A girl was left behind, forgotten and alone, when social workers left their Takapuna office one night recently, according to a social worker.
The Auckland social worker said the 14-year-old girl was found after-hours in the Ministry for Vulnerable Children office last week by the cleaners, who then called the national contact centre. She did not know the boy’s age.
She said forgetting a child like that was unusual, but children often sat in ministry offices all day while social workers struggled to find a place for them to stay.
“It wouldn’t be unusual for children or young people to be waiting in the office all day because there’s no placement for them or a placement has been arranged but it’s not ready.”
She said looking for a placement could be difficult “you’ve been looking all day, you’ve been ringing all day, you’ve been negotiating with a regional office”.
The social worker contacted RNZ following a report about two girls who complained of being raped by teenage boys while in the ministry’s custody and living at a State-run family home in Upper Hutt.
The police have an open investigation into one of the reported rapes.
A boy who lived at the Upper Hutt home for several months told his mother the children were often out in the next-door park after dark where “anything could happen”.
The ministry said the Upper Hutt home was being run as girls-only at the time and supervision included security guards and a social worker overnight.
It said it prepared “a safety plan for each child or young person” in a family home.
The social worker said the lack of monitoring was a normal occurrence.
“Not ‘no’ supervision but if there’s just caregiver there or a caregiver couple and there’s more than three or four children then it’s very difficult to control them,” she said.
“I can’t imagine what a safety plan in a family home would say.”
She said family homes in Auckland were often empty as the ministry was unable to find caregivers to run them as they were so poorly recompensed.
Nothing had changed since Child Youth and Family was renamed to the Ministry for Vulnerable Children/Oranga Tamariki in April, she said, with social workers still typically looking after 20-30 families, instead of the recommended 15. NZN