Established Protocols to Keep Young People Safe are Essential for Service Providers» 29/08/2011, Posted by Site Admin
The following article in a recent edition of 'New Idea' magazine highlights the importance of youth service providers having established policies and protocols for the safety of young people in their care, and for responding when problems arise. The story outlines what happened when a young person was left behind during a youth programme.
Source: 'New Idea' magazine
Article available online at:
'Distraught mum: 'My son was abandoned by carers''
Questions asked as youth group leaves forgetting young Asperger's sufferer.
Angry that her 10-year-old son was forgotten in a Wanganui park by his youth group, Hawera mum Crystal Hockley says she's still without an adequate apology or answers. Crystal, a mum of four, was second-guessing her decision to let her son Jordan Peters, who has Asperger's syndrome, go on a week-long youth camp from the moment he left. Happier playing at home alone, the boy didn't want to go, but his mum hoped the experience would help him come out of his shell.
On the Friday afternoon the campers were to return, Crystal says a feeling of dread began to take hold. The weather was nasty, and it reminded her of the day a year ago when her sister lost her son in a tragic car accident. When the police called half an hour after Jordan was due home, for a few heart-stopping moments Crystal feared the worst.
On the three-hour drive to Hawera from the Waikanae camp, the youth group had stopped for a break at Kowhai Park by the river in Wanganui. Police told a stunned Crystal that Jordan had been left behind, still playing on his own while two vans full of children and organisers drove off with an empty seat.
A security guard found Jordan half an hour later and called 111. The boy was apparently oblivious to the seriousness of the botch-up. It would be another two days before Crystal would hear from youth group leader Vincent Nuku with an explanation.
'I was in total shock when I first got the call from police,' Crystal says. 'I thought the worst when they said,'Is this Jordan Peters' mum?' I was angry when they told me what happened but then confused about how this could occur.' Crystal's Wanganui-based sister looked after Jordan until she arrived from Hawera, an hour's drive away. '[Jordan] was very angry with me when I arrived,' Crystal says. 'He didn't want to get out of the car when we got home. He kept saying he didn't want to go in the first place. Crystal doubts he understood the severity of his predicament. Asperger's sufferers often have an impaired ability to feel emotions such as stress, fear or happiness.
Crystal says Jordan knew the vans had driven away without him, but didn't seem overly anxious about being left alone. 'I don't think he'd ever admit to being scared. When I asked him what he thought at the time, he just told me, 'What could I think? It's not like I could walk home.' He just carried on playing.'
Relieved to have Jordan home safe, Crystal was prepared to put the shambles behind her. But when her repeated calls and texts to organiser Vincent asking for an explanation went unanswered, she filed an official complaint with Hawera police. 'Vincent did eventually come to our home on Sunday evening with his wife to apologise but by then I'd already laid a complaint with police,' she says. 'I asked him what he planned to do to prevent this happening again. But I don't think he had any protocols or procedures in place - I'd hate to think this would happen to anyone else.' No formal charges had been laid when this story printed. Police were looking into whether an educational response was preferable. If the case goes further, Vincent faces a maximum fine of $2000 for leaving a child under 14 unattended.
The Taonga Tuturu Maori South Taranaki facilitator says the group helps at-risk Maori children stay out of trouble and had run blemish-free for the last five years. Vincent says he didn't realise Jordan wasn't in one of the vans until he arrived back in Hawera. He says the mistake occurred because they picked up additional children on the return trip, and without a roll call, no one noticed Jordan was missing. He also says he wasn't made aware of Jordan's condition and, if he had been, he would have buddied up with Jordan himself to ensure his safety. Vincent adds that he was too busy dropping the other children back to their homes on Friday to visit or call Crystal and her husband Russell to explain and apologise, although his sister did make contact. 'I deeply regret the mistake that was made but we will ensure that the proper systems are in place in the future to prevent this happening again,' he says.