Child and youth voice research findings

A Hard Place To Be Happy - Insights Report

Author: Office of the Children's Commissioner

This report shares insights from 52 children and young people who were living in secure care and protection residences, run by Oranga Tamariki and Barnardos, between August 2017 and September 2018. It describes those insights and includes quotes from children and young people.

The report is not a systematic or comprehensive analysis of children and young people’s experiences of residences.

The Children's Commissioner heard from children and young people across Aotearoa New Zealand about their experiences in secure care and protection residences. They shared what it was like to spend time in the residences and how their experiences affected them. This report is a snapshot of insights from 52 children and young people.

Five key themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews. These themes do not quantify how many individual children and young people had any particular experience. Instead, they provide valuable insights into children and young people’s experiences of the residence, and how the wider system impacted them. The themes are summarised here then followed with further details and the voices of the children and young people.

1. Being in a secure residence is hard#

Children and young people experience an institutional environment in residences. They talked about the physical conditions, the lack of freedom, independence and choice, and how they coped. They spoke about the difficulties of being confined in close contact with children and young people of a range of ages with different needs.

2. This place doesn’t always work for me#

Children and young people shared insights about the realities of living in a secure residence and how it impacts on them. They talked about the day-to-day practices, including rights, restraints, grievances (complaints) and behaviour management.

3. People who work with me can help#

Children and young people talked about the staff who care for them and provide activities and other services. They spoke about what they liked and didn’t like about the way they were treated.

4. Contact with my family and friends is important#

Children and young people had varying experiences of contact with their families. They shared their need to see and talk to their family and friends, and the difficulty of maintaining contact with them while in residence.

5. My culture matters#

The report included comments from children and young people who wanted opportunities to participate in more cultural activities. It also included insights from children and young people who identified as Māori, enjoyed opportunities to engage with te ao Māori and wanted more.

Read the full report here

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