Family Matters: Who is Responsible for Taking Care of Our Children?

Gareth MorganTax and Welfare

This week UNICEF New Zealand launched a campaign ‘Make my Future Fair’ to focus the New Zealand government and public on the obligations we have under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, which we (the Government) signed up to 20 Years ago. The statistics on the website make stark reading.

UNICEF highlights many areas where children in New Zealand are not having their rights under this convention upheld. UNICEF asks that New Zealanders let the government know that they want our country to meet its commitments through stronger public policy and greater investment into those issues that have the greatest impact on children’s well-being. As a UNICEF ambassador I support this campaign wholeheartedly.

The question for me is what do we do about it?

This year, the Morgan Foundation started looking into what life is like for children and their families in New Zealand. We hired Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw and started from a blank sheet asking some hard questions about what is going wrong and for whom? What does the best research, free from any ideological position, tell us is the single most effective thing we can do right now to improve things for parents and children who don’t get the chance to fully participate in everything New Zealand society has to offer?

The specific questions we are asking about family and children in New Zealand (and we will be discussing our findings in the coming year) are:

What is life like for Kiwi children and are some children & families getting a raw deal?

We hear a lot about who is doing worse and how; that is why we are doing our own research looking at how children overall are doing in New Zealand and compare outcomes between different groups of children. We are looking at those things that are critical to well-being for children, now and into their adult lives; health, education, their behaviour, their future earnings, crime, what parenting behaviours they experience, and mental health.

Are children in New Zealand doing any worse or any better than other countries like us? Should we be concerned and should we be doing better?

Importantly, we want to know more about those families & children who are doing worst. We will be looking further into what the primary drivers of poor outcomes are. We want to know are the particular family structures, the employment status of the people who care for children, the earnings in families of children who do not do well?

We know from what we have looked at so far that children and families that are doing worst are those who also have the least in material terms. Yes, amongst the range of determinants, lack of material well-being matters most. So we are interested in WHY. Why is poverty is so bad for children and families in NZ? While not all poor families do badly, most of those who do badly are poor. So what does not having enough do to a family and the children in that family? Is it simply that they cannot buy enough of the things needed to make children well, socially adjusted and successful or is poverty causing something else to go on in families, a chain reaction of circumstances, that we need to address? How does poverty stuff things up for families and children?

Because the Morgan Foundation is about effective public policy we mainly want to know what works. As with all our work, we’re concerned primarily with the evidence base. What does the best evidence tells us has the best chance of improving the lives of the children and families doing the worst in NZ?

And because we are also about public conversations about important issues we are interested in knowing what YOU believe about children and families not doing well, how they got there, how to get them out? So often if there’s a disjoint between the evidence and public opinion then that indicates big returns from improve public knowledge, awareness.

5 quick questions

So on that note, we are interested in what you think about these issues

[gravityform id=”5″ title=”true” description=”false”]
Family Matters: Who is Responsible for Taking Care of Our Children? was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
About the Author

Gareth Morgan

Facebook Twitter

Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.