Monday, July 30, 2007

A few words on the current 'crisis'

What we are seeing at the moment is not new. 'Battered Child (or baby) Syndrome' was first discussed in the 1960s. From Family Matters by Bronwyn Dalley;

New Zealand medical practitioners and paediatric radiologists took a central role in the dissemination of awareness of the syndrome; staff at Wellington Hospital noted the large number of 'injury' cases with a suspicion that was often confirmed when X-rays revealed earlier healed fractures.

Many cases of abuse investigated "displayed an intergenerational pattern." So the abuse stems back further still. The distressing number of young Maori children who died at the hands of their young mothers who had themselves been state wards is commented on.

For a long time associated factors have been known. Unmarried parenting, very young parenting, and a personal parental history of neglect and abuse. Add to these increased misuse of alcohol and drugs and benefits that pay emotionally and financially bereft people to become parents and it is little wonder what problem already existed has worsened.

I have little time for calls for a review into causes or even more state money going into groups working with at-risk families (who were grown on the back of state money anyway). The families you can get into aren't the worst. They have asked for and admitted you. As a volunteer I don't get paid for what I do and wouldn't do more if I was paid.

All the hand-wringing and knee-jerking going on over the past few days, on TV and radio, is rather wearing me out and I have no more to add except the thoughts of Lewis Anderson who was Superintendent of child Welfare forty, yes FORTY, years ago;

Anderson took the brutally realistic view that no matter what staff did or how extensive their supervision or services were, children would still suffer or be killed at the hands of their parents or caregivers. He repeatedly pointed out that child welfare officers were 'not clairvoyant', that is was inevitable that children would be killed by their parents, and that there were abused children about whom the Division had no knowledge until it was too late.


Dave said...

what is new is that authorities are slack to investigate child abuse.

barry said...

When I worked in places like Wanganui and Tokoroa 40 yrs ago there were always Maori Wardens around to keep the peace within the Maori communities. They acted as de-facto police with wide powers to apprehend and censure the bag eggs.

When I google Maori Wardens all that comes up is the association they have, office holders, conferences etc, nothing about what they actually DO.

Lindsay can you understand why the liklihood of severe child abuse is not known and acted on by these wardens within their own patches? Otherwise what is their reason for existing nowadays?

Chaucey said...

I'm wondering if you have some ideas about what individual people can do to help prevent other children from being abused?
Should I be lobbying for something, should I be assisting a particular charity, should I be volunteering with some sort of education programme?
I'm sick of innocent children suffering, and I'm not sure that waiting passively for SOMEONE to do SOMETHING is going to help.
What can I do to make a difference?

Lindsay said...

Barry, I know very little about Maori wardens although your comment reminded me about a story I heard just last week. A girl had her baby taken off her and was trying to regain custody. She was herself under the care of a social worker who was also a Maori warden. This woman was a mormon and she told her ward that she should fast for not just a day but an entire week and she would be blessed by God and her child returned. Needless to say the girl didn't make it and neither was her child returned. Hence it was her own fault. Can you believe someone with such ideas would be in a paid position of considerable responsibility. The same warden also beat the girl up when she slept with a boy the warden had a, let's say, proprietorial feeling for.

Then again, the person telling me the story could have been making it up but I can see no motivation for doing so.

Now I don't know if this is right but my feeling is that Maori loyalty to Maori is the main reason abuse and neglect goes on unreported. The other side of the fierce loyalty is fierce umbrage. When abuse is reported it is as much about concern for the child as payback for some offence or slight. Whether this attitude stretches to some wardens I can only speculate.

Chaucey, I'll give you a call.