Mum calls out state services for lack of support

By Tema Hemi

A mother who spent most of her childhood in state care is frustrated and appalled by the lack of support by state services in her time of need. Kyleigh Jane Portland is now advocating for her son who suffers from a range of medical issues, including post-thrombotic syndrome, and is having to deal with state services and their processes again. 

Portland says the trauma of the abuse that has scared her life has deprived her of living a full life.

"I was the victim of a sexual assault as a young child, from four to 14. It wasn't until I was fourteen that I was placed into state care as a state-ward. Before I knew it, I was moved on and living in a Christian family home in Epsom," says Portland.

After a year away from her family, Portland turned 16 and then was released from her Epsom home. 

"It wasn't until my 20s when I decided, through an incident, that I was going to approach the abuse. And I walked into the Auckland police station and made a statement," she says.

Young offenders held in custody on remand until court sentencing, have prompted the Children's Commissioner to make urgent recommendations.  

Andrew Becroft says, "We've got four youth detention centres scattered around New Zealand. They were built mainly for rehabilitation, but they are now being jammed up, 80% full with children and young people on remand, waiting. The law is clear, the Treaty is clear. The government, Oranga Tamariki, iwi and Māori organisations need to work together. I think iwi are up for it, I think national office is up for it. That now has to be demonstrated throughout the country."

Oranga Tamariki says they will assist iwi with their approach to this matter. "Where a iwi has a vision for that to happen, our job as public servants is to make that happen and not get in the way of that," says Phil Dinham of Oranga Tamariki.

Portland says the state services need to be held to account. "You can be abused and someone is held accountable, but when a state service is being abusive or traumatising those who are already in trauma, there's no accountability, there's no one standing up. It's always passing the buck to the next agency," she says.

Māori make up 80% of the young people detained in secure youth justice facilities on remand while awaiting the end of their court case.