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Jim Mora on The Panel (note: audit link) yesterday spoke with with Mike Williams (Labour President) and Graham Bell (ex. cop). They spoke about the concerns of foster parents, raised earlier today in other media.

It sheds some light on the issue, and makes a point that we have always made – that the new legal framework puts far more power in the hands of children than parents. This is then resulting in people choosing to avoid what was already an increasingly risky proposition – caring for troubled children.

Interview transcribed below.

Jim: … does this make sense to you panel?

Mike Williams: It does make a lot of sense to me and it seems to be that it could… um, if this is a problem a) they don’t’ tell us any numbers, is this two people have dropped out of 8 people, or, you know, 200 out of 800 – what is it, we don’t know. [actually, they said at least 10, so Mike is playing with the truth here just a little – S1] But it seems to me that you do not need to smack children to bring them up, I’m sure Jim you do not smack your own beautiful children and these people need training and that’s what should be offered to them.

Jim: I suppose so, … a lot of parents talk about this, we all hear people up and down the country discuss this and especially in the wake of the recent warning in Christchurch where that bloke was given a warning for ostensibly, ostensibly flicking his son on the head – isn’t that precisely the kind of trivial breach of the law that we were told would be more or less ignored?

Graham Bell: That’s right, and I said when this thing came out that it was just totally pointless, ill conceived, and was going to create problems, and was not going to stop the ill-treatment or murder of one child – it’s not going to prevent anything. These things have continued, there’s been another couple in Auckland since the, ah, this year, the bill is ill-conceived, a waste of time and it’s having more bad effects than good ones.

Jim: I take your point too mike and Allysa, and we’ll get her on in a minute and there’s a quote from her:

“These kids are really hard. They just don’t care who they hurt, and you need really special people to take them on. If you have a kid that is yelling and screaming at you, what are you supposed to do?”

Jim: So she’s talking about life at the coal face, and she joins, Allysa Carberry joins us now. Good Afternoon Allysa.

Allysa Carberry: Hi

Jim: So how bad is it, I mean, Mike Williams says how many people involved.. in your experience have left the whole area because of the new law?

Allysa: [points out that she was interviewed on a different topic]

Jim: nevertheless you do hold those beliefs do you?

Allysa: Ah, it’s the fear of being charged should you need to restrain a child or place a child in care, in time out. That’s a real fear. But there’s also, you know, caregivers are also leaving because of the statements that Brian Perkins made, about being dissatisfied with Child Youth and Family. So it’s not just one issue of why they’re leaving. Yes section, the repeal of section 59 is there in the background, but it’s a whole number of topics of why they’re leaving.

Jim: Hm, all right, so the headline “Anti-smacking worries push foster parents out” how accurate a reflection of your views and observations Allysa is that headline?

Allysa: The anti-smacking, it’s got nothing to do with anti-smacking as it states caregivers have never been allowed to smack foster-children.

Jim: [cautiously]Officially

Allysa: Officially [hard to describe the tone here – high I guess. One gets the impression that Allysa knows it happens and needs to happen sometimes] Um, they’ve never been allowed to do that but there have been kids, children in care that have been needed to be restrained because they were going to hurt themselves or others, and that’s… a real… fear that’s a really good possibility of it happening.

Jim: When you talk about restraining, um can we call a spade a spade – what do you actually mean? Do you mean simply pinning a child’s arms to his or her sides – that kind of restraint or do you mean administering, ah, a smack for example.

Allysa: That’s a hard one, it depends on the situation. If you’ve got a child that’s running onto a road [sigh] you would pull that child back to protect that child. If you’ve got a child that’s in danger of hurting themselves; that’s in danger of hurting other people around them, and that’s happened in my own household where we’ve had children, um, I won’t go into too much details, um, and we’ve had to restrain the child [helpless tone here] because they’re just hurting the adults for a start, they’ve been head-butted and thrown down the stairs and going to hurt younger children in the house and it’s just been a case of getting to a stage – yes, if it’s just pinning the children hands to their side just to calm them down or removing the other children from the home, it’s whichever is…

Jim: Fair enough, and and they are the examples that people cite, and they sound entirely reasonable…

Mike: Jim can I point out that this is obviously a piece of very dishonest reporting we’re seeing. This is not what the woman said at all.

Jim: Well, that’s what I was trying to establish – just how closely related they were to Allysa’s views. But obviously Allysa you have some concern, do you – or tell us that you don’t – over the repeal of section 59, and the ability of parents and caregivers – caregivers in this case – to adequately restrain children. [pause] Yes, or not sure about that?

Allysa: I would say that’s a very real fear

Jim: All right, so there is some truth in that…

Allysa: I mean you mentioned before about the parent who was warned about flicking his own child. Well, who’s to say that a child in care is not going to get nasty and say “well, this caregiver did this and this and this to me”.

Jim: All right, so you now are sounding that you and some of the members of your organisation are concerned that it’s made… the repeal of section 50 has made the territory tougher.

[pause]

Allysa: I’m not sure how to answer to that one. I would say, it’s, it’s always been no smacking, but there is a fear of… if you do need to restrain a child, or if you do need to place a child or young person in time-out, are you going to be charged for that?

Jim: Should people be worried about that, Graham Bell, about the, the line being blurred between what is smacking, hitting assaulting, and what is restraint?

Graham: Yes they should, and the other thing that worries me about it is that, that I think we’re sort of witnessing a, a degree of it, is that um, the line between truth and fiction is blurred as well and people will colour their stories about what’s happened so that they don’t get caught up in the, um, in the legislation, or the requirements of the legislation. And the other thing that has to be said is that this whole arena of difficult children has a very high burnout rate. It always has and people will leave that profession after not very long in a high number of cases.

Jim: Do you think they would be more pre-disposed to leave that profession if they feel that the repeal of section 59 has constrained them more somewhat?

Graham: Oh, I think so, yes.

Jim: Would that be the truth of the matter from where you are coming from Allysa Carberry?

Allysa: Yes, I would say that caregivers definitely need more training and they definitely need more support. I mean, yea, I mean that’s just not happening at the moment – it’s trying to be done but it’s not mandatory for these, for caregivers to go and attend these courses, they, it should, it should be mandatory. It’s to protect these children in our care as well as to protect the caregivers themselves.

Jim: Yea. Are you talking about a resourcing problem in the end?

Allysa: Yes, definitely.

Jim: Hm, ok.

[Interview ends]

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