My husband and I have been working 24/7 as Specialist Caregivers for over 16 years. We have cared for hundreds of high at-risk youth.
There are approximately 5,000 children and youth in Oranga Tamariki. Many of these children have been place into homes with people who are not their family. Most of these children are broken, and struggle with their own identity.
They learn that their environment was unhealthy enough for them to be removed from it. They learn that what they thought was normal, is actually classed as unsafe. Their entire world gets tipped upside down, and they will never be the same for it.
These children and youth yearn to belong, to be accepted and to be loved. Accomplishing this, is easier said than done. They struggle to make sense of everything that has gone on, and struggle with self-confidence.
There is the high possibility that they may also have something else to deal with – like they already didn’t have enough – and that is their gender ‘identity’. These are broken kids, and now the Government wants to allow a child to say whether they would prefer to be a male or female on their birth certificate, which potentially will cause even more hurt and confusion for these children.
How on earth can you expect such broken children and youth to make such life changing decisions? Their world is crazy enough, yet one thing they can have certainty about, at the moment, is their gender.
All children need certainty. They thrive on facts and information, not ideology.
We run a teenage boys’ home, and have also been involved with establishing a teenage girls’ home. How we have successfully worked with boys is so very different to working successfully with the girls. That is because they are so different. If we were to have a girl in our boys’ home who identified as a male, it would be complete chaos.
There is a pattern we have noticed with the teen boys in our care. Once they start making positive changes and start dealing with all their hurts, their behaviour resorts back to a child. We can have a bunch of gangster, criminal, hard youth in our care, then months later it’s like having a bunch of eight year olds.
This is because they missed out on their childhood. They were surrounded by substance addiction, violence, gangs and criminal activity. They never had the opportunity to actually be carefree children. So when they become free from all those negative things, they resort back to the childhood they missed out on. We must allow that to happen, in order for them to become socially apt.
If we really care about our youth and tamariki, then we must ensure that they are kept safe and never have to deal with adult decisions and consequences. Gender identity is an adult conversation, and an adult decision. To place that sort of extra pressure on any child, is in my opinion, child abuse.
Our youth and children are struggling enough. I see the brokenness first hand every day, and it is truly heart breaking.
For goodness sake, and for our children’s sake, let our kids be kids. Make life simple for them. A girl is a girl and a boy is a boy.
Melanie Taylor is a spokesperson for Family First, and has been a specialist caregiver of high at-risk teenage boys for over 16 years .