Friday, March 05, 2010

The Experts Forum on Child Abuse

A panel of experts gathered for two days and put this document together. It is only 10 pages and simply written. Marks for that. It begins;

History shows us that many projects and programmes have started with enthusiasm and promise. Many millions have been spent. And yet Forum participants do not believe the rate of child abuse/neglect is falling.

In the Forum’s view, resources are wasted in two ways:

3.1 ineffective programmes are allowed to continue and;
3.2 effective programmes are allowed to wither away.

Neglected and abused children are the taxpayers of the future. It is in the
interests of all of society that we find new ways to protect these children so
that they can grow up to fulfil their potential.

A comment on the last. I find it really offensive when children are reduced to the status of future taxpayers. Children's lives have inherent value to them. Their lives belong to them and not the state. In any case "neglected and abused children" are very often not future taxpayers. Their lives will never be productive. They will never contribute because they will be damaged. Our passive welfare system will exacerbate this outcome.

Next general principles are outlined including;

All programmes must be consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and responsive to Maori.

Heaven forbid the Treaty doesn't get a look in.

Next they define the issue and observe;

Nor will it ever be possible to say, even with the best policy mix, that no more children will be abused or killed by their abusers. But the Forum believes we can do better.

Agree. Considerably better.

Barriers are identified which include statutory responsibility being confined to MSD, Justice and the Police. And the Privacy Act. Not enough information sharing. Likely families are often known to various agencies who are not talking to each other. (How often have we heard this before?)

Steps need to be taken to actively foster relationships and engender a culture of shared responsibility.

Surely the culture of shared responsibility is underlying the mess. It starts with the parent of the child who refuses to take individual responsibility for their child and fans out from there.

The forum believes lots of money will need to be spent but can be obtained from existing Votes. In particular workforce capacity needs to be lifted in size and ability.

So Recommendation 1;

Universal Well-Child Support

This was the Cindy Kiro's baby and the torch is still being carried. Apply greater scrutiny and intervention with all children.

Why? The vast majority of children are not abused.

Targeted home-based support

This will apply to an estimated 15 percent of families (which begs the question why use resources screening the other 85 percent?)

Recommendation 2

Files should always stay open. Where abuse has occurred the family should be monitored. Agree. At least in the short-term. But people do have a habit of growing up and that should be recognised.

Recommendation 3

They want a statutory statement about governmental responsibility. And responsibility written into education and health acts. Ironic because child welfare used to be the statutory responsibility of the Education Department. Again all this extra responsibility is really only more fingers in the pie. And we seem to ricochet between tightening it and then broadening it, to no appreciable effect.

Recommendation 4

A focus on families with mental health problems. This is very important. The volunteer group I work with are dealing increasingly with people who have (or claim to have) mental health 'issues'. Their children are particularly vulnerable.

In conclusion they ask for data-matching, evaluation and capacity building. It gets a bit jargonish towards the end.

Anyway, am I surprised that there is no mention of the bigger picture? The social policies and attitudes that have created an environment where children needs are secondary to the rights of their poor excuses for parents? No.

The team at the top of the league table may have changed but the players are still the same.

No comments: