What’s in a name? It’s just the beginning

stuff nation


Fairfax NZ

The frontrunner name for the CYF replacement agency, Ministry for Vulnerable Children, has caused controversy. What would you call it?

OPINION: Isn’t it encouraging and reassuring that so many New Zealanders want to be involved in choosing the name for the agency to replace CYFs?

Everyone has a view. Clearly the public wants the new agency to get off to the best possible start. And the new name will send a powerful signal.

Of course, the decision is entirely and properly for the Cabinet. But, thanks to the Fairfax poll, the Cabinet is not stuck for choices. It is surely healthy for the Cabinet to know the public’s views.

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While there is no unanimity about the exact name there are some front runners emerging from the poll: Ministry for Children (26%), Ministry for Child Welfare (19%), Ministry of Family/Whanau (15%) and Awhi Rito Ministry for Children and Youth (14%).

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All that is clear is that there is negligible support for the suggested Ministry for Vulnerable Children (1%).

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft favours a "more hopeful and positive" name than 'Ministry for Vulnerable Children'.


Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft favours a “more hopeful and positive” name than ‘Ministry for Vulnerable Children’.

Even though the target of the new agency will necessarily be our most vulnerable children and young people, everyone wants a hopeful, visionary name which sets our sights high.

As with any new beginning if the dream is narrow the danger is that the practice, operation and end result will be also. In that way the name is suggestive of the dream – it helps us think big.

Fairfax will ensure the results of the poll are passed onto the Cabinet. So will I.

Whatever the name chosen, we need to remember this is no simple (and expensive) re-branding exercise.

I understand the community’s scepticism on this point. CYFs have undergone myriad changes in the last 15 years yet nothing seems to have changed. Will there be any difference this time?

Minister Anne Tolley has initiated a radical overhaul of Child, Youth and Family.

She’s been brave in “calling out” an organisation that is not consistently putting children at the centre and taking bold steps to reform it. 

As New Zealanders who care about our children and young people we need to support that transformation. Let’s be optimistic about the opportunities it brings.

It’s the best chance we’ve had in generations to make Aotearoa what it should be: a place where children can thrive and are protected from violence and harm and assisted to stop criminal offending.

The Government is obviously committed to creating a whole new agency with a fresh model that is more targeted in its interventions, with a multi-agency investment approach, using community resources and ensuring meaningful change, especially for Maori children.

The government is adamant that the old name, with all its baggage, will have to go.

Sort of symbolic of a new start.

Of course the real issue is what will be the substance of what delivered – and it would be a pity if the name debate blurred the real challenge that awaits: to create a new and world leading prevention and intervention system of which we can all be proud.

As Children’s Commissioner I will be working collaboratively with the transformation team to help guide its work. While I’ve made my concerns about the name of the agency very public (because a suggested name was made public and therefore I thought it was a constructive opportunity to hear the public response before a final decision) – most of my work on this project will be behind the scenes and confidential.

But be assured my team and I are committed to making sure the new agency sticks to its vision – to put children at the centre. I’m hoping that the Cabinet will stop to think about the message the name sends.

We have an opportunity to start strongly – with a name that empowers not labels or stigmatises.

Our children and young people – some of whom will remain in state care and support to the age of 21 – deserve no less.

 – Stuff

First published at: August 6, 2016 at 10:48AM.
Syndicated from: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/82895107/Whats-in-a-name-Its-just-the-beginning