HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

Creating positive support networks for youth
The Child and Family Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Intaff) have been busy with the work of keeping our youth off the streets and engaged in education. According to the Secretary of Intaff, Bredina Drollet, much of the recent success of the division has been a result of the work of Division Manager and Senior Officer for the division, Edward Browne.
Since approximately October of 2011, Browne has been working to pull together various stakeholders within the community to form a network to address the issue of youth who drop out of school, to prevent them from falling between the cracks. These stakeholders include members of the Cook Islands Police Department (CIPD), alternative education programme Rakei Toa and school counselors.
Browne began by calling a meeting with Secretary of Education, Sharyn Paio, and inviting the various stakeholders. “The main reason is that we want the school to refer these cases – [such as] children who have been abused or neglected, or [cases of] truancy. Instead of being expelled or withdrawn from school, to refer them to us so that we can go and see the family. Rather than leaving them on the street.” Browne says that youth who are not helped back into some sort of education programme can end up committing crimes and getting into trouble with the law.
Browne added that the schools still go through their own internal procedures first when dealing with youth issues of truancy, behavioural or learning difficulties, engaging in illegal activity, physical or sexual abuse and neglect, but the Child and Family Division is available to take over the cases where no progress is made on the situation. “We can meet with the family, in a family group conference. If we decide there is a need for counseling, we do counseling… Sometimes children don’t want to go back to school, so we find a way to motivate them. We get the school counselors to get involved to provide some more counseling.”
This cross-agency network meets monthly to continue to find new ways of helping the youth and Browne says that when families cooperate with those trying to help it is easier to make a difference. He also mentioned Nukutere College principal, Donna Nahu, who has assisted the division in placing some children who have had problems at other schools within Nukutere college, as well as sponsoring uniforms for those students where necessary. Both Browne and Drollet commented that Intaff have received very positive feedback from the public on this referral system, indeed proving Browne has made a great start on this very promising programme. -Ngariki Ngatae

Herald Issue 608 21 March
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- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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