Tupua Urlich works at VOYCE — Whakarongo Mai and is leading a campaign for elected representatives to commit to 6 promises for the 6,000 young people in state care.
As a child in the state care system, for most of my childhood, I was disconnected from any sense of identity. As I got older it was whakapapa, knowing where I’m from, and tikanga Māori that grounded me.
I moved homes a lot, without anyone asking how I was, or if I was happy where I was, or what I needed. I attended nine schools in 12 years and lived in more towns than I could count.
After a lifetime of transience in the state foster care system, I felt alone. I felt forgotten. The state had responsibility for me, but there was no care.
Then I was lucky. When I was 11 I met someone who recognised how lost I was and knew I needed help. They called me by my real name, Tupua. It was just a small thing, but that small step led me to gain a sense of belonging, and explore my sense of identity, no matter where I was.
When you look at the rangatahi in the state care system they are sometimes moving three or four times a year. Each time social workers working in the system move a child or young person to a new place they have to move school, start new relationships. Teachers and caregivers often have low expectations of children in care too, which creates another barrier to learning, growing, and fitting in.
Many get trapped in a maze without a sense of direction to navigate their way out. Many get lost and find it hard to trust adults.
Many of the young people who are homeless today were once in state care. Many of the people in prison were once in state care. This is a failure of our responsibility to care for these young people.
- I promise New Zealand will honour its duty of parental care to you and provide for you
- I promise to prioritise stability for you throughout your life
- I promise you will be given the support and means to participate and pursue your education goals and aspirations
- I promise that you will have timely access to the health services you need.
- I promise to ensure you have a say in all the decisions made about you while in care
- I promise to support you to develop your identity, know your whakapapa, and grow your sense of self.
These are things that some people take for granted and assume every child in New Zealand has, but this isn’t always the reality.
I was fortunate in my journey out of state care. I’m now part of VOYCE — Whakarongo Mai, a group led by young people with care experience.
We exist to amplify the voices of tamariki and rangatahi in care and ensure they are at the centre of all conversations and decisions being made about them.
We worked with care-experienced young people to come up with the 6 promises for 6,000 campaign — because we believe these six simple asks will guarantee their welfare and give them a foundation to thrive in their lives, no matter their past.
These are the promises we would want to make to every child. Children in care deserve nothing less.
We would like everyone to sign. But for a start we are aiming for 6,000 signatures, one for each child. With your support, we’ll be able to show children and young people in state care that they each have at least one person in Aotearoa standing beside them.
With your help, we’ll ask each of our elected representatives to commit to these six promises and ensure they are fulfilled.
By adding your name to this campaign, you’ll strengthen our ability to amplify the voices of children and young people in care and help us get a commitment from MPs to these six promises.
Mātanga Hunga Atawhai / Care Experienced Consultant at VOYCE — Whakarongo Mai
P.S. Watch Mana Williams-Eade and I speak to Jenny-May Clarkson about the campaign on the Breakfast show: Giving a voice to our tamariki in state care. Then add your name to support the 6 promises for 6,000.