Section 141 Project

Plain English Summary

What it is like to live away from home study

The Donald Beasley Institute did some research on Section 141 of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act.

Section 141 lets families ask the Government to find somewhere else for their disabled child to live.

Families often ask for this to happen when they do not feel that they can look after their child any more. There can be lots of different reasons for families to feel like this.

Donald Beasley Institute researchers talked to 8 people aged between 17 and 30.

All the people had gone to live in care when they were children under a Section 141 agreement.

The study showed that young disabled people faced 3 main problems.

The problems were to do with moving into care, learning to live without their family, and planning what to do when Section 141 stopped when they turned 17.

Moving into care was hard because most of the young people did not understand why they had to move out of home. 

Living away from home was hard because it took a long time to settle in, and many said they felt homesick.

Most made friends after a while and felt happier. 

Some people kept moving house a lot. 

The young people who took part in the study said staying in touch with their family was very important.

They also said it was important to know what they could do with their life in the future.

They wanted to know about work choices, how to develop new skills and how to become more independent.

The important things we learned from the study were:

  • There should be an independent advocacy service for young people
  • All young people living away from home under Section 141 agreement should have a good plan about what is going to happen when they turn 17.
  • All young people living away from home under a Section 141 agreement should be supported to have a good relationship with their family. 


About the research 

The experiences of disabled young people living away from home under Sections 141 and 142 if the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989

During 2016, the DBI undertook a small qualitative research project commissioned by the New Zealand Ministry of Social Development, on behalf of the Disabled Children Project. The research was designed to contribute to the Disabled Children: Voluntary Out-of-home Placement Review. 

The review occurred as a result of a number of submitters to the 2011 Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, and to the Select Committee considering the Vulnerable Children Bill, stating that they regarded sections 141 and 142 of the Children Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 as outdated, discriminatory and inconsistent with the United Nations Conventions and best practice. Section 141 of the Children Young Person and Their Families Act 1989 sets out the statutory process that provides for a family to request a voluntary out-of-home placement of their disabled child.

Eight young people who had lived out-of-home through a Section 141 placement agreement were interviewed for the project. All were aged between 17 and 30 years. Section 141 agreements expire when a young person turns 17 years of age.

Three primary themes resulted from analysis of the data that related to the time that the young person was under a Section 141.  These were “moving into care”, “living out-of-home” and “transitioning from Section 141”.

While only a few of the young people could comprehensively explain the reasons for “moving into care”, their recollections highlighted that a move into care was usually associated with an event or series of events that left the family unable to support them. Few suggested anything other than acceptance of the move, with just one person noting concern about what was happening and feelings of powerlessness related to having any choice.

The second theme, “experience of living out-of-home” was broken into two subthemes. The first subtheme, “settling in”, drew on the participants memories of how they felt and the advantages or challenges that they saw in the move. Some young people recalled homesickness, however, most remember being quite happy with where they were. All, except the young person who lived with a foster family, experienced a number of moves around different houses within the service, For some, this seemed to relate to the first year or two and then they felt settled. Others appeared to move frequently and continued to do so after the Section 141 agreement no applied to them. The second subtheme, “remaining part of the family”, illustrated that for nearly all the participants their family stayed involved and have had regular communication with them. Family provided a consistent, meaningful relationship when other adults in their lives tended to be transient.

The third and final theme “transitioning from Section 141” highlighted that, in effect, none really understood the implications of Section 141 no longer applying to them. A conclusion drawn from the data was that once a young person entered a support service it appeared they both felt dependent, and were perceived by others as being dependent on that service.

Three key messages were identified from the contributions of the young people who participated in this small study, and who had firsthand experience of living away from home. 

  1. Independent advocacy should be available throughout the years that young people are under Section 141 and in the transition phase. An independent advocate could assist the young person to have a voice outside of the service, assess the young person’s situation, and ensure they were getting the best and most appropriate support.
  2. All young people should have a clear transition plan prior to age 17 years. The plan needs to be developed in partnership with the young person and include helping them to understand, within their capacity, their rights according to the UNCRPD and the relevant laws in New Zealand. In addition, steps should be taken to ensure that they are able to access appropriate educational opportunities into their adult years.
  3. Positive family relationships are important. While most young people in this study identified that their family relationships were intact, the emphasis that they placed on these relationships indicates the value of services and families working together to strengthen and, when necessary, recover family engagement. It also highlights that need for young people to go into out-of-home care might be averted through earlier and more effective intervention with families.

Visit the 'Out of Home Placement' page for publications relating to this research. 

(At the conclusion of the project the DBI also prepared a short literature based paper “Listening to the voices of children with disabilities in New Zealand” designed to facilitate greater involvement of children with disabilities in decision-making related to the development or revision of law and policy. This can be found under the Literature Reviews tab on our publications page).