At-risk teens in need of carers

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 18/02/2013

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No home-based carers are available for at-risk young people in the Nelson region, despite a recruitment campaign.

Tasman couple Cathy and Gordon Douglas were the only people available in the region to care for difficult young adults who had been through the youth justice system. But they left in December last year, and Child, Youth and Family has been unable to find any replacements.

Upper South youth justice manager Sally Mottram said CYF had plenty of carers, but most focused on children rather than adolescents.

"We do have carers, but we do not have a pool of skilled and specifically talented caregivers trained to work with our most difficult young people," she said. "The majority [of carers] want to have little ones rather than the bigger ones."

At the end of January there were 95 approved caregivers in Nelson, of which 34 were family members and 61 were foster or adoptive carers.

The latest figures show that Nelson CYF is caring for 36 adolescents aged 12 to 17. It currently relies on local contractors Open Homes and Care Solutions to look after young people that established carers cannot handle.

Ms Mottram said bringing in a third party made it hard to provide the kind of support CYF preferred to offer both young people and caregivers.

The organisation ran a six-week campaign last September and October, seeking more youth carers, but so far nobody suitable has come forward.

Of the 15 people who showed interest, only eight were keen to follow through with the induction process.

Ms Mottram said none of the eight looked like they would become carers, saying the chances that they would specialise in youth justice cases were very low.

"The training teases out some of the issues around what the reality is like," she said.

"People have lots of good intentions, but they don't necessarily think this is 24 hours - they think it'll be a few hours here and there."

Ms Mottram said having two to four caregivers willing to take on young people who had been through the youth justice system would let CYF make better matches between adolescents and their carers.

"We're looking for pretty special people," she said.

"We're looking for people who are there for the right reasons, who believe young people can change, and who want to make a difference."

Whakatu Marae chief executive

Trevor Wilson said potential carers had to realise that youth work was "the whole deal".

"What we're asking them to do is be parents . . . there's no magic formula."

The marae dealt with 107 young people referred from CYF last year, more than 90 per cent of whom were boys, he said. Marae staff provided support and activities for them.

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Mr Wilson said nearly all of those who passed through the youth offenders programme had problems that were rooted in poor parenting. Having a child go through the courts was stressful for any family.

Nelson Bays Youth Services Sergeant Karl Parfitt said police and groups like the marae tried hard to keep young people out of the courts, so offences that tipped them into the justice system were always serious.

The kind of behaviour that would result in prison time for an adult was what sent young people through the Youth Court and into CYF care, such as serious assaults, multiple burglaries, arsons, sexual offences or a combination of these, he said.

WANT TO HELP?

People interested in looking after young people for CYF can contact: Care supervisor Heather Couper, heather.couper002 @cyf.govt.nz or ph 989 4202. Youth justice social worker Hannah Soper, Hannah.soper001@cyf.govt.nz or ph 989 4256. Carers who meet Child, Youth and Family's support criteria will be offered full training and support.

Those looking after young people aged 14 and over are paid a fortnightly allowance of $398.86 to cover board, personal items and pocket money, while caregivers for children aged 10-14 receive $364.84. 

- Nelson

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