Home for teens set to reopen

Child, Youth and Family is to reopen its big empty Green St house in Tahunanui as a home for teenagers.

It has called a meeting of neighbours on Wednesday to tell them about its plans.

CYF wants to open the home in February for adolescents under CYF care and protection.

They would not include youth offenders, said CYF operations manager for the upper South Island Chris Harvey.

The home closed in 2006 due to difficulties finding caregivers. It was rented by an Open Home Foundation foster family caring for eight children in 2009 and 2010 for several months while waiting to move into another home, and since then has been empty.

CYF is now advertising for live-in caregivers.

Mr Harvey said the home would be used for young people transitioning into independence. Some experienced life difficulties and needed help in figuring them out.

The home would house four or five young people, mostly aged 14 to 16. They would stay for up to a year.

While the home could take boys and girls, CYF needed to be aware of some evidence that having a mix was not in their best interests, he said.

The house has a history of problems.

In 2000, it was at the centre of complaints about a group of out-of-control young people. The youths were accused of vandalism, intimidation and attempted theft from neighbouring properties, with some people saying they were at their "wits end" over what to do.

The problems led to a meeting of representatives of Nelson City Council, Special Education Services, Department of Work and Income, CYF, police, Skill New Zealand, Whakatu Marae and a Nelson District Court judge to consider how to tackle the problem.

The home closed temporarily in mid-2002, reopening the next year when new carers were brought in to run it.

Mr Harvey acknowledged there had been recruitment difficulties and it had lost its impetus in opening but said it had now decided to "crack on". It was understandable that people might be a bit anxious and CYF would work with the neighbourhood and community to allay any concerns, he said.

CYF is looking to employ two live-in caregivers and weekend relievers.

The house has eight bedrooms, with five available for young people. He described it as one of the best CYF family homes in the country because its layout allowed young people to learn about living independently.

"One of the best things we can do for young people is help them get into a job," said Mr Harvey. "We will be working with Work and Income and others in Nelson to do everything we can to get these people into employment."

Ideally they would return home, but if that was not an option they would move into independent living.

The home was primarily a Nelson facility, and while some might be referred from Blenheim or Greymouth, CYF would not be bringing in people from other places, he said.

Nor would they be referred from Youth Justice care and the home's consent would not allow that, said Mr Harvey.

"We make it clear about why they are there; they have to be motivated about why they are there and put effort into their home plans and we provide caregivers' support. If we do those things the chance of these kids getting up to mischief is limited."

The Nelson Mail