Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sharing information and sharing information

This put a smile on my face.

Some WINZ staff have been sacked for selling client information to debt collectors.

The official response from WINZ goes:

''Work and Income has zero tolerance for staff who breach the privacy of clients. Our Integrity Unit regularly conducts random checks of our systems, to detect such breaches.''

Properly righteous and indignant.

But WINZ is also seeking to share as much client information with other government departments as possible under the Privacy (Information Sharing) Bill. As long as the sharing is kept amongst state agencies it is OK.

No, it is not acceptable for staff to sell information to private agencies. But shouldn't there be provision for those agencies to access information on people who have run up debts or committed fraud? Afterall it's alright for the IRD to do it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

UK embraces adoption

New Zealand isn't alone with its seemingly high level of child abuse and neglect. (I say seemingly because we cannot objectively know what the levels were in earlier times when families - particularly rural families - came under far less scrutiny). Many English-speaking countries struggle with the same problem , including the UK.

I blogged earlier about CYF's attitude to adoption and the resulting very low rate of adoption. I believe this is a bad thing. Yes, adoption can have its drawbacks but it is clearly preferable in some situations. Those situations outnumber the current rate of adoptions.

So it is encouraging to see the UK moving to free up the process of adoption. This is from the Children's Minister, Tim Loughton:

The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective. Dedicated social workers are spending too long filling out forms instead of making sound, common-sense judgements about someone's suitability to adopt. Children are waiting too long because we are losing many potentially suitable adoptive parents to a system which doesn't welcome them and often turns them away at the door.

I am determined to change this. I have this week set up a new expert group to look at radical reform of the assessment process. I want it to be quicker and more effective at approving adoptive parents and matching them with children. We cannot afford to sit back and lose potential adoptive parents when there are children who could benefit hugely from the loving home they can provide.

In October the UK had a National Adoption month and they are running this campaign, Give a Child a Home. And the government is also publishing performance tables to show the progress of local authorities in achieving better results in placement and adoption.

I note too that Coro St is running a story on two couples wanting to adopt. When aspects of social life change they are reflected in the story lines. These fictional stories are very powerful in getting ideas into the public consciousness.

So the unfashionableness (new word) of adoption has gone in the UK.

Hopefully it will go from New Zealand as well.Link

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CYF ethos must change

Well done to the government for releasing the Smith Report into the abuse of Baby M. The praise stops there.

CYF was involved with the child, born in 2000, from the outset.

The most striking thing revealed and not covered in the media (yet) is the baby spent almost four years, early years, with a non-whanau caregiver who provided, by all accounts good quality care. This was the most "stable" period of the child's life. The caregiver wanted to take the child to Australia but the mother opposed this move. Counsel for the child wanted the child to remain with the caregiver. CYF "professionals", bless them, thought that the child should be with whanau for "cultural and identity" purposes.

The report is heavily critical of CYF. Its relationship with medical professionals (distrustful) and schools (poor communication). There is too much haste in placing children back with family or whanau members, who are not thoroughly "investigated" or "supervised" after a placement. Mel Smith believes that the "pendulum" has swung too far into the corner of the family instead of the child, and adult interests override those of children.

Of course children as meal-tickets - my constant refrain - isn't mentioned but falls under that very theme. And the mother was most surely on welfare throughout. After baby M she had three more. There is mention at one point that when the mother had illegally uplifted a sibling from care CYF filed a missing persons report with the police. Her benefit was suspended so she came forward. Of course she would. Children aren't much value when they don't elicit money from the system.

I would urge you to read the report to get an idea of how bureaucratic the child protection system is; the extent of agency involvement and the manipulation of those agencies by people who play the game. Their income relies on it. The mother is reported as gambling the money, living in filth leading to children with sores and infections. The mother evaded inspections of her children's bedrooms by claiming they were "tapu". The baby M became highly dysfunctional herself as an older child, reported to have poisoned the family food and put dishwasher liquid in a babies bottle. She also made false claims of sexual assault against a male caregiver (Don't you tire of this ridiculous misnomer - caregiver?)

But let's return to the beginning. She should never have been returned to the mother who had herself been involved with CYF from her teenage years. CYF ethos and practice needs to come under heavy scrutiny.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Looking at NEET youth in NZ

The following graphs are from a report released last week by Statistics NZ.

NEET stands for Not in Employment, Education or Training. Youths are classified as 15-24 years of age.

First, the rate is dropping.

Second, NZ is just above the OECD average.

Third, and this is the most interesting graph to me, there is a sizeable chunk of female NEETs that are not in education, employment or training but involved in caregiving. This is due to NZ's high teenage birthrate and the associated availability of benefits. Go back up and note that countries with much lower rates of teenage birth and social assistance have much lower NEET rates.

This aspect of the NEET rate is rarely canvassed. The arguments tend to focus on the failure of schools, lack of employment and youth pay rates (all of which I accept can also be associated with teenage births).

Finally the report notes that Maori have the highest NEET rates, Asians the lowest. Again the correlation between female youth fertility rate and NEET rate is consistent. As a Counties Manakau (DHB) points out:

Asian women had the lowest fertility rates for teenage women aged 15-19 years in Counties Manukau between 1999 and 2003. The Asian fertility rate in Counties Manukau was higher than for all NZ Asians.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Six today

Whoa. That nearly passed me by. My blog is six years old today. Which reminds me about Kiwi accents. Please say SIX. Because saying SEX SUX. My blog is not SEX today. It is SIX.

S I X :-)

"Why Obama’s ‘new math’ is a jobs killer"

Here's an editorial from the Washington Times. It's about Obama's claim to have created 3 million jobs but it could be about any politician making similar assertions. Governments claiming to have created jobs certainly has a familiar ring to it. Twinned with those claims are the press releases heralding so many people leaving a benefit but failing to tell us how many people went onto one.

WAYNE ROOT: Why Obama’s ‘new math’ is a jobs killer

President Obama’s math skills leave something to be desired. As a matter of fact, based on Mr. Obama’s recent interview on “60 Minutes,” the president deserves a grade of F in math. When confronted by the reporter with the reality that his economic stimulus package failed, he decided to lie to the American people. He said his stimulus had indeed worked just fine. As a matter of fact, according to Mr. Obama, it created 3 million jobs.

Let’s ignore the fact that this is a lie that would make Pinocchio blush. Let’s ignore the fact that Mr. Obama’s job-creation experience before he took residence in the White House wouldn’t qualify him to run a bodega. Let’s ignore the fact that “I created 3 million jobs” is the new version of the famous presidential lie “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Let’s actually give the president the benefit of the doubt.

First, we know that since Mr. Obama’s stimulus started, America has lost about 2 million jobs. So for Mr. Obama to tell the “technical” truth, it must be accurate that 3 million new jobs were created while 5 million jobs were lost, for a net loss of 2 million jobs. Technically, Mr. Obama could be telling the truth - the kind of truth only told by lawyers. Interestingly, he mentioned the 3 million jobs created but failed to mention the 5 million lost. I guess that, like former Democratic President Bill Clinton, this president (also a lawyer) isn’t quite sure of the meaning of the word “is.”

Second, this awful math sounds remarkably similar to the math of leftist environmentalist politicians in Spain. Millions of “green jobs” have been created in Spain, the environmentalists claim. Yet unemployment in Spain is above 20 percent. A recent study unearthed the reason for this disparity. It proved that for every green job created, three regular jobs in the traditional economy were lost. You gotta love the “new math” devised by Kool-Aid-drinking liberals the world over, huh?

Third, let’s assume Mr. Obama is 100 percent correct in his belief that his masterful economic plan created 3 million jobs. We know that his stimulus package spent about $750 billion of taxpayer money. Let’s do the simple math. Three million jobs divided into $750 billion equals a cost of about $250,000 per job. While Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal, Mr. Obama has created a really Bad Deal. Spending $250,000 per job is the worst deal in taxpayer history. And that’s only if you believe 3 million jobs were actually created. They weren’t.

Here are some more common-sense questions. Wouldn’t Mr. Obama have been better off directly handing out $100,000 cash to 7.5 million Americans? That adds up to the same $750 billion. How about $50,000 cash handed directly to 15 million Americans? Or $25,000 cash handed directly to 30 million Americans? Or how about handing out $10,000 each to 75 million Americans? Wouldn’t handing out checks directly to American families have pumped up the economy far faster and far more efficiently than a $750 billion stimulus?

One thing is for sure: We couldn’t have done worse.

Or better yet, how about if Mr. Obama had never spent the $750 billion in the first place but instead had paid down our $1.5 trillion deficit and $100 trillion national debt (including unfunded liabilities). Wouldn’t that have been a wonderful Christmas gift for our children and grandchildren?

Instead, we wasted $750 billion on nothing - and added almost $1 trillion in debt to the tab for future generations. And as a “reward” for all that waste, we lost almost 2 million jobs.

No wonder our public education system is such a mess. No wonder our children are failing so badly. This new math that Mr. Obama practices is a killer - a jobs killer.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Public versus private facilitation of adoption

One aspect of NZ life, adoption, has changed a lot in fifty years. There are far fewer of them and they are now 'open' - the adopted child is aware of their birth parents who often remain in contact with the child. But NZ differs from some other jurisdictions in that - apart from whangai (Maori adoption) - the state monopolises the process. CYF has jurisdiction over adoption and tends to work against the prospects of it occurring. For instance they advise young women to go on a benefit and they make the child stay with the mother for a minimum of ten days after the birth - an enforced 'cooling off ' period. I think that is a cruel requirement on all parties. There is a group of women who are actively pro-adoption, have each experienced adopting out a baby and have an interesting website here.

It's a subject I want to learn more about in respect of those other jurisdictions, particularly the US, so accepted the following guest column from Elaine Hirsch. I will accept columns that are obviously leveraging for other pruposes if I think they offer new and sound information on a subject that interests me and hopefully readers.

Public versus private facilitation of adoption

The adoption process remains one of the most mind-numbing aspects of would-be parents. Adoptive parents must first choose between foreign or domestic adoption and then decide between state agencies, charitable organizations or private adoptions. Costs vary tremendously and so do the areas from where children are available. To decide whether utilizing a public agency such as a state organization, going through an overseas organization or arranging a private adoption through a lawyer, adoptive parents must understand the benefits and risks of each.

International adoptions were for many years one of the fastest routes to adoptive parenthood, with children of various genders and ethnicities up for adoption. Unfortunately, foreign adoptions have decreased in recent years,
dropping to just over 11,000 in 2010 compared to nearly 23,000 in 2004. This decrease is worrying masters degree candidates in demographic studies as it marks inefficiencies in the adoption market. Increases in the cost of foreign adoption, uncertainty about adoptions in countries once well-known for foreign adoptions, such as Guatemala, and bad press, such as the case of the American family that returned a 7-year-old Russian boy back to Russia, have adversely impacted foreign adoptions.

Both private and state-run orphanage adoptions are possible in some foreign countries. Going through a well-established charity such as Holt International is the safest way to pursue a foreign adoption. Using a private lawyer in a foreign country to facilitate adoption can increase the risk of not ending up with a child and losing large sums of money to unscrupulous foreign lawyers. Some adoptive parents prefer pursuing a foreign adoption because of the distance it creates between the natural parents and the child, which decreases the risk of the parents reclaiming the child at a later date.

Domestic adoptions run the gamut from private adoption of a newborn through adoption lawyers to adoption of older children through the state foster care system. Although 491,000 children were in the foster care system in the United States in 2007,
not all were available for adoption. Many of those available for adoption were older children or those of minority race. While transracial adoptions do take place, most caseworkers prefer to place children with parents of the own race, when possible.

Private adoptions have the advantage of allowing the adoption of a newborn, something no foreign adoption and few public adoption agencies can provide, due to the amount of red tape that must unravel before a child be adopted through these agencies. The disadvantage is the higher cost of private adoption through a lawyer. Well-publicized court cases where natural parents have later petitioned for the return of their child and won the case may also give some adoptive parents pause.

Adopting through state organizations is usually inexpensive. In some cases, adoptive parents receive subsidies to adopt hard-to-place children. The disadvantages to this type of adoption is that many of the children available come from traumatic backgrounds and are older, making them more difficult to parent, especially for inexperienced parents.

Adoptive parents must weigh the pluses and minuses of each type of adoption, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses. Privatized adoption systems certainly have their advantages; efficiently-ran facilities and streamlined systems provide for better adoption experiences. Regardless, publicly-run adoption centers still provide value through facilitating a huge amount of adoptions every year.