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What Makes a Good Life? - Follow-up report

This is the follow-up report to 'What makes a good life? Children and young people’s views on wellbeing' which was published in February 2019. This report focuses on the views of children and young people in care.

Published on
28 Nov 2019
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Background

This report was a collaboration between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Voices of Children and Young People team at Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, supported by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The follow-up report shares the views of the small subset of children and young people in care who took part in the 'What makes a good life? Children and young people’s views on wellbeing' project. It describes what children and young people in care said it means to have a good life, as well as describing their current experiences of wellbeing. It also compares that to what we heard from children and young people who were not in care.

Read about the 'What makes a good life? Children and young people’s views on wellbeing' project

The views of children and young people in care were collected using a mixed methods approach. We engaged with 34 children and young people in focus groups and interviews, which were organised in partnership with seven Oranga Tamariki sites. An online survey was completed by a further 79 children and young people in care who were living in non-family care arrangements. In total, 113 children and young people in care shared their views.

The group of children and young people who took part in focus groups and interviews, as well as those who completed the survey, was not intended to be representative of all children and young people in care. In particular, survey responses are limited to children and young people in care who were living in non-family care arrangements, which excludes the approximately six in ten children and young people who are in care but living with family or whānau.

Nevertheless, the key findings suggest there are some areas of wellbeing where children and young people in care experience major challenges. For every element of wellbeing the survey asked about, children and young people in care fared worse than those not in care. The difference was statistically significant for 14 of the 17 elements. 

Key findings

There are four key findings from the focus groups and interviews involving children and young people in care:

  • I want support for my family and whānau.
  • Oranga Tamariki has the potential to make things better but may sometimes make things worse.
  • I want to feel loved and respected.
  • I want the basics.

 There is also a fifth finding from the online survey:

  •  Across a range of wellbeing indicators, children and young people in non-whānau care placements generally fare worse than their peers.

Overall, we learned what needs to happen if the wellbeing of children and young people in care is to be improved.

The importance of family and whānau

The biggest area of alignment between the views of those in care and the views of those who are not in care was the emphasis both groups placed on the importance of family and whānau. Both groups also agreed on the importance of having the basics.

Both groups mentioned things like feeling loved and respected, but this meant something slightly different for the children and young people in care we spoke with, for example, children and young people who were not in care focused on the importance of acceptance, while those we spoke with who were in care mentioned the importance of being treated like equals.

How to improve the wellbeing of children in care

The themes we heard from children and young people in care suggest that a number of things need to happen if their wellbeing is to be improved. These include:

  • Ensuring that the rights of all children and young people in care are upheld.
  • Recognising the challenges that children and young people in care face relative to other children and young people.
  • Improving children and young people’s experiences with Oranga Tamariki.
  • Ensuring that family and whānau are supported and are involved in the lives of children and young people in care.
  • Ensuring that the people caring for children and young people have the support they need to meet children and young people’s needs.
  • Providing opportunities for children and young people in care to share their views, in order to understand their aspirations and the challenges they face, including discrimination because of their care status.
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