Thursday, January 07, 2010

Garth George should leave child abuse alone

Garth George has chosen to write about child abuse in today's column. He has struck on this theory;

Rodger McDaniel, a lawyer, church pastor and former state legislator who is deputy director of the Wyoming Department of Health, reckons that whenever there is fast growth in an economy it brings with it a variety of social problems, including drug use, alcohol abuse and child abuse.

That makes sense, for all of those have soared with a vengeance since the economic revolution of the mid-1980s.

Rogernomics has been blamed before for New Zealand's seemingly high rate of child abuse. But not because of fast economic growth. Tariana Turia for instance;

“This latest report makes it quite clear - the peak in child deaths was from late 1980s and 1990s - the so-called experimental years in New Zealand’s economy - when unemployment was highest and when benefits were cut” says Mrs Turia.

Poor old rogernomics. Damned if it did; damned if it didn't.

The statistics alone do not support either theory anyway because the death numbers are so low very small differences can substantially change the rate. And any debate about the rate of abuse gets incredibly muddied by changing definitions, changing attitudes and reporting rates, and changing laws and their application.

According to George;

Eight children aged between five weeks and three years died from abuse in the year just ended, which is the average for any year in this country.

Yet deaths from child maltreatment have averaged around 8 a year for a long time.

In 2004,05 and 06 the yearly average was 8.6

Then the statist in George goes looking for a quick fix. The Do something, Anything approach.

And, perhaps, undo the shocking discrimination instituted by the Clark Government that denies the child-related supplement called the in-work tax credit to the poorest children and has left them further behind and well below the poverty line.

Says Susan St John, of the Campaign Against Child Poverty: "It would cost about $450 million a year to extend the in-work tax credit to all low-income children. They would then be treated the same as others regardless of the source of their parents' income - as they do in Australia.

"Money is not everything but it is a very important basic foundation. Society deliberately denies the poorest children adequate financial support and then blames them when their children become social costs."

Certainly money isn't everything, but for God's sake let us start somewhere - and soon.

Unfortunately, to some people, money is everything. Let's strip this thing down.

Children are abused, very occasionally to the point of death, because they are not wanted. They are brought into this world oh so casually by people who do not have the maturity to look after a puppy. Why, when avoiding unwanted pregnancy is easier than it has ever been, does it keep happening? Because 'dropping sprogs' is part of a lifestyle. The same lifestyle that involves the drug and alcohol abuse George refers to.

It's a mean lifestyle that has always existed. But without a doubt, paying people to not only live it, but add children to it, has exacerbated the incidence.

Forget all the crap about slow economy/ fast economy. Like other developed countries, in our 20th century crusade to redistribute wealth - to obliterate need and inequality - we grew this group of disaffected and dysfunctional individuals.

And Garth George is calling for more of the same.


bez said...

Because the annual numbers are low, you should aggregate, perhaps in 5-year totals. Quickly doing that gives the following series 20,20,34,43,43,66,41,36,48,48,46. (Just quickly done, so may contain error). Quite apart from definition problems, this would seem to show a trend that probably equates to population growth, although there seems to be a structural increase from the late 60's/early 70's (The decline of the 'traditional' family).

Lindsay said...

Also Bez, as the fatalities are disproportionately Maori/Pacific, the rapid urbanisation/migration of the 50s and 60s contributed. I suspect that in earlier times still, child deaths were not investigated or recorded in the same way. The current level of 'child abuse' is, in one sense, a result of its own invention and the attention it has increasingly received.

JC said...

I don't think you can ignore the important role and safety valve that "adopting out" played for Maori till about the 1960s.

Any couple or single mother could give their child(ren) to a family member of friend to relieve pressure on the family budget or other reason.

But from the 1970s the DPB and other Govt support made it economically sensible for a young mother to hold onto her children and create a lifestyle through them.. and she could still party hard with the young men who came around, and kick them out in the morning.


bez said...

Yep, Lindsay and JC, that's three reasons to explain that trend, and each by itself and taken together, demonstrate in my view that we're solidly on the wrong course to do anything about the problem, until we're prepared to discuss the hard issues instead of the popular PC pandering and soft-cocking that's going on.

Lindsay said...

"I don't think you can ignore the important role and safety valve that "adopting out" played for Maori till about the 1960s."

I never have. Turning our backs on adoption was part of the feminist cause. Sure, some children who were adopted out later experienced problems but studies have shown that they form an intermediate group between those who have a single parent from birth snd those who are raised by two parents, with the latter group exhibiting best outcomes.

Rodger McDaniel said...

Another aspect of what some of your readers call "rodgernomics" is that the extraordinary number of public dollars in the child welfare system are not actually allocated for the purpose of preventing child abuse so much as for meeting other, often unspoken, goals. A sizeable amount of the funding supports a court system that is far more concerned about output than outcomes, i.e. keeping their dockets moving. Another large amount of funding, at least in the US, is set aside to support unscientific notions about how children are better off removed from their parents when in fact a fraction of the amout we spend on foster care could be more effectively used to support the habilitation of their own families. The bulk of our child neglect/abuse cases involve mental illness and/or addictions that are not treated (but are punished) and the economic inability to care adequately for the children. In our system, those issues most often succumb to disposition by myth. We tend to first blame the parents and seldom hold the child welfare system players accountable. "Rodgernomics" (if you will) suggests that we could spend much less and achieve much more if we stopped funding myths and connected science to practice. Child abuse could not only be prevented but it could be ended as a major social problem if that was the real goal of the system.

Rodger McDaniel

Anonymous said...

Garth George should retire.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the Rogernomic period was the stop for a cup of tea. JCUKNZ