basics.
There is also a fifth finding from the online survey:
- Across a range of wellbeing indicators, children and young people in non-whānau care placements generally fare worse than their peers.
Overall, we learned what needs to happen if the wellbeing of children and young people in care is to be improved.
The importance of family and whānau
The biggest area of alignment between the views of those in care and the views of those who are not in care was the emphasis both groups placed on the importance of family and whānau. Both groups also agreed on the importance of having the basics.
Both groups mentioned things like feeling loved and respected, but this meant something slightly different for the children and young people in care we spoke with, for example, children and young people who were not in care focused on the importance of acceptance, while those we spoke with who were in care mentioned the importance of being treated like equals.
How to improve the wellbeing of children in care
The themes we heard from children and young people in care suggest that a number of things need to happen if their wellbeing is to be improved. These include:
- Ensuring that the rights of all children and young people in care are upheld.
- Recognising the challenges that children and young people in care face relative to other children and young people.
- Improving children and young people’s experiences with Oranga Tamariki.
- Ensuring that family and whānau are supported and are involved in the lives of children and young people in care.
- Ensuring that the people caring for children and young people have the support they need to meet children and young people’s needs.
- Providing opportunities for children and young people in care to share their views, in order to understand their aspirations and the challenges they face, including discrimination because of their care status.