On being government property

This is taken from Nicola Atwool’s journal article, Life Story Work: Optional Extra or Fundamental Entitlement? [2017]. It is a quote from a child in foster [looked after] care and reads in full in answer to the question, What does being a foster child mean? Being government property for people to do what they liked with.

Atwool writes from a NZ perspective, in a system where adoption is not favoured and, though, foster parents may eventually have custody of a child, birth parents retain guardianship. [This differs from the model now in place in Australia where carers can make an application to the court to be assessed and then approved as guardians.]

What of life story work? As elsewhere the story is mixed in NZ, which does not have the UK practice that life story has to be done for all children placed in or about to move to adoption. Atwool concedes this is unlikely to happen in NZ [or for that matter Australia] unless ‘…the systemic barriers to direct engagement with children and young people in care are addressed’ [p.73].

Noting that ‘…even in short-term placements, carers spend more time with children than anyone else’ [p.72], Atwool is right to that every child has the right to know their story and ‘the current haphazard approach in Aotearoa New Zealand does not guarantee this and is a significant contributor to poor outcomes’ [p.72].

Ditto that Australia.

Reference: Atwool, N. [2017]. Life Story Work: Optional Extra or Fundamental Entitlement? Child Care in Practice, 23[1], 65-76

Author: john pitt


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