Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Child abuse - casting the net too wide?

When it comes to child abuse substantiations there is no publicly available information about the relationship between the abuser and abused. CYF must have it but don't release it.

I have assumed, possibly wrongly, that most abuse is perpetrated by the caregiver or other family member/friend.

The extent to which 'wider circle' people are involved in the abuse of the child is also unknown. Yet reforms announced today would suggest the bigger circle is a significant problem:

Screening and Vetting
We will introduce minimum standards for screening and vetting of every government worker in the children’s workforce.

This covers the core workforce, e.g. paediatricians, teachers, Child, Youth and Family social workers and children’s counsellors as well as the wider children’s workforce e.g. non-teaching staff, library reading group leaders and Work and Income case managers. All up, it’s more than 370,000 people.

Minimum standards for screening and vetting will identify potential abusers. It will include specific interview techniques, thorough reference and Police record checks as well as the history and behaviour of every one of those individuals. It’ll also mean checking with former employers and wider community members about any concerns relating to children.

This will be mandatory for all government agencies and any government-funded organisations working with children and voluntary for wider community organisations. Agencies will be required to do a thorough risk assessment with periodic reassessments every three years.
This kind of scrutiny is not only time-consuming and expensive, it gets people's backs up. They feel as though they are working in an environment that suspects first, and trusts second. I've undergone police checks in order to volunteer with families. While I didn't particularly object, the ensuing time delay in my getting started (months) could have seen me lose interest or pursue another activity.

 Children’s Workforce Restrictions
In conjunction with the changes outlined to screening and vetting we will introduce restrictions on people who have serious convictions, such as murder, manslaughter, sexual violation, assault on a child and sexual conduct with young people, stopping them entering the children’s workforce. There will be serious consequences if organisations fail to comply with these restrictions.

Not sure manslaughter should be on the list but anyway.... what is "the children's workforce"? Are private tutors, music teachers, gym coaches, nannies, babysitters, hairdressers, casual creche staff, school bus drivers, taxi drivers etc etc part of the "children's workforce"? They are often self-employed.

The other measure that looks unimpressive is:

Child Harm Prevention Orders
There are cases where children have been abused because a dangerous individual got close enough to do so, sometimes literally by moving into their home.

A High Court or District Court will be able to place these new civil orders on adults with a history of serious convictions who pose a high risk of abusing children. This could also include cases where it’s believed the person was responsible for the serious abuse or death of a child on the balance of probabilities. These orders can restrict people from living with children and going to places where children often are – like parks, and working or associating with children.

Like Protection Orders, these may be toothless when it comes to desperate people. Or colluding people. A woman can have a protection order taken against an abusive partner and then conveniently ignore it when the two have kissed and made up...until the next incident. I knew of a couple where the male had an order out against him so he rented a property three doors up. That way he could retain proximity to his son and partner (with her consent) without breaking the law.

BUT there's some good stuff in here too. Breaking down the prior privacy barriers between the main government departments and increasing accountability in the process (stopping buck-passing) is good. Giving the Family Court powers to increase the guardianship rights of adoptive parents is good.

And action rather than lip-service is good.


Anonymous said...

I don't see how you can effectively ban people from places and people unles the people banned respect the ban. In many of these cases I suspect we are dealing with people whose ability to rationalise the issues is limited and consistently poor choices will be made.

A better method would be an economic one - if it doesn't make econmoic sense to do something it eventually sinks in to even the thick that doing it is expensive to a point hat makes it not worth doing. In that vein I'd stomp on welfare for these people.

I don't like govt sharing info really - that will eventually lead to very bad behaviour by the govt. I suspect they've been looking for an opening to do this and thanks to these mongrels they have it.


Lindsay Mitchell said...

I suppose the other way of looking at bans is this. Some cases of abuse are just waiting to happen. It's obvious to many people involved with the family. But the law can do nothing until it does happen. Which is too late for the victim. But if a ban is imposed, the potential abuser can be apprehended when that is broken, rather than when the baby or child is broken.