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Teens under CYFS 24-hr watch – in motels.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on July 14, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Teens under CYFS 24-hr watch – in motels.
Sunday, 01.07.2007, 12:23pm (GMT12)

Teens under 24-hr watch – in motels

By JENNY MACINTYRE – Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 1 July 2007

A teenager in Child Youth and Family’s custody was placed in the charge of professional carers who billed the department $30,000 for three months’ work.

Many other teenagers are staying in motels under the 24-hour supervision of security guards and caregivers, who watch over them in three eight-hour shifts.

Barrister Judith Surgenor, Family Court-appointed lawyer for youngsters in the custody of CYF, is frustrated by the lack of government funding to provide suitable facilities for troubled children.

“We pay all this money for individual children but it’s sheer nonsense. There is no facility to provide for kids with high, complex needs.

Lock-up units won’t take them – it’s terrible.”

Her concerns come as two brothers, who claim child welfare authorities failed to keep them safe in the 1960s and 1970s, seek more than $1 million each in a test case in the Wellington High Court.

CYF also came under fire last week after two 14-year-olds, in the care of a CYF-funded trust, were charged with attempted murder after they shot at police in the Bay of Plenty.

Surgenor says the cost for one child’s individualised care can be in excess of $74,000 a year.

She has been told there are about a dozen teenagers in motels under the 24-hour watch of two carers at a time – six people, seven days a week – with security companies providing back-up.

“It is a disgraceful waste of resources and has been a problem for 10 years, since CYF’s work was contracted out to different agencies who dabble in the work with no accountability.”

Children as young as 14 are escaping to live with their friends on the streets in a world of drugs and prostitution because there is no care for them, Surgenor says.

“They hunt in packs. They are out there causing havoc.

When parents cannot or do not care for their children, the responsibility must pass to the government, but CYF can be only as good as the government enables it to be.”

One of Surgenor’s clients, who has intellectual problems, is back out on the streets.

“She gets in with kids who take her into high-risk situations.

The public has no idea of the extent of the problems social workers are forced to deal with.

They talk of girls prostituting themselves while they are in CYF’s care, but where should the department place these kids? There are no facilities.”

Surgenor wants better residential facilities with therapeutic resources to meet the needs of kids in a secure environment.

Principal Youth Court judge Andrew Becroft said although CYF does hold alleged offenders in motels, supervised by trackers and minders, “this is preferable to the use of police cells which have become a de facto second method of custody for young people”.

Becroft said it was unacceptable to use police cells holding young people for 24 hours in solitary confinement.

Better management of youth justice residential facilities and supported bail programmes in the community have improved the situation, he said.

National’s welfare associate spokeswoman Anne Tolley said CYF was responsible for counselling and support for teenagers in its care, to help make some changes in their lives: “Otherwise they will become adult offenders and we have not changed anything.

“Putting them into a motel is only part of the job. This is babysitting until they are 18 and out of the care of CYF.

“We have got to look at residential facilities that can offer the kind of counselling, treatment and support these young people need.

In the past few years we have closed rather than opened these facilities.”

Tolley said the length of time courts could order youngsters into supervision for was another issue.

CYF chief executive Ray Smith said it was unusual for children to stay in motels, but conceded it occurred in exceptional circumstances.

Residential care was available for a small group of children who could not be cared for in the community.

“Improved case management and an increase of 10 beds at the Weymouth facility has reduced the pressure for residential beds over the last 18 months.”

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