Anti-smacking worries push foster parents out
By Simon Collins
A South Auckland foster care group says a quarter of its foster parents have quit because of the "anti-smacking" law passed last year.
South Auckland Caregivers Association chairwoman Allysa Carberry said the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, which allowed caregivers to use reasonable force to "correct" children, had made a chronic shortage worse.
"A quarter of our members have left because of section 59. I could rattle off about 10 in South Auckland. I know of many, many caregivers who have been longstanding caregivers but won't do caregiving any more. It's too dangerous.
"These kids are really hard. They just don't care who they hurt, and you need really special people to take them on. If you have a kid that is yelling and screaming at you, what are you supposed to do?"
Child, Youth and Family Services has faced mounting problems finding foster parents in recent years, as the number of children in care has grown by 18 per cent in the past five years to 5049, while the number of single-income families with one parent available at home for caregiving has shrunk.
However, other foster care groups said the smacking law was not a factor for their members.
Both Carolyn Hill, who chairs the national Family and Foster Care Federation, and Foster Care Auckland chairman Byron Perkins said they had not heard of any caregiver leaving because of the law change.
"People are leaving because they are dissatisfied with CYFS," Mr Perkins said. "It comes down to the whole area of professionalism and payments because both couples have to go to work to earn the money to pay the mortgage."
A CYFS survey published in November found that 71 per cent of its mainly-female primary caregivers now work outside the home - 20 per cent fulltime and 51 per cent part-time. Although 80 per cent of its mainly-male secondary caregivers have paid work, most are low-paid. Only 46 per cent earn more than $35,000 a year.
Three-quarters said the foster care allowance of $124 to $174 a week per child depending on the child's age did not cover all their costs such as transporting the children to school and other activities.
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren convener Di Vivian said many grandparents were "frightened" by the new law, but she did not know of any who had given up caring for their grandchildren because of it.
A CYFS spokeswoman said the repeal of section 59 made no difference to the service's long-standing policy against any "physical discipline".
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