19 April 2001
Fellowship Urges More Multi-Systemic Care
Solution to Youth Offending No Longer in Doubt
The clinical director of the Richmond Fellowship New Zealand says effective interventions are available for at-risk
young people, but some social agencies are failing to make use of them.
Dr Mike Reid says a number of smaller providers are making excellent progress with at-risk young people and their
effectiveness is clear to see.
“We hear constantly that the most troubled young people in the community are time bombs and that we don’t have the
answers to keep them out of prison,” he says. “In reality, there is plenty of validated evidence to show that
intervention is successful when we take a multi-systemic approach. That means addressing the source of the problems in a
range of areas – in the family, at school and within the peer group.”
Dr Reid was commenting on concerns from a former prison manager, Cecelia Lashlie, about what to do to prevent young
people from becoming prison inmates. “There are some non-governmental agencies who are doing excellent work, often
through kaupapa Maori or a whanau-style of support. What we need now is a co-ordinated strategy which recognises that we
do have a solution, and for these services to gradually replace the traditional services that focus on containment.
“Providing we can work with the family then we would have a very reasonable chance, through multi-systemic therapy
(MST), to prevent a young offender from entering the adult justice system. In the United States, this type of care is
achieving a 70-80% success rate after five months. Here in New Zealand we still focus on containing the young person,
often for around 18months with no real measure of success.”
Intervention services would have an initial set-up cost, but would be vastly more effective in the long term. One MST
team could effectively work with five times as many young people as a residential service, at half the cost.
“The MST model has proven effective in the UK, United States, Norway and Canada. Instead of looking for more solutions
and tinkering with what we’ve got, we should be developing and establishing a proven model in the New Zealand context.”
Dr Reid says the Justice Department, Child Youth and Family and Ministry of Health should be commended for supporting
services that develop innovative models. “These services are achieving real success. What we need is more of them, and
for them to be properly utilised by the referral agencies.” Richmond Fellowship New Zealand is a national provider of
services for people with mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.
Dr Mike Reid, Clinical Director
Richmond Fellowship, Phone (03) 365 3211