32-pages-49-71 (1).doc - 1 CULTURAL IDENTITY AND THE...

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CULTURAL IDENTITY AND THE CHILDREN, YOUNG PERSONS, AND THEIR FAMILIES ACT 1989: IDEOLOGY, POLICY AND PRACTICE Emily Keddell Lecturer Department of Social Work and Community Development University of Otago Abstract This paper considers the directive contained in the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 to maintain a child’s cultural identity when they are placed in foster care following substantiated abuse or neglect. The paper examines changes in defining cultural identity, in particular ethnicised cultural identities, with a focus on the contestable and unstable nature of cultural identity. It considers the case both for and against the references to cultural identity in the Act, and examines how the political context influences how cultural identity is defined. Some aspects of social work practice and relevant research are discussed.  INTRODUCTION The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 (the CYPF Act) operates on the principle that, where possible, the primary role in caring for and protecting a child or young person lies with the “child’s or young person’s family, wh ā nau, hap ū , iwi and family group” (s.13[b]). However, when a child is not safe within their family, then the Act says they should be placed in “an appropriate family-like setting, in which he or she can develop a sense of belonging, and in which his or her sense of continuity and his or her personal and cultural identity are maintained” (s.13[f][iii]). Further,   it   states   that   when   placing   children   in   care,   “priority   should,   where practicable, be given to a person who is a member of the child’s … hap ū  or iwi … or, if that is not possible, who has the same tribal, racial, ethnic or cultural background as the child” (s.13[g][i]). This article discusses section 13 of the CYPF Act, exploring the theoretical and ideological   positions,   historical   particularities   and   political   influences   on   its construction. It will investigate how these directives might be implemented in both policy and practice, with particular reference to P ā keh ā , iwi M ā ori, Pasifika and multiple-ethnicity populations. Selected practice issues for social workers who have to implement this section of the Act with children and their families are also explored. Some of the research on the relative importance of cultural identities when placing children is outlined. The article also attempts to draw together some elements of the culture debates from sociology, psychology, social policy and social work literatures.
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