Punanga Tauturu’s coordinator Rebeka Buchanan made these comments on New Zealand’s Organga Tamariki ministry’s concept of uplifting children from their irresponsible parents. Earlier, in May this year a documentary showed how a new born was removed from her mother at Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.
Asked about the applicability of this concept in the Cook Islands, Buchanan said: “We should never just take the children from its immediate family that includes extended family members first.”
She said: “My understanding in New Zealand is that the children are being removed and placed in foster care for other than family members to look after them. Family have no say, both parents have no say, just because, one of them is the abuser. They are both judged criminals.”
Buchanan said in most cases, police is being used to remove the child.
“That’s not what I'm hearing the mothers are saying on TV. The couples in some instances have not been given an opportunity to show they are trying to change, with family support, that change is not even taken into consideration either.”
As a counsellor, she said reasons for taking a child should fall into different categories such as domestic violence, and abuse including sexual abuse, alcohol and substance abuse over a period of time. On first time offence, the children are brought under the wings of the government agency where implementation and monitoring plans are put into place, she added.
“Any abuse as above, should never be tolerated and children cannot be allowed to remain in such home environment.”
Buchanan explained that a plan must be setup by relevant authorities to work with families of children who are affected.
“The checks and balances are done here. Recommendation by members of the family to whom the children should be living with, they are checked to see they are responsible people.
“The planning stage is my preference for the Cook Islands. We are still working in collaboration with government agencies before other permanent solutions is put in place.”
She said positive parenting and counselling were part of the programme that parents ought to be undergoing if they have an abusive relationship.
Buchanan also said the child will be affected when separation is involved.
“By not knowing who their family are, or who their parents are brings much sadness and anger to them. There are a lot of emotions involved for all, that’s why we need to implement long term strategy, and not quick decisions or quick fixes, because of our own situations and emotions.
“We have to be careful about that. Decisions must be based on the child’s situation alone, and what’s best for child, short term and long term must be in the planning stage.
“Diversity must be considered, what works for one culture is not necessary okay for Pacific Islanders and the Maori families. But end of the day, violence must stop, or else, your children would be better off living with another family, no matter who they are.”