Novel looks behind residential care fence

Chris Polaschek has put 30 years of working with troubled youth into his novel.

A career that included working in residences for youth offenders for 10 years has informed the first novel written by Chris Polaschek of Gulf Harbour.

However, he says, The Night Staffer is definitely a work of historic fiction.

The novel explores events that take place in residential care, with two key characters forming a bond over a shared love of music. 

“It’s based on a flavour of what the residences are like – they are behind high fences and what goes on there is quite ‘secret’,” he says. “There has not been much written about residential care in NZ – only a couple of books by ex-residents and none by people who worked in the system.” 

Chris’s first job was as a night staffer in a residential care home in Christchurch in 1987 and his book is set in a now defunct residence in the same city, that same year.

He says while there is something of himself in Wyatt (the night staffer in his book), Wyatt is “nicer than me”. All the young people in the book are fictional.

Chris recently retired from 30 years in various roles that saw him work to resolve and mitigate problems created by offending in our communities, as a practitioner, supervisor, manager and leader. 

“My areas of focus are statutory social work, juvenile justice, adult justice, child protection, and custodial and care environments,” he says.

He had key roles in the prison service, Child Youth and Family and Oranga Tamariki as well as running projects such as Refreshing Family Group Conference Coordinators and the Youth Crime Action Plan inter-agency group.

He says there are big questions around dealing with disadvantaged and disaffected young people. 

“The causes of youth offending are complex, including developmental difficulties, mixing with hard core offenders and violence at home. Which is why keeping troubled young people locked up is such a blunt instrument.” 

This is Chris’s first book, but not his last. He is part way through a second book, on the same topic, set a few years later.

The book is available at, at Mighty Ape, or on Amazon.

Win the book
Hibiscus Matters has one copy of The Night Staffer by Chris Polaschek, published by Austin Mccauley, to give away. To go in the draw, ‘like’ Hibiscus Matters on Facebook and message us your name and phone number with Night Staffer in the message. Please note we are unable to take postal entries this time, as our office is closed due to refurbishment. Entries close on Friday, September 8.