I hope she has lost the kids

October 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Judge Neave said a concerned neighbour called police because she noticed the woman’s infant son playing on the road naked.

The court was told associates of the woman then arrived and found the young boy playing naked in the driveway.

They took him inside and heard screaming coming from the bathroom.

They found the woman’s young daughter with soap in her eyes, clothed and in a bathtub overflowing with cold water, Judge Neave said.

The friends were forced to kick the bedroom door open because the woman, who was hungover, had barricaded herself in, he said.

The mother did not wake up, so the associates clothed the children and took them away from the house, he said.

Police arrived at the house and questioned the woman but she became abusive and refused to discuss where her children were, he said.

A miracle the kids are alive. I hope she does not keep custody, unless she can show remarkable change.

This is the sort of child poverty we should be focusing on – and it is not one that would be fixed by increasing the benefit by $60 a week.


A good step

August 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is pushing ahead with a child-sex offender register, which could eventually be expanded to include other sexual offenders.

Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has confirmed ministers signed off on plans to establish the database with an announcement expected within the next few weeks. The database will not be open to the public.

It will be managed by the police, and only available to officials with security clearance from agencies such as the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Social Development.

If National is returned to Government at September’s election, Tolley hopes to introduce the register by the end of the year.

That’s a very worthy thing to do.

I would hope that in time, the public would have access to it also, excluding those with name suppression of course.


Hollywood wants DIA child porn filter extended to copyright

July 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

It has been revealed top Hollywood studios asked for access to a controversial government-run internet filter – so they could stop Kiwis accessing pirate and torrent websites.

RadioLIVE reported the Motion Pictures Distributors Association wanted access to the Internal Affairs child pornography filter, so they could block access to copyrighted material.

But they were knocked back by the Government and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne says that it is partly because internet service providers refused.

“They were not prepared to agree to that extension and in any case it would have shifted the mandate somewhat from DIA’s primary focus on preventing sexual abuse of young children.”

The child pornography filter is a voluntary one.

It is good to see the Government knocked the request back. If I want a filtered Internet, I’d live in China.

When the voluntary DIA filter was introduced, many of us were nervous that one day other groups would try to extend it beyond the narrow remit of child abuse images, and try to have it block all material that different groups want blocked. As it is voluntary, that can’t happen easily – ISPs would stop using it. But beware the day when a political party proposes making it mandatory.

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Greens vote against Vulnerable Children Bill

June 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A law change aimed at improving the protection of children at risk of abuse or neglect, including stronger vetting of adults who work with children, has passed into law with broad support in Parliament.

The Vulnerable Children Bill passed its final stage by 105 – 10 votes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon after only the Green Party and Mana Party’s Hone Harawira voted against it.

They voted against???

The bill is the centrepiece of the Government’s ‘Children’s Action Plan’ – developed after Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s White Paper on Vulnerable Children.

Its measures include changes to the law so that abusive or neglectful parents will have to prove they are safe if they wish to keep any further children they have. In the past, social agencies have had to to prove they were not fit parents to take a child from them.

It also introduces greater screening of those who work with children for government and community agencies, and ban those with serious convictions from working closely with children.

They voted against this? Against screening of those who work with children, against banning convicted offenders working with children?

Green Party MP Jan Logie said Ms Bennett had failed to deal to the main problem of child poverty.

Some on the left think that the solution to every single issue is to tax hard working New Zealanders more, to give to those on welfare. That is their solution to everything. So sad.

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Should parents be accountable for fat kids?

June 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

As some doctors here for for taxes and bans on certain food and drinks, Cristina Odone has a different solution – hold parents responsible, rather than advertisers.

She writes in The Telegraph:

“What do we hate? The Nanny state!” might be a suitable marching song for conservatives — until, that is, children’s well-being is compromised. When parents abuse their role as their child’s protectors the state is right to intervene. Which is why the couple in Norfolk, arrested for allowing their son’s weight to reach 15 stone, should face court.

The son is aged only 11. To be 95 kgs at 11 years old is horrendous. He’s only five feet tall.

Imagine parents who regularly gave their son heroin; or a bottle of vodka. Anyone observing such behaviour would instinctively call the police to save the child. The same now has to be true of a child whose parents are feeding him too many of the wrong things. We now know that food — junk food, fatty food, sugar, additives  – can prove as damaging to a child’s health as heroin or alcohol. Indeed, sugar is so toxic that experts claim it is as bad as tobacco: it leads not only to obesity, but to diabetes too.

Parents who ignore these facts and ply their children with excess food (or just really bad food) are abusing their children as clearly as those who let them take drugs. In the case of the couple in Norfolk, their son suffers from autism: he is all the more at the mercy of his parents’ care. They defend his weight by claiming that it is down to bad genes. Wrong: it’s down to the parents.

Genes of course play a part. But they don’t get you that large at age 11.

The pressure is on to change Britons’ diet. Sadly, the best way forward is to scare the living daylights out of parents who have been too lazy to monitor their child’s eating. The threat of a prison sentence, and of social services taking the child in care, sound draconian but might prove the only solutions.

There is a point where it probably does become child abuse.

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The drunk nine year old

January 9th, 2014 at 7:55 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The man who filmed a drunk young boy at a skate park says he would not have released the video if police had acted hard and fast, and communicated that to him.

Bradley Goudie, 18, uploaded a video online which showed a nine-year-old boy at Fairfield Skate Park in Clarkin Rd on Tuesday afternoon with a can of Cody’s Bourbon and Cola – 7 per cent alcohol.

The boy, who struggles to stand and slurs his speech, says “I’ve been drunk before”. He also says he was given alcohol by his aunt.

Goudie, a professional scooter rider, said he was so shocked by the apparent drunkenness of the boy that he turned his camera on him and exposed what he considered one of the biggest issues in New Zealand – underage drinking.

Actually the proportion of people aged under 18 who drink has been dropping massively in the last few years. However this case is shocking and those who supplied him with the alcohol must be prosecuted and his custodial parent should probably lose custody. There is no way she could not know he is getting drunk.

Alcohol and Drug Assessment and Counselling clinical manager Roger Brooking said authorities needed to take action over the incident.

“The police should be called and that kid should be taken off his parents or whoever’s looking after him and be placed in the care of social welfare.”

He said whoever gave the boy alcohol should face criminal charges.

I agree. Sadly it is probably already too late for the kid. If you are getting drunk and possibly stoned at age nine, then it is an uphill battle.

Child Matters founder Anthea Simcock said a crime had been committed and appropriate action should be taken.

The boy had been returned to his mother, who police said was “extremely distraught” to find her son in such a state.

But the boy’s father, who the Times has chosen not to name, said he wants his son to live with him.

The man had been going through a custody battle with his former partner and hadn’t seen the boy in six months.

He said it was “heart-wrenching” to see the video of his son online yesterday. “What I want to do is get my kids and pick them up.”

Either the mother knew what was happening, or she has picked the wrong people to look after her son.

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A rare unanimous vote

September 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Paula Bennett announced:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was delighted to get unanimous support from Parliament for the Vulnerable Children Bill at first reading.

“This legislation is part of the wider Children’s Action Plan, with more than 30 initiatives to prevent child abuse and improve the lives of our most vulnerable children,” says Mrs Bennett.

“I’ve deliberately kept politics out of this and I’m delighted Opposition parties have found a way to support this work in exactly the same vein.”

This cross-party support is hugely significant for communities and individuals across New Zealand who’ve passionately adopted the Children’s Action Plan.

“It’s absolutely fair that parties have supported this legislation to Select Committee but reserve the right to debate and discuss the detail further before committing to the next step, I welcome that debate.”

“We are making major changes affecting thousands of New Zealanders.”

It is relatively rare for a major Government bill to get unanimous support. Those sort of votes tend to be around minor uncontroversial legislation.

But it is a heartening sign that all parties and MPs supported this law at first reading, as the status quo is manifestly unacceptable. That doesn’t mean every measure in the proposed law is going to end up supported, but I think the initial unanimous vote is a great sign that Parliament is determined to make some changes.


How do you solve this?

September 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff has a story from the Sydney Morning Herald about the killing of six year old Kiesha Weippart by her mother.

It’s a very long story, giving all the background of the family, and the mother especially. Very very sad.

I read the story twice, and tried to think of how you would stop what happened, happening in future, short of a parenting licence.

It is easy to vilify the mother, and she deserves it. But also easy to feel sorry for her, as she has had such a wretched life herself with her mother dead at 10, constant domestic violence, and her father abandoning her.


Laws on child abuse

August 18th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Laws writes in the SST:

In the week that former teacher James Parker was sentenced to preventive detention for his unchecked predations upon young boys in Northland, social development minister Paula Bennett announced tougher measures to combat child abuse.

Those policies that have drawn the most commentary and criticism relate to parents rather than paedophiles. Parents or caregivers who have seriously abused their kids will not automatically be allowed to have any more. And those who are suspected of being serious abusers will be banned from associating with any children, including their own.

In announcing these intended policies, Bennett rightly highlighted New Zealand’s appalling rates of child abuse. They are an enduring stain upon our country and particularly the Maori culture. Maori children are among the most endangered on the planet. In part, it is the ethnicity of the primary offenders and victims that has delayed proper government action. It is considered both uncultural and uncool to highlight Maori child abuse statistics, even though they are blindingly obvious.

Rightly, Bennett’s solution is universal. Stop habitual abusers having any more children and intervene swiftly where serious abuse is suspected, regardless of colour, culture or creed.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it is two Maori women who are leading the resistance to Bennett’s overdue toughness – associate health minister Tariana Turia and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei. Their argument is that Maori parents will unduly suffer and Turei raises the additional spectre of Aboriginal adoption. In fact, Turei goes further than that. More Maori parents abuse their kids because they are poor, she contends. If we removed “poverty”, she contends, “we’d remove a huge stressor on families that is connected to increased rates of child maltreatment and neglect”.

Yep, if you’re on welfare – or poorly paid – then abusing your kids is a natural response.

Which is bollocks. Abusing your kids is a deeply unnatural and sick response, and most parents on benefits or the minimum wage, don’t abuse their children.

Absolutely. It is beyond unnatural. Most of us feel protective and get distressed when we see any child in distress – ever a total stranger. To allow, or even be responsible, for harming your own child is as unnatural as it gets.

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Dom Post on child abuse

August 15th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Over the past five years, more than 50 children have died as a consequence of child abuse.

The names of Sahara Baker-Koro, James “JJ” Lawrence and Karl Perigo-Check are now seared in the national consciousness alongside those of Nia Glassie, Chris and Cru Kahui and James Whakaruru.

But, despite the public expressions of dismay, the political tut-tutting and the considerable efforts of police and social workers, children living in a land of plenty continue to be killed and beaten by those they have every right to expect will love and cherish them.

The sweeping law changes unveiled this week by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett are an attempt to turn the tide by making bureaucrats more accountable, introducing a form of mandatory reporting and banning child abusers from working, living or socialising with children.

Some were concerned that the green and white papers would be a talkfest that led to no change. It is good to see that significant changes are proposed.

Another proposed change – giving judges the power to ban suspected, but not proven, child abusers from contact with children has raised the hackles of civil libertarians. However, presented with a choice between trampling over adults’ rights and trampling over children, the minister has chosen to tilt the balance in favour of vulnerable children.

The select committee which considers the legislation may yet have something to say about allowing courts to impose child harm protection orders “on the balance of probabilities” rather than the higher criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”. The threat of injustice is real.

But, given New Zealand’s sorry record of protecting its most vulnerable, the minister’s precautionary approach is understandable.

I have doubts over the threshold, and want to see evidence that you need to extend CHPOs to people without convictions.

However when talking about this on radio last night, I did think of a possible example. The Kahuis. It is beyond doubt that either the father or mother neglected or killed the twins. They basically blamed each other, which meant neither was convicted beyond reasonable doubt. However we heard enough to form an opinion that they were very bad parents. So maybe that is the sort of case intended?

New Zealand’s horrific record of mistreating children has not just seared itself on the national consciousness, but on the minister’s consciousness as well. Future generations may have reason to be grateful.

We will need more than just law changes. As I mentioned earlier today policies such as placing kids with extended family need to be reevaluated also.


The role of Iwi with abused kids

August 15th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

The Green Party wants iwi empowered to oversee the placement of Maori children removed from unsafe homes under proposed child-protection laws.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said Maori children were far more likely to be affected by the changes and called the Government’s plan “a condescending colonial approach that New Zealand could do without”.

Calling something a “colonial” approach is a lazy way of saying you disagree with it. How is it a colonial approach? Does it target Maori kids only?

Having said that, I’d love Iwi to take a more prominent role in helping prevent child abuse, and having them involved in placement of kids could be well worth considering.

The Maori Party said yesterday that every effort should be made to ensure Maori children removed from their parents’ care were placed with extended family.

As I understand it, that is the current policy of CYF and the courts. But there is a problem with the status quo policy.

Sometimes an entire extended family is dysfunctional. There have been examples of kids getting abused or neglected multiple times as they rotate through various family members.

Of course it is better for a kid to go to an aunt/uncle or a cousin, than a stranger. But only if they are capable, competent and willing. Not all extended families are.

Turei said yesterday that the Greens wanted extra iwi oversight over new permanent placements for Maori children removed from their parents if they were settled outside of their wider families.

“Given that the Social Development Ministry and population data show Maori kids are three times as likely to be removed from their parents as non-Maori, extra care is needed to ensure tamariki will be genuinely better off in the state’s care,” she said.

As I said, I think that could well be worthwhile. It may depend though on how connected a family is to their Iwi. Many urban Maori do not have strong connections to their Iwi.

Turei repeated criticism that the Government was not addressing poverty in its proposed measures, even though it was a major contributor to child abuse.

People use poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Our rate of child abuse is far higher than many countries with far far worse poverty. To imply that all the Government needs to do is increase the level of welfare in New Zealand and you solve child abuse is simplistic. We actually have one of the most generous welfare states in the world.


Herald on Children’s Action Plan

August 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

So awful is this country’s record of child abuse that many radical responses have been aired in the past few years. There was, for example, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s suggestion that the courts should have the power to ban child maimers from having more children. And there was a coroner’s view that all children should be monitored compulsorily until they reach 5, including spot checks of their homes. That such flawed ideas garnered a measure of support spoke volumes of the widespread despair over the extent of the problem and the failure of policies to address it. Welcome, therefore, is Ms Bennett’s long-awaited Children’s Action Plan, which, while bound to be controversial, is generally well targeted.

I agree.

Two aspects of the new regime will be particularly contentious: the wide-ranging Child Harm Prevention Orders aimed at people considered to be a risk to children, and a requirement that parents convicted of killing or abusing their children will have to prove they are safe to care for any subsequent children. In the first instance, High Court and District Court judges can impose an order for up to 10 years if it is believed “on the balance of probabilities” that someone poses a threat to a child. It will not be necessary for a person to have been convicted of a violent or sexual crime against children.

I don’t regard the requirement for convicted killers or abusers of children to prove they are safe to be contentious. The eligibility for a CHPO is definitely contentious.

At a first blush, the latter feature appears draconian. But the characteristics of the orders and the wording associated with them are broadly in line with protection orders for domestic violence made by the Family Court and criminal courts. In that context and particularly with the presence of judicial scrutiny, they appear merited.

A key safeguard is that it would be a Judge that decides, not CYF or the Police.

The provision which requires abusive parents to prove to Child, Youth and Family they are no longer a threat tips normal legal practice upside down. Previously, it was up to the state to prove an abusive parent was unsafe. In an ideal world, that would continue to be so. The reversal carries a strong and unfortunate implication that previously unfit parents are beyond rehabilitation, But there will be greater certainty that children will be removed to a safer and nurturing environment, and, as Ms Bennett suggests, their welfare must come first. The death from extreme abuse of 50 children in the past five years shows how the present approach is not working.

I’d be interested in any data on what proportion of parents who get convicted of killing or abusing a child, then have further children with no harm reported?


The child protection law proposals

August 13th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Paula Bennett has announced details of law changes to try and reduce the terrible rate of child abuse we have in this country. Not only is child abuse a tragedy for the kids abused, but almost inevitably those abused have terrible outcomes in terms of health, education, employment and crime – in fact many become child abusers themselves. Breaking the cycle of abuse is incredibly important, and incredibly difficult.

The key details are:

  • New legislated responsibilities for Police, Justice and the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development
  • Screening and vetting of every person in the Government Children’s Workforce will be introduced
  • People with serious convictions will be permanently restricted from working closely with children
  • Parents who seriously abuse or even kill children will have to prove they are safe to parent again; if they go on to have another child, reversing the current onus of proof
  • Child Harm Prevention Orders to be placed on adults who pose a serious risk to children
  • Courts can curtail and define guardianship rights of birth parents in extreme cases

There is a q+a here.

I welcome the Government taking these bold steps. Just saying “Oh it is all too hard, and all the result of poverty” is a cop out.

The principle of Child Harm Prevention Orders I have no problem with. But I think there is a legitimate debate about whether they should only be available against people who have already been convicted of crimes against children. If the Government wants wider eligibility they would need to have very persuasive data to back up their case. But that is an excellent issue for a select committee to consider.


Banned from being near children

August 13th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

Suspected child abusers could be banned from being around children for up to 10 years without being convicted of a crime under a proposed law to be announced today.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the restrictions could mean up to 80 people a year are slapped with orders preventing them from working, living and socialising with children, with penalties of three years imposed on those who break the ban.

If police or Child, Youth and Family believe “on the balance of probabilities” someone poses a threat to a child, High Court or District Court judges could impose the ban, similar to restraining orders in cases of domestic violence.

“The court can consider a pattern of behaviour, so it might be that in some cases police have high intel on an individual and their behaviour has been considerably concerning, they don’t have enough evidence to take them to court but they might ask that the courts put a civil order against them.”

Mrs Bennett admitted the law would be controversial but said she was putting the welfare of children first.

It will be interesting to see the details of the law.


Ready, aim, fire

July 26th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Christchurch 5-year-old has been hospitalised with severe facial burns in a child abuse case that has shocked police and social agencies.

A man in his 40s is accused of holding a fan heater to the side of the boy’s face, causing third degree burns from his eyebrows to his chin.

Police have charged the man with wounding with intent to cause the boy grievous bodily harm over the weekend incident at a house in the city’s northeast.

He appeared in the Christchurch District Court on Monday and was remanded in custody without entering a plea.

The man, who has name suppression, will next appear on August 6.

Detective Sergeant Darren Folau, of the police child protection unit, said the injury was “horrific”.

The boy would require major surgery, including skin grafts for the disfiguring burn, he said.

How can a human being do that to a five year old?

There are times when biblical justice seems desirable, and maybe having a heater held to his face for say a couple of hours, would convince him of why you should not torture children?


Probably should be higher

July 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Nearly 800 newborn babies were taken from their mothers and put into government care in the past five years, with one Waikato baby taken within hours of its birth.

The 773 babies – all less than a month old – were taken due to “serious concerns” about their parents’ ability to care for them.

Child, Youth and Family midlands regional director Sue Critchley described the removals as “absolutely the last resort”.

“The last thing any social worker wants to do is take a newborn baby off their mother. So it has to be an absolute serious situation.

It’s a sad number, but to be honest the number should probably be even higher. There are a number of adults who have shown they are incapable of being safe parents, and if they understood they will automatically lose their babies at borth – they might stop having so many.


Images, not searches should be illegal

July 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

British Prime Minister David Cameron challenged the Internet search engine providers Google, Yahoo and Bing on Sunday to block images of child abuse, calling for more action against online pornography.

In a television interview, Cameron said search engines must block results for searches using blacklisted keywords to stop Internet users accessing illegal images.

Cameron’s demands should be resisted. Search engines should not blacklist keywords. Where does that stop?

If people deliberately access child abuse images on the Internet, then they are breaking the law and can be charged – as they should be.

But having a blacklist of search terms (as China does) will end up also blocking searches for educational resources that fight child abuse.

The hard core traders in child abuse images tend to not use the web much anyway. They do file sharing in chat rooms etc.

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Give it up Sir Owen

July 3rd, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Collins at NZ Herald reports:

Members of an expert think-tank set up to guide Sir Owen Glenn’s $2 million inquiry into family violence say the only way for the inquiry to continue now would be for Sir Owen to step out of the process.

At least 14 of the 25 original NZ-based think-tank members have now quit following a report on Sunday that Sir Owen was accused of physically abusing a young woman in Hawaii in 2002.

“It’s made the credibility of anything coming out of the inquiry pretty much irreversible. You can’t get that kind of credibility back,” said veteran anti-violence advocate Kirimatao Paipa. “If he [Sir Owen] takes his name off it and leaves his money … then maybe we can salvage something out of this.”

Sadly I think his good intentions are now doomed. No matter who remains involved, the departure of so many means that whatever report it produces will not be able to build wide-spread support. He runs the risk of spending millions of dollars on a report that will not lead anywhere.

Mind you looking at the views of some of those who have departed the inquiry, I suspect that they were going to conclude that all child abuse is the result of poverty, colonialism, and correctional smacking. I’m not making this up – that is what one of the experts said on the radio. So even without this fiasco, I was sceptical that the inquiry would really confront the difficult issues such as whether abused children should be looked after by the extending family (who may also be dysfuntional) or be placed with total strangers (which is less than ideal). Likewise would it have confronted issues such as how to stop abusive parents having more children? Far too easy to blame it all on poverty.

Anyway the “experts” now seem to be saying that the only way forward is for Sir Owen to hand over great wads of money as a blank cheque to them, but to have no actual role in anyway with the inquiry – and to remove his name from it – plus remove his appointed board.

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie and human rights campaigner Marama Davidson said Sir Owen and the former Supreme Court judge who now chairs the inquiry’s governance board, Bill Wilson, should go.

“If the inquiry has any future, changing the name and board membership is required. Sir Owen and Bill Wilson will need to give up their places on the board …”

I think Sir Owen deserves better than this. There are many other good causes in New Zealand he can support. Those who have left the inquiry will just continue to snipe at it and him from the sidelines.

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The sad cycle of abuse

July 2nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A judge has held out hope two parents in a shocking case of child neglect could have their children returned to them.

The Lower Hutt couple’s four children, aged 4 and under, were taken into care in January after police found them living in squalor while their parents partied.

However, police and child experts cast doubt on whether the parents could learn from their past mistakes.

“This was not an issue of poverty for this family. These parents simply prioritised alcohol, drugs and parties ahead of the needs of their children,” Inspector Mike Hill said after the sentencing.

And the background to the parents is sad:

The mother was one of 18 children, had started binge-drinking aged about 13, and was expelled from school before having her first child at 17.

The father had been taken out of his alcoholic mother’s care as a baby and had never met his father. He started drinking heavily when he was about 15 and was introduced to gangs a year later.

So the grandparents were dysfunctional. The parents are dysfunctional and the kids may have already been so damaged that they will grow up dysfunctional.

Stopping the cycle of child abuse is incredibly hard. In this case though CYF should have intervened earlier. It was the Police responding to a noisy party that led to them losing the children. CYF had been involved for five years trying to help the parents. But some parents can’t be helped, sadly.

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The Glenn inquiry

June 7th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Phil Kitchin at Dom Post reports:

The future of Sir Owen Glenn’s $2 million inquiry into family violence is on a knife edge after three more staff resigned, and world-leading experts it recruited expressed deep concerns about its future.

The trumpeted inquiry – set up last year with Sir Owen’s promise of $80m to fight family violence – was already reeling from the resignations of its two senior managers and three of its four chairpersons.

Yesterday, three contracted experts in the domestic violence and child abuse sector resigned.

Deborah Mackenzie, Deanne Littlejohn and Alex Port, who have more than 30 years’ collective experience, said they had lost confidence in the inquiry.

They held serious concerns for the safety of information from people interviewed so far, as the inquiry was no longer being led by experts in family violence.

They also lost confidence in its integrity when it announced it would take a “corporate” approach.

“Corporate values revolve around ideas of profit, shutting out the competition and self-interest. Those values are not aligned with social justice,” Ms Mackenzie said.

I don’t know what exactly led to the fallout, but I think we get some idea from the comment above.

If one of the experts has a view that corporate values are evil, and it is all about social justice, I can only imagine where the inquiry was heading. I suspect they had already decided child abuse is a result of capitalism and colonialism, and that all you need to do to stop child abuse is tax rich pricks more and give more money to beneficiaries.

The motivations of Mr Glenn are excellent, and the fact he is offering $80 million of his own money to help fight child abuse is hugely commendable. My hopes from the inquiry, if it continues, is it will produce something worthwhile.

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JJ Lawrence

November 15th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Anna Leask at the Herald writes:

A week before JJ Lawrence was murdered, his aunt went to check on him because his father was concerned the tot was in danger.

She thought the 2-year-old was okay, never imagining that days later he would be killed by a man who had been subjecting him to months of abuse, including breaking his arm twice and forcing him to smoke dope.

Yesterday – exactly a year after James Joseph Ruhe Lawrence died from a blow to his tummy so hard that his pancreas and liver split in half – the man who had made his short life hell was found guilty of murder.

Joel Loffley began a relationship with JJ’s mother, Josephine Lawrence, last year. While in Loffley’s care JJ received two arm breaks – one left for days as Ms Lawrence was too drunk to seek help – and numerous other injuries.

Obviously the problem was the lack of a universal child benefit.

Loffley “played rough” with JJ and was seen making him smoke an asthma inhaler full of marijuana.

JJ was visibly terrified of Loffley, but could do nothing to escape.

One of far too many cases we have.

I will never understand such cruelty to children. I feel protective about kids and babies, that are not even related to me. So do 99% of us. It is the most natural thing in the world.

Keeping Stock blogs:

 When we blogged about the guilty verdict returned against Joel Loffley yesterday, regular commenter bsprout attempted to make a political statement saying this:

“It’s a pity that the government has only invested in the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff and have gutted all the initiatives that would stop these things happening in the first place”  

Looking beyond the fact that the measures proposed by Paula Bennett in her White Paper on Vulnerable Children (a far more wide-reaching solution than Labour, supported by the Greens managed in nine years) have yet to be fully implemented, we suggest that no political initiative could have prevented this. 

You can’t blame poverty either. As we recall, evidence was given at the trial that both Loffley and Ms Lawrence were receiving welfare benefits despite living together. Loffley supplemented his benefit by selling cannabis from the couple’s home. A lack of money did not cause JJ’s death. And bsprout should reflect on those ripping off the welfare system, especially those who think it is their “right” to do so. The money being paid out to welfare cheats would be far better spent elsewhere in the economy.

Their combined income was higher than many households. The problem was they spent it on cannabis and alcohol.

I hope it is a very long time until Loffley is out of prison.


Maybe sterilisation isn’t such a bad idea after all

November 3rd, 2012 at 12:18 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A mother who admitted she was an alcoholic who smoked P and marijuana around her two year old son, blew cannabis smoke in his face and waited for days to take him to hospital with a broken arm, has denied any role in his death.

How can any mother do that?

She also admitted she did not take the boy to a doctor for several days after he broke his arm because she was drunk and she was scared the boy would be taken from her.

As should have happened.

Lawrence had testified that Loffley forced JJ to smoke marijuana through an asthma inhaler.

Ready, aim, fire.

However, she admitted getting ”wasted” a lot and sometimes blowing cannabis smoke in JJ’s face herself.

”I probably used to blow some in his face but he used to give him full on spots,” she said of Loffley.

I think they deserve each other. What they do not deserve is more children.


Forecasting vulnerable children

October 14th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Simon Collins in NZ Herald reports:

An economist who has developed a mathematical method of predicting child abuse says it is about as accurate as a mammogram is in spotting breast cancer.

Auckland University associate professor Rhema Vaithianathan, who led a team that developed the technique for the Government’s white paper on vulnerable children, hopes it can be introduced through the country next year.

This could be incredibly useful. As I understand it, it applies all the known factors which increase prevalence of child abuse to identify those most at risk. This gives an opportunity to provide support and if necessary protection before it is too late.

Sri Lanka-born Dr Vaithianathan, 46, who came to New Zealand at the age of 7, has also written papers applying economic techniques to the “marriage market” for female genital mutilation in Africa and to the likelihood of patients who are admitted to New Zealand hospitals being readmitted in the following year.

The three Auckland health boards are using her hospital formula to tell family doctors how likely their patients are to be readmitted.

Professor Vaithianathan contested the Labour nomination for Parliament in the 2009 Mt Albert byelection, won by David Shearer, but she said she was happy to do research for the National Government.

“I think New Zealand is too small, and our problems are too grave, for partisanship.”

A view not shared by Jacinda Ardern it seems, who called it a “dodgy” tool from Auckland University.

Her team found that children born between January 2003 and June 2006 whose parents were on welfare at some point in their first two years accounted for 83 per cent of total New Zealand substantiated findings of abuse or neglect of children under 5 during the subsequent five years.

The rate of substantiated abuse or neglect in children on welfare (13 per cent) was almost 10 times the 1.4 per cent rate in families that were never on welfare in those five years.

Which is why reducing the number of families on long-term welfare (excepting those absolutely incapable of work) is so important. Note that 87% of families on welfare do not have child abuse issues, so this not about demonising all families on welfare. Most do an excellent job in difficult circumstances. But to have one in seven families on welfare with substantiated abuse is far far too high.


Dom Post on child abuse white paper

October 12th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s White Paper on vulnerable children includes steps that, properly implemented and resourced, will help ensure better reporting and information sharing by state and non-governmental agencies dealing with kids at risk.

It proposes mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse in all but name. Agencies working with children will be required by law to have policies on identifying and reporting possible abuse and neglect and professionals will have a clear responsibility to act.

The White Paper also proposes a central database of vulnerable children to give professionals working with them a comprehensive picture of their lives. Doctors, teachers, social workers, police and other agencies will have access to the database and be able to enter information. Details from a new child abuse line to take and triage calls from the public will also be fed into the database if concerns are found to warrant further attention.

The database will also include information on adults who have abused or neglected children, allowing those accessing it to see whether a child they are concerned about is in contact with someone who poses a danger to them.

Such a database is long overdue. There have been too many examples of one agency or professional having contact with a child in danger, but not acting to protect them.

There’s many worthwhile initiatives in the white paper, but I think this is the most important.

Too often the early abuse is not detected or acted upon until it is too late.

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The White Paper for Vulnerable Children

October 11th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Paula Bennett has released the Government’s White Paper. There’s a lot of recommendations in it. Some of them include:

  • Introduce a Vulnerable Children’s Bill which includes provisions requiring agencies working with children to place the child’s interests at the centre
  • Introduce legislation for Child Abuse Prevention Orders to keep children safe from abusers who pose a risk to children
  • Implement integrated care plans for each child in care
  • A free “Child Protect” line up and running for the public to report concerns by phone, email, text or online
  • Introduce legislation requiring all agencies working with children to have policies and reporting systems in place to recognise and report child abuse and neglect
  • Frontline people who work with children (eg doctors, teachers) to be trained to recognise the signs of child abuse
  • Introduce legislation, if required, to support greater information-sharing between government agencies and also with Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
  • Implement the Vulnerable Kids Information System, including training for those using the system
  • Establish local multi-disciplinary Children’s Teams (CYF,Health, Education, Justice, Police, Housing, TPK) in reach region
  • Engage with iwi on the establishment of a national register of approved iwi caregivers
  • Investigate extending paid parental leave type support for caregivers providing a Home for Life
  • Introduce new obligations for vetting and screening processes, and set minimum standards and core competencies for those working with children
  • Introduce legislation to restrict people, in the home and at work, who pose a high risk to the safety of children from living or associating with children, and to provide the right arrangements for safe care of children
  • Seek donations from individuals, corporates and other groups for a scholarship fund for vulnerable children
  • Commission an independent review of the existing Child, Youth and Family complaints processes to determine whether changes need to be made, including the possibility of establishing an independent complaints mechanism, separate from the Ministry of Social Development

I think there are some very worthwhile initiatives there, especially the Vulnerable Kids Information System. Yes it is Big Brother a bit, but far too many kids are being beaten, abused and killed, because they fall through the gaps.

I predict Labour will try and avoid saying anything at all on the substance, but bleat about “child poverty” as they seem to think that lowering the median household income (which would bring low income families out of poverty as poverty is defined relative to the median income) will solve everything.

Of course poverty is a factor in areas such as child abuse and crime. But we have shown that you can reduce the violence crime rate by getting policies and laws right. Likewise one can do the same with child abuse – however it is much harder as we often do not know they are victims until too late.