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AUCKLAND CITY HARBOUR NEWS, FEBRUARY 1, 2012
Those who care -- 'our grief is huge'
It s a photo of a smiling baby hold-
ing a little teddy bear. He s looking
up at a smiling face, both full of
I wept when I saw those smiles --
and the words that went with them.
They re an echo of a top-level call
for an urgent study of Child Youth
and Family s duty to provide for
young children like him.
This deep concern is from those
closest to the resulting pain -- carers
who lovingly, willingly choose to
carry the day and night burden of
children in need.
They tell of tears and fears, and
paint a worrying picture.
Carers experiences shared with
this column bear out the concerns of
former ombudsman Mel Smith
whose report quoted last week calls
for urgent study and action involv-
ing kin placement and concerns
among professionals that, too often,
the wishes of a parent or parents or
That Smith report highlighted
major problems which need urgent
attention from the government --
and a Maori community and MPs
appearing to ignore a problem
which too often ends in injury or
death for children who need aroha.
That photo illustrates just one
case history of many from critical
I collected him from a local hos-
pital. A tiny scrap at one day old,
but very beautiful.
Typically, there was no social
worker with me as I went about the
myriad of papers to sign upon
release into my care.
Both his parents are in their 30s
-- mother has drug problems and is
She had another child from
another relationship, now in his
teens and living with his biological
father. She has been estranged from
her own family for many years,
working and living on the street.
The baby was unnamed and
remained so for the first six weeks.
Of course we gave him a name for
the time being. We loved him.
We made it clear after only those
first weeks that we were happy to
look at a home with us for life.
But CYF was looking into
extended family of both his parents
for care with whanau.
None of his father s family was
A maternal uncle and his part-
ner were but that uncle had a long
list of convictions, including viol-
ence and past gang associations.
It took six months for a decision
on this wee boy. By that time, he
had formed strong bonds with our
family and us with him.
His father came weekly for
supervised access. Although he was
unsuitable to parent, he was com-
mitted to these visits.
CYF promised him regular air
travel and accommodation for
The maternal grandmother
became CYF s next option -- as if she
was the best they could come up
with to return baby to whanau --
and keep the stats looking good.
I spoke with grandma on the
phone and had many concerns over
what she said, which I documented.
I reported these to CYF s social
workers along with my own con-
cerns over attachments, etc, and --
given her age -- the long-term future
for the child. Grandmother was 62.
I also wanted to ensure the best,
thorough transition over several
days to allow the baby the best poss-
ible move to his new family. I was
basically told where to go by CYF.
Even offering our own home for
grandma to stay and be able to care
for baby in familiar surroundings as
she got to know him and his
routines, that she come to our house
to see where her grandson had lived
and been loved all those months ...
But no way.
She had made it clear that she
and her husband s lifestyles as
retired people wouldn t change in
any way as CYF would have to pick
up the slack so they could continue
with holidays, gym time, golf, etc.
We had a follow-up phone call
after he left, and a watered-down
offer of counselling only after I
explained the huge impact his new
placement had on our family includ-
ing our own children.
We have had one email from his
grandmother on how he is, but
other than that no information or
contact. This is normal procedure.
Grandma learned from CYF of
my concerns and was totally anti-us
as foster parents.
CYF failed us and the baby by
not keeping our concerns confiden-
Grandma refused to do any tran-
sition. CYF flew her in for the hand-
over, booked her for three days into
a motel and flew her out.
CYF also paid for her to have a
support person with her, and pro-
vided her with all the necessary fur-
niture, car seats, clothes, respite
care, etc, and a boarding allowance
of $170 a week for her grandson.
We get the standard board allow-
ance which equates to about one
cent an hour working on a 24-hour,
seven day-a-week job, less the food
and costs of caring for a child.
Obviously from this we don t
care-give for the money.
And you feel you re on your own.
Like the day I first picked him up,
no CYF person was there when I
handed him over at a local cafe.
It was a very tense meeting and
emotional, obviously, because we
were handing over a very precious
child we had picked up from hos-
pital and brought home just as we
would have if he was our own.
I had prepared well for the hand-
over, applied for new clothing so he
would have new things to grow into
over the next few months, asked
CYF to buy him a suitcase for his
things, bought toys, had a special
blanket made for him, and a teddy,
all from our own pockets.
In 15 years of caring for babies I
have managed to get CYF to buy me
one car seat -- my husband and I
have supplied the rest.
We ve never been offered any
respite care, or any other help.
He was one of eight newborns we
have cared for -- 18 children in all.
Some have been moved to place-
ments you could be happy about but
there have been more I have been
We believe he s with his
maternal grandmother but it was
probably just a front for him to
eventually end up in the care of the
uncle CYF had refused. This was
also hinted at by a social worker.
I kept a diary of his first few
months of life and I still hold this, in
case he should want to know more
about those six months with us.
We prepared so well and so much
for that day. The goodbye was brief
and curt, and as I held him for the
last time my heart was breaking.
My eldest daughter who had helped
care for him for those last six
months was devastated.
I ll always remember how she
cried, and his grandmother turning
on her -- What are you crying for?
He s not your baby.
Our grief is huge, we care-give
because we care . . . and yet CYF
tells us it s just a job and not to get
How strange, when anyone
knows that unless you care about
these children we may as well com-
mit them to a life of dysfunction,
drug abuse, promiscuity and crime.
We could almost send them off
with a warning sign to the public,
Back to their whanau, back to the
cycle of abuse .
All this foster family has is that
diary, the smiling photo, their mem-
ories and their misgivings.
Next week: ''CYF told us: Don't fall
in love with these children.''
Nolene Leech has just recently moved into her new two bedroom apartment at Selwyn Heights Village. Attracted by the great value of her new
home (just $460k including oven, dishdrawer, fridge, heat pump, washing machine, dryer and an undercover lock-up garage), Nolene was also
impressed by the cafe, spa, wellness centre and entertainment complex all on site. Moving out of her four bedroom home of 37 years was a big
step for Nolene, but the rewards far outweigh the upheaval. Nolene's new life is just about to begin. If you're ready to upsize your lifestyle, call us
on 0800 4 SELWYN (0800 473 5996) for a tour of Selwyn Heights Village, 42 Herd Rd, Hillsborough, or visit www.selwyncare.org.nz for details.
Selwyn Village is part of The Selwyn Foundation, a faith-based, not-for-profit charitable trust. All occupation licences for units at the village will be secured by a
first-ranking encumbrance over the village land in favour of the Statutory Supervisor.
Faith • Care • Independence • Wellness
Nolene Leech in her new two bedroom retirement apartment at Selwyn Heights Village
Moving from a four bedroom villa to a
two bedroom apartment at Selwyn Heights
year off to
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