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Young people placed in the custody of Child, Youth and Family (CYF) are sometimes having to stay back in their family homes immediately after being transferred to CYF because appropriate caregivers and beds are not available.
CYF denies there is an issue with the availability of caregivers, and says it is " very rare" that a child or young person cannot be placed at least somewhere temporarily until a specialist caregiver or placement comes available.
The issue was raised after a 13-year-old Dunedin girl placed in CYF custody last week was unable to be placed in appropriate care straight away because no specialist caregiver was available.
She was put in the custody of CYF on Tuesday, but a temporary placement could not be found until Wednesday, when she was due to get a placement in another town.
Sources say the case is not isolated and a lack of beds and appropriate caregivers for more challenging young people is increasingly common.
CYF was unable to provide figures on how many times it had been unable, because of a lack of resources, to immediately place a child in their custody into appropriate care, but denied a shortage of caregivers other than a shortage of specialist caregivers being available on the day the girl in question needed placement.
When contacted, CYF southern regional director Kelly Anderson said four of the eight beds at one of Dunedin's CYF family homes, which did not provide the appropriate for the level of care the girl in this case needed anyway, were temporarily unavailable while the home was being renovated.
However, it was rare the home was full and there were plenty of general care placements available in Dunedin, so the contingency plan was to manage any new placements by using the approved pool of foster caregivers in Dunedin.
In this particular girl's case only "a few" of the caregivers on CYF's books in Dunedin had the specialised training needed to deal with her "extreme and volatile" behaviour and they were not available on the day the girl was placed in CYF custody.
That was a "really rare" situation.
She acknowledged it was "not ideal" for the girl to be left in her home, but together with the girl's mother and other agencies involved with the family, the situation had been managed safely overnight and the girl was in a temporary placement, pending a move to a permanent place.
She did not know immediately how many specialist caregivers or places at non-government organisations contracted to CYF to provide such services were available in Dunedin, or if any more specialist caregivers were being trained to provide the service in the region, but it was always a battle to find people interested in being specialist caregivers.
It was not uncommon for young people with challenging needs to be placed in a temporary arrangement while waiting for a specialist care placement to become available, and in some cases, usually if a situation arose late at night, CYF's own social workers stayed with a young person until a placement could be found.
Other than that, "we don't have an overall shortage of caregivers in Dunedin".