There are about 6300 children currently in state care. This is the true story of two of those children, Gabriel and Jesse. It is based on the facts, as told to Stuff by staff at Oranga Tamariki. All names have been changed.
The children’s dad, Fred, has had custody of the children since their mother was found to be hitting one of them, as well as abusing drugs and alcohol. But Fred has problems of his own.
When they arrive in another new town, the family is living in a tent at a campground. Again, people are worried.
Oranga Tamariki was getting more and more concerned about Jesse and Gabriel. One of its social workers confronted Fred, for a third time.
More reports came in ...
Over a period of three years they moved 18 times
…and the reports kept coming in…
Oranga Tamariki's main concern was Fred would take off again. He had said he would kill anyone who tried to take the kids off him.
Gabriel and Jesse don’t know what’s happening. They’re driven a long way to a big building in the city, where they have a shower and eat some noodles.
Meanwhile, a social worker goes with the police to tell Fred what has happened.
This isn’t the end of Gabriel and Jesse’s story.
It’s really just the beginning.
By the age of eight, most children in foster care will have been moved an average of seven times. Some have had up to 60 placements.
Around one in ten kids in care will suffer further harm, from emotional distress to physical and sexual abuse.
The majority will leave school at around age 15, without NCEA Level 2. A third will have their first conviction by this time.
Gabriel and Jesse were two of 1915 ‘entries’ into state care in the year to June 2018. In the last five years, there have been almost 10,000 ‘entries’ - an average of more than five per day.
The total number of kids in state care has increased for three years in a row.
Is this what’s best for Jesse, Gabriel and the thousands of other kids like them? Can New Zealand do better by its most vulnerable children?
Michelle Duff investigates in the four stories below.
Jesse and Gabriel’s story has been told with pseudonyms and without reference to any specific locations to protect their identities.