Counties Manukau Children's Team making progress with vulnerable youngsters

Counties Manukau Children's Team lead professionals, from left, Michelle Spain and Cindy Maddix, and supervisor Dolly ...
Chris Harrowell

Counties Manukau Children's Team lead professionals, from left, Michelle Spain and Cindy Maddix, and supervisor Dolly Proffitt.

Some of South Auckland's most vulnerable children are now on a path to success.

The Counties Manukau Children's Team began helping at-risk youngsters in Manurewa, Clendon and Papakura earlier this year.

It's led by director Liz Thomas and is part of the Government's Children's Action Plan.

Counties Manukau Children's Team director Liz Thomas.
Chris Harrowell

Counties Manukau Children's Team director Liz Thomas.

The team is tasked with identifying and providing support to children at risk of significant harm but whose situation is below the threshold for state care.

Professionals from a range of sectors can phone into the action plan's Vulnerable Children's Hub to register concern about a young person.

A consultation is then held on the child and his or her family and a referral made to a panel of experts if they meet the criteria for further action.

Three of the people making a difference are Counties Manukau Children's Team lead professionals Cindy Maddix​ and Michelle Spain, and supervisor Dolly Proffitt​.

Maddix says she and her colleagues visit weekly with the children they're working with and on occasion observe them at school.

There's no such thing as a "typical" Children's Team family, she says.

"Relationship building is important as a lot of these families have been through the system and are hard to engage with.

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"We work to get them on board so they know at the end of the process there will be something better for them and their children."

Spain says an initial assessment determines what's working well in the child's family so its strengths can be developed.

The lead professional observes the family and asks questions of the child and their parent or caregiver, she says.

"We look at their resources, financing, and relationships including with extended family."

Proffitt says the child's parents have to consent to take part and are involved with the process "right from the start".

Some of the families are isolated and the child's parents have often had trauma in their lives, Spain says.

"A lot of them will present with a lack of parenting skills.

"There is a lot of mental health [issues], drugs and alcohol, and poverty."

Spain says the process is about getting the family to the point where it can be "autonomous" and access the services it needs so the experts can start stepping back.

Maddix says she believes the team is making progress.

"I think it's the way of the future and it's going to be a much better outcome for these children and parents.

"If we can help one child it's going to be a success."

MAKING PROGRESS

The Counties Manukau Children's Team has so far received referrals on 230 children, of which it accepted 188.

More than 2261 children have been accepted by the 10 teams established around New Zealand.

They're working with almost 1500 vulnerable children.

Of the children referred nationwide, almost 58 per cent are Maori, about 31 per cent are European and 5 per cent Pasifika.

The team's strategic plan states the organisation will always put children first, streamline process to ensure its action is timely, be innovative and proactive and consider the needs of children and their families first.

Go to childrensactionplan.govt.nz for more information.

 - Stuff

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