There are around 6,000 children living in care in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Family for Every Child’s newest member organisation ‘VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai’ was established to ensure that these children and young people have their voices heard by the government and care system. In turn, they then help improve the system for others. Here’s how they do it.
“We’re here for the 6,000 in care. An older sibling to our younger selves,” explains Mary-Lynn, who is part of VOYCE’s National Youth Council. “Individually and collectively, [we’re] on a journey of self-discovery, healing, and giving back through advocacy.” Her words encapsulate the multiple ways that VOYCE’s work helps to make a difference for care-experienced young people. Not only do they change the system for the better, but the young people involved in pushing for change discover opportunities to grow, too.
Established in 2017, VOYCE has rapidly grown from having a single office to having ten offices across New Zealand. This means that they can reach more children and communities through their work, ultimately achieving a bigger impact. As an organisation, they work to connect children and young people in care with advocates, helping them to have their say, and supporting them to share their stories in impactful ways. They are helping young people have an influence on key decisions that are being made about them. VOYCE’s work is rooted in New Zealand’s indigenous culture, and they work alongside Iwi and Māori organisations to build effective support networks for young people in care. Their events are also designed to help these young people connect with each other, ultimately contributing to the development of a care-experienced support community. VOYCE are calling for change in the system with an ever-stronger, collective voice.
Supporting young leaders
A key principle at VOYCE is to ensure that children’s voices are kept at the centre of all decisions made about them.
Their Regional and National Youth Councils do this by bringing together care-experienced youth that have profound ideas, experiences and solutions to offer. VOYCE provides training and support to help transform their knowledge and passion into successful advocacy, and the young people can explore leadership opportunities along the way. In recent years, the Council has worked on a submission for the United Nations on the Rights of the Child, met with Parliament and policy advisors, presented at conferences at home and abroad, and much more.
VOYCE’s approach fits in perfectly with the way we all work at Family for Every Child. We’re looking forward to collaborating with and actively supporting them in improving the New Zealand care system.
VOYCE continues to put young people at the forefront of change. Karah Mackie, another of the National Youth Councillors, explains why this is so vital. “If you do not bring the affected communities on the journey with you from the beginning, you will not make any meaningful change or progress.” At Family, we couldn’t agree more – and we are so thrilled to have them as a member.
Learn more about VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai at familyforeverychild.org/voyce.