The plight of children and young people in foster care has become an area of increasing concern for Trustees and staff of The Tindall Foundation (TTF). Aware that these children are among the most disadvantaged in our society, and face poor life outcomes, we committed to addressing the problem.
In early 2015 TTF convened a workshop to discuss possible solutions. It brought together care-experienced young people, care providers, foster carers, a social worker, a judge, academics and three funders to share ideas to ensure that children in care have loving, safe and stable homes and a chance for a bright future.
Young people told us, “The most critical thing you can do is ensure we have a voice, are part of decisions made about us and can influence change in the care system.” With that in mind, we joined the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation, Todd Foundation and Foundation North to commission Tracie Shipton (CEO of the Dingwall Trust) to develop a business case for a new advocacy and connection service for young people in care.
That business case led the Expert Advisory Panel reviewing Child Youth and Family in 2016 to recommend that the government establish an independent advocacy service for young people in care. Uniquely, the four funders, young people, government and care providers have worked collaboratively to co-design and deliver that new service.
After a massive team effort, VOYCE Whakarongo Mai was launched in April 2017. Core funded by central government in partnership with the philanthropic sector, the service connects children and young people in care, advocates for their needs, builds leadership, and creates a ‘community of care’ around each child. Critically, this isn’t just another advocacy voice for children. Instead, it is the voice of children.
TTF Manager John McCarthy chaired the original VOYCE Whakarongo Mai steering group and establishment board, and is due to step down from the board at the end of 2017. “It was the partnership approach that made this project a success,” he says. “It’s a rare opportunity to have everyone working side by side — when true collaboration is at play then magic can happen.”
Voice of Young Care Experienced, Listen to me!
Tracie Shipton, who led the business case for VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, believes the service will change the lives of young people:
The Tindall Foundation provided not only a grant but also support, advice and leadership. The Foundation has driven and mentored the development of a game changer for children in care: VOYCE Whakarongo Mai is not just an advocacy organisation, it is a community approach to a societal problem.
The funding provided an opportunity to help grow a dream, but more importantly with the continued support of the Foundation we have collectively established a case for children in care.
Young people are now the voice challenging the system. They are able to connect with each other and trusted adults, share their stories with decision makers, work alongside community groups, establish a youth council and develop a community of support. VOYCE Whakarongo Mai is already reducing isolation for children in the care system — advocacy at its best.
Direct advocacy services will be delivered online, over the phone and face-to-face from late 2017. These services will be piloted from the service’s national hub in Auckland, and then expanded to other parts of the country alongside the development of regional hubs from 2018. Hub locations will be determined based on need, and by engagement with children and young people, partner agencies, and local communities.
Could it have happened without The Tindall Foundation and the other funders? Truthfully, no. The Foundation’s support and dedication have given freedom to the voice of those most vulnerable and an opportunity for us to co-design this service with them.
John McCarthy’s support as chair of the steering group and board has been invaluable. By co-ordinating contributions from VOYCE Whakarongo Mai’s philanthropic partners, John has helped ensure the service has kept its independence and benefited from what each organisation has brought to the table.
“From the seed of a concept to the fruition of VOYCE Whakarongo Mai, The Tindall Foundation has been more than a funder. It has advocated for change in the most proactive, pragmatic and creative way. It trusted our kaupapa and invested in our passion and commitment. Young people will gain from this for generations.”
— Tracie Shipton
VOYCE Whakarongo Mai
Supporting Families and Social Services