Ministry for Vulnerable Children name 'stigmatising and labelling'
Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft is calling for Kiwis to suggest a name to replace the proposed "Ministry for Vulnerable Children".
OPINION: The name of any organisation is important. It reveals underlying assumptions, goals and philosophies.
That is why a recently proposed name for the replacement organisation for Child, Youth and Family is unfortunate. The suggested "Ministry for Vulnerable Children" is stigmatising and labelling.
It is depressing, even crushing. It focuses on the problem not the solution. We do not call the Ministry of Health the "Ministry of Sick People". And imagine the reaction to a door knock from a badged Vulnerable Children's worker. Few in the NGO sector or the community seem happy with the idea.
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Surely, we need a name that is hopeful, visionary and positive. In the jargon of the day, an "aspirational" and not a "deficit" name.
As Children's Commissioner, my clear reservations to this name are well known. But I also want to be constructive and collaborative. So should all of us, given the whole country's stake in ensuring the best possible replacement for CYF and better outcomes for our children.
My suggestion is that, as a country, we try to find a better name for the new agency. We should all have a voice, as this type of decision deserves wide input and discussion. I invite you to have your say. I encourage children and young people to contribute because we know from our experience that you will have unique and clever ideas.
To get you thinking, how about the "Ministry for Children's Futures", or the "Ministry of Child and Youth Wellbeing", or "Awhi Rito", as examples?
It is worth remembering that any name should be inclusive of some who may remain in state care or support until the age of 21 or even 25. And, the name will need to have a readily translatable Maori equivalent. After all, at least 65 per cent of those in state care or the youth justice system are Maori, and Te Reo is an official language of Aotearoa New Zealand.
In one sense, how well the new organisation does will stand or fall on its ability to collaborate with the Maori community (Iwi, Hapu and Urban Maori Authorities) in its responses.
But a name is only the start. While we need to get it right, much more important will be the substance of the new model and its operational mechanics. You can be sure that my Office will be working closely with the team creating the new Ministry to provide constructive feedback and regular independent comment throughout the process.
Not all that work will be in the public domain or is something I can discuss through the media.
Choosing a name that we can all get behind is a good first step.
* Do you have a better name for the new department? Comment below with your suggestion.
REPLY FROM THE MINISTER:
Acting Social Development Minister Hekia Parata said in a statement last Wednesday:
"Any decisions on a new name have yet to go through the full Cabinet process. However the Minister has made it clear that it is the new system and how it operates which will make a difference for vulnerable children, not what the system is called."