Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Stuff's tortured apology

Yesterday Stuff declared to the world that it had been racist in the past but now, in their "brave new era" they will tell the truth!!

So they kick off today with a confession that THEY made Maori the face of child abuse.

To an extent this is true. The media in general focuses on Maori child abuse deaths more than non-Maori, sometimes because the behaviour of whanau keeps the case alive and dragging out over months and years. Cases where the offender pleads guilty and is processed through the system garner less attention.

Anyway they start by slapping themselves over reported likelihood risks. They looked at stories from 2000 about Lillybing and James Whakaruru:

Both stories claimed Māori children were “five times more likely” to be abused than Pākehā children.

The statistic was not correct. At the time, around 25 per cent of children were Māori, and 75 per cent Pākehā: Three times higher, not five.

The figure lowered even further when comparing Māori to non-Māori as a whole. An analysis by the Ministry for Social Development later showed Māori children were around 2.5 times more likely to be abused than non-Māori. A review of literature predominantly published in the early 2000s showed the rate of maltreatment among Māori was consistently double that of non-Māori. 

A rate two or three times higher than other groups is still significant, and the essence of the claim – Māori are overrepresented in child abuse figures – was accurate.

But the inaccurate “five times more” figure was not corrected, and served as a springboard for fevered coverage in the months afterwards, seemingly used as permission to cover Lillybing’s death in a racialised way.

Well let me tighten this with the most recent, and more relevant, Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths (CAN)  official data from 2009 to 2015:

 Māori children were three times more likely to die from CAN than non-Māori children. Similarly, offenders of Māori ethnicity were six times more likely to be responsible for CAN deaths than those of non-Māori ethnicity. When stratified by age, the rate of CAN deceased was highest among children aged 0–4 years and, for Māori, the rate of the children killed by CAN aged 0–4 years was four times higher than the non-Māori rate

Then in an attempt at revisionist impartiality Stuff goes on to bring up names of non-Maori children who were killed in filicide/parental suicide events and under-reported.

There isn't a lot to be said about open and shut cases of this nature. They are mental crisis events which often come out of the blue. The children are seemingly well-cared for, even over-loved. The media can't hammer CYF failure, or police inaction or follow a court hearing.

The reason the two aforementioned Maori child cases garnered so much attention was the revelations of the ongoing abuse and gross neglect leading up to the deaths. To compare them to cases where the parent took their own life is a mistake. In the former we had adults trying to absolve themselves or cover up for someone, ongoing police investigations and a court case; in the latter, parents who no longer wanted to live and decided to take their children with them.

The inclusion of these types of child deaths (9) in the CAN stats probably lowers the Maori likelihoods cited above but the report does not separate the types of CAN deaths by race. However, clues relating to quintile deprivation suggest the filacide/parental suicide cases are non-Maori - though the unusual and very sad recent case up on the East Coast will change the next lot of stats: 

"... among the offenders whose socioeconomic status was known, deprivation differed for the different types of CAN death events. A deprivation gradient was noticeable for fatal physical abuse/grossly negligent treatment death events – two-thirds (67 percent) of the offenders who killed children by fatal physical abuse/grossly negligent treatment were from the most deprived neighbourhoods (deprivation quintile 5) and no offenders were from the least deprived neighbourhoods(deprivation quintile 1). By contrast, the neonaticide and filicide with parental suicide CAN death events involved offenders from neighbourhoods that spanned the range of deprivation quintiles...The distributions of Māori deceased and offenders were skewed towards the most deprived quintile, whereas for non-Māori the deceased and offenders were more evenly distributed across the range of deprivation quintiles. No Māori offenders responsible for CAN deaths lived in the least deprived neighbourhood. "

In conclusion yes Stuff probably did disproportionately report on Maori child deaths BUT there are reasons for this that go beyond race. They relate to the circumstances surrounding the death.

This cleansing exercise Stuff has embarked upon is so bizarre that I wonder if they are trying to pre-empt any future prosecutions for past behaviour? Sounds preposterous but you couldn't rule it out in today's crazy world. 

More likely they don't want to be victims of the senseless cancel-culture.

Monday, November 30, 2020

The inverted world of blameless individuals

The Child Poverty Action Group has issued a stocktake on government's unsatisfactory implementation of the WEAG's recommendations. A WEAG panel member said on radio, one in seven children are on a welfare benefit and that they "can't wait." From the report:

 A background paper to Whakamana Tāngata, entitled The income support system, noted that 168,275 dependent children were living in families receiving main benefits in March 2018...Children cannot wait for more resources, as their minds, emotions, bodies are constantly developing and are often permanently adversely affected by toxic stress and lack of essentials. Our inadequate and ineffective welfare system continues to entrench poverty for children. 

The number had risen to over 217,000 by July 2020.

But wait. In 2019 over 6,000 babies were added to an existing benefit.

Information released to me under the OIA shows that 6,190 caregivers had added one or more 'subsequent children' aged less than 12 months to their benefit during 2019. That represents one in ten of all babies born last year.  For Maori the ratio doubles to one in five.

If their existing children are indeed experiencing "toxic stress" why are the parents having more?Perhaps their existing children are not experiencing "toxic stress"? Perhaps parents don't recognise that their existing children are experiencing "toxic stress"?

Whatever. It isn't the welfare system that "continues to entrench poverty". It's parents who continue to produce babies in the full knowledge a benefit is their only source of income for the forseeable future. 

It's an inarguable fact and yet we are constantly bombarded with bullshit messages to the contrary.

In the same vein a Stuff article has a Maori advocate saying that health services are failing mothers who continue to drink during pregnancy!

Sunday, November 29, 2020

OT fights it corner

Oranga Tamariki has taken the unusual step of letting a journalist work alongside a social worker for the duration of an uplift case. It's well covered, not overly sentimental and succeeds in providing an impartial insight into a case of severe physical abuse. It's told through the eyes of a fairly young social worker, Alex McKintosh.

What made me wince (beyond the injury descriptions) was this line:

“It’s not just the public that hate Oranga Tamariki,” she says when she ends the call, “all the other agencies do as well”.

This to explain why she has to push to have a reluctant paediatrician re-examine the child in question.

That makes her work doubly difficult.

I have always viewed OT/CYF/CYPS as being unavoidably stuck between a rock and a hard place, damned for not 'being there' and damned by many for being there.

But they only exist due to parental or other caregiver failure, or criminality.

Without a doubt it is an organisation like any other. Some members will be better at their jobs; better intentioned, better motivated and more effective.

This particular employee expresses a belief in parental redemption but persisted to first and foremost secure the child's safety.

If she is a fair representation of other OT social workers I am reassured.

(Reflecting on this case being a Pacific family, I am unaware of calls from that sector about racism and the need for Pasifika to take charge of Pasifika child protection. I stand to be corrected.)