NZ Herald 30 July 2013
Parents battling to get their children back from state foster care are being stymied by two-month delays to get hold of their official files, a lobby group says.
The Ministry of Social Development says it is still processing 1177 requests for current and historic client files under the Official Information Act, and estimates that responses to current cases “will be provided within two months”.
Lobby group Positive Answers Needed In Crisis (Panic), which supports families dealing with the ministry’s Child, Youth and Family Service (CYF), says the delay means many cases are decided in the meantime on information that turns out to be incorrect.
“In a number of cases where files are received, a number of errors in social workers’ file notes are seen,” said Panic co-founder Angie Rogerson. “Some could easily be proved as incorrect and could result in a very different court or family group conference outcome.”
CYF has struggled with an almost fivefold increase in notifications of suspected child abuse and neglect over the past decade, from 27,500 in 2001-02 to 152,800 in 2011-12, as a result of increased public awareness and a policy change by police who now notify CYF of all cases where children live in a home where a domestic violence incident occurs.
Many are multiple calls about the same families, and many require no further action. But even notifications of distinct individuals requiring further action have more than doubled, from 21,100 to 48,500.