Sunday, April 06, 2014

Maori child abuse intervention - "...we are not doing it the right way"

 In a strange coincidence I wrote the following on Friday but hadn't yet published it. My comments are in orange:

This report from the Maori Affairs Committee following its Inquiry into the Determinants of Wellbeing for Tamariki Māori was released in December 2013:

Child maltreatment and abuse
One issue that we must address is the high rate of maltreatment and abuse suffered by tamariki Māori. Child maltreatment has a number of contributing factors. Poverty, low education levels, unemployment, unstable home life, and parental ill-health can all increase the risk to tamariki Māori. 

No mention of long-term welfare dependence or drug/alcohol abuse 
Maltreatment can take many forms, ranging from neglect and lack of care to physical, emotional, sexual, and mental abuse. Tamariki Māori who suffer maltreatment can experience many adverse consequences, the impact of which may be felt for many years.
Our specialist adviser told us that in 2009/10 Child, Youth and Family received around 125,000 notifications; half of these required further action. Our specialist adviser also told us that about 46 percent of CYFS clients are Māori.

The level of disproportion is decades old.

Child, Youth and Family does not generally do intervention casework itself; it provides on-going intensive intervention to only about the worst 5 percent of abuse cases, as it lacks the resourcing to follow everything up quickly and effectively.
We heard that New Zealand has a robust Care and Protection Framework, but effective robust programmes, particularly small residential programmes, are lacking. There are few holistic whānau homes for the care and protection of vulnerable tamariki Māori. We recognise that Child, Youth and Family care is not responsible for strengthening or healing the whānau. However, we consider its role to be a matter requiring further investigation. In 2011 the Families Commission found that of the 4,238 tamariki Māori in out-of-home care in 2010, 45 percent also had siblings who had previously been removed from their parents or caregivers by Child, Youth and Family. Fifty-two percent of the tamariki Māori in Child,Youth and Family out-of-home care were Māori, 


and of the tamariki Māori affected by custody orders in 2010, just under half (45 percent) had had a sibling previously removed.
These figures indicate that when we intervene on behalf of the most vulnerable tamariki Māori, we are not doing it in the right way.

These sorts of reports are far from 'ground-breaking' yet not much changes. In 1988, 26 years ago, the Daybreak report from the Maori Perspective Advisory Committee on Social Welfare found, regarding the Children and Young Person's Act 1974. 

The Committee considered a substantial ideological change necessary if the Act 
were to to adequately cater to Maori needs. It did not therefore propose specific 
amendments but urged that the revision of the Act be shaped around the principles 
that follow.
And that revision happened. It was replaced by CYPF Act in 1989. Still the problems
persist. But back to the latest report

Poverty is a major barrier to the wellbeing of tamariki Māori, and it
often has a domino effect in all areas of a tamaiti’s life. We believe that
moving whānau out of poverty will benefit tamariki and allow whānau to
build a strong foundation for a positive future.

In the end Maori cannot go on pleading and blaming poverty. It's just not a robust excuse for abusing or neglecting children. I find this report (as much as I have read) highly disheartening.

Anyway the government's response to the paper was released on Friday. They rejected a specific  recommendation regarding poverty:

Recommendation 46
Improve the adequacy of benefits and incomes for whānau without paid work to ensure the wellbeing of their tamariki.
: Noted
The Government’s primary strategy for lifting incomes and improving
outcomes for vulnerable New Zealanders is to promote social mobility through paid employment driven by economic growth, while ensuring that NewZealand’s social security safety net continues to support people who cannot support themselves. The focus is on addressing the long-
term consequencesof poverty, and improving material wellbeing through employment.New Zealand spends a considerable amount to support the incomes of beneficiaries and other low-income New Zealanders.
In the 2013/14 financial year, over $10 billion was forecast to be spent on welfare benefits, of which Māori makeup approximately one third of recipients. In addition, there is a considerable spend on other support that reduces demand on the family budget through subsidies or direct provision (for example, free primary healthcare for younger children, and the Warm Up New Zealand home insulation programme). These initiatives, together with the direct income support assistance, help reduce material hardship among families with children.
Now today I see a new finding from the Christchurch Health and Development Study has just been published:


Objective:The present study examined the extent to which childhood socio-economic status (SES) could account for differences in adult psychosocial outcomes between Māori and non-Māori individuals in a birth cohort of more than 1000 individuals studied to age 30.Methods:Data were gathered on three measures of childhood SES (family SES, family living standards, family income) and adult psychosocial outcomes including mental health, substance use, criminal offending, and education/welfare dependence outcomes, as part of a longitudinal study of a New Zealand birth cohort (the Christchurch Health and Development Study).Results:Those reporting Māori ethnicity had significantly (p < 0.0001) poorer scores on the three measures of childhood SES, with estimates of Cohen's d indicating a moderate effect size. Māori cohort members also had significantly (p < 0.05) greater rates of adverse psychosocial outcomes in adulthood. Controlling for childhood SES reduced the magnitude of the ethnic differences in psychosocial outcomes, but did not fully explain the differences between Māori and non-Māori. Adjustment for childhood SES had the strongest effect on education/welfare dependence, but weaker effects on mental health, substance use, and criminal offending.Conclusions:Improvements in SES among Māori in New Zealand may, to some extent, ameliorate the long standing disparities in psychosocial well-being between Māori and non-Māori. However, efforts to improve Māori well-being will require an approach that moves beyond a sole focus on rectifying socio-economic disadvantage (my emphasis).

The science is telling us that something beyond (or additional) to poverty is causing poorer adult outcomes for too many Maori children.


Anonymous said...

How hard is it to see that:

promote social mobility through paid employment driven by economic growth, while ensuring that NewZealand’s social security safety net continues to support people who cannot [sic] support themselves.

is an oxymoron. Logically we can either "promote… paid employment" or we can "support people who [choose not to] support themselves" (my emphasis). It is impossible for one policy to achieve both ends: this government, like every NZ government since 1989 --- except of course Ruth Richardson's 1991 budget, although even she did not follow through with her plans which would have lead to the complete end of Dole and DPB by 1995.

The only solution that will actually work is the simplest possible:

stop funding welfare

Nothing else will work.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for going back in history to show the "if we only do that, all will come right" argument has been used, and failed, before.

I wonder how long it will take for the Maori community to wake up and acknowledge that this is about values and beliefs, not about benefit cheques.

Jigsaw said...

'I wonder how long it will take for the Maori community to wake up and acknowledge that this is about values and beliefs, not about benefit cheques.' The answer is that it will never happen as long as we continue basically the same policies as in the past. People see a certain way 'works' for them, then why should the change. The left trumpets the idea that increasing dependency will eliminate 'poverty'-I wonder if they actually believe it?