WELLINGTON, July 6 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand's major reform to its care and protection system reached a key milestone on Thursday with the passage of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Legislation Bill, said a senior official.
"I am proud to see the passing of this critical legislation which will provide the foundations for a child-centered care and protection system," Anne Tolley, minister for children and youth, said in a release.
This is the second significant step in the country's major reform program which will improve the outcomes for vulnerable children and young people, part of a four-to-five-year major transformation program, she said.
It supports the new operating model of the ministry for vulnerable children, which is focused on harm and trauma prevention, early intervention, quality care, and support to independence, Tolley said.
The legislation, which will come into force by July 1, 2019, will better ensure children and young people are at the center of decision-making, while considering them within the context of their family and communities.
It allows young people in care to remain or return to living with a caregiver until the age of 21, with transition support available up to age 25, and it strengthens information sharing provisions to help keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm or make arrangements for their well-being.
The legislation also extends the youth justice system to include most 17-year-olds, excluding those charged with specified serious offences.