Helping vulnerable children

There is no excuse for giving children nothing but the love and care they need.

That doesn’t stop some people neglecting or abusing them which is why there’s a need for the Vulnerable Children Bill which was passed into law yesterday.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett explains:

. . . This Bill is a critical step in giving effect to changes in the Children’s Action Plan.

These include ensuring joint accountability across Justice, Health, Education, Police and Social Development, for the wellbeing of vulnerable children.

They also include the new requirements for the screening and vetting of Government workers and contractors who work with children.

All up these new requirements will cover around 182,000 New Zealanders.

There are also new workforce restrictions to prevent those with serious convictions, who pose a danger to children, from coming into contact with them.

The legislation will also switch the onus on parents who have killed, or severely abused or neglected a child, and they will now have to prove they are safe to parent subsequent children.

But let me be very clear, the legislation contained in this Bill is a small part of work already underway.

We can pass laws to improve screening and vetting.

We can pass laws that place restrictions on dangerous people where there currently are none.

But we cannot pass laws that stop children being beaten, neglected, or sexually and emotionally abused.

We cannot pass laws that stop children being killed, by those who should love and protect them.

We cannot expect that throwing more money at this problem – without changing how we work – will actually fix anything.

Accepting that this is as good as it gets will not cut it.

This is where the Children’s Action Plan, of which the Vulnerable Children Bill is just one part, will make a difference.

It is multi-dimensional, cross agency and community driven.

It has more than 30 interwoven initiatives and it will:

• bring the right people together in communities around our vulnerable kids.

• give us a whole lot more options to respond to the different needs of children.

Firstly, we want to support vulnerable children and work alongside their families to keep them safe so that they never reach the point where they need the involvement of Child, Youth and Family.

That’s where our new Children’s Teams come in, along with the Hub and the Vulnerable Kids Information System, or ViKI.

Children’s Teams bring together frontline professionals from health, education, welfare and other agencies to wrap services around children and their families.

They work with children and young people who are vulnerable, but are best helped outside Child, Youth and Family’s statutory service.

As well as doctors, teachers and social workers there is Plunket, Family Start, Whanau Ora, parenting services, and budgeting services to name a few.

But too often vulnerable children are at the back of the queue for these services.

They have parents or caregivers who don’t know enough, or simply don’t care enough, to prioritise and advocate for their needs.

These children need to be at the front and centre of the queue,

What I have had to consider is whether these vulnerable children should get to jump the queue, and get in front of other children whose needs may be as pressing, but who have parents or caregivers fighting in their corner.

I am unapologetic in saying that yes they should, because it is they who are most at risk.

Children’s Teams will understand the unique needs of each child they deal with, and pull together a team who can make the most difference to get alongside the child and family.

They will be able to fast track access to services, and carve a clear path for vulnerable children to the support they need.

Our two pilot teams in Rotorua and Whangarei have worked with over 110 children so far and we are hearing about:

• better attendance at health appointments

• better parenting

• re-enrolments at early childhood and school

• better access to welfare support

• happier children

• better behaviour

• and reduced offending.

There’s been a lot of learning, and some hurdles along the way, but it’s clear that the mix of services and the early support is making a difference to children’s lives.

And by the middle of next year we will have eight new Children’s Teams in action.

Alongside this we’re developing a Vulnerable Kids Information System where frontline professionals like doctors and teachers can go online to register concerns about a child.

ViKI will help us join those dots into a picture about what is going on for a child.

We’re also setting up a Hub where people can report their concerns about a child quickly and easily, or get help and advice.

Depending on what’s happening for each child, the Hub will triage them to the level of support they need.

The initiatives contained in the Children’s Action Plan are all connected to each other and firmly place vulnerable children at the front and centre.

These are the children who have no one to speak up for them.

If they are not the core work and priority for police, paediatricians, social workers and community workers, then who is?

I would like to thank the Social Services Committee and all the New Zealanders that made submissions for their valuable contribution to this bill.

This legislation goes beyond this House, and beyond politics.

It goes into the home of every New Zealander whether they have children or not, because the wellbeing of our vulnerable is the measure of the heart of this country.

As proud as I am of the opportunities and support available for most of us, there are too many left out and too many let down.

As I said, there are 23,000 cases of substantiated abuse each year.

There are eight children killed by the people who should hold them, love them, and care for them.

As Minister, I expect the results of our work with vulnerable children to be that by which I am judged, and I am investing everything I have into this.

It is crucial we get it right – not in a few years, or ‘in the future,’ but now.

This legislation is a crucial step underpinning a much wider piece of work that will fundamentally change the way we work with vulnerable children and their families in New Zealand.

It will make a difference.

The law can’t be in every home, nor should it be.

But it does need to be able to act to protect children who are let down by their families.

 

Children need our protection. National is doing everything possible to keep them safe.</p><br />
<p>Learn more: http://ntnl.org.nz/1uEHaLf

You’d think this would be something that would get cross-party support, but it didn’t:

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. . .

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

Poverty is a problem but it is not an excuse for the neglect and abuse of children.

The Minister said, the Bill is just one part of a much bigger programme – the relevant piece from the extract above explains:

. . . But let me be very clear, the legislation contained in this Bill is a small part of work already underway.

We can pass laws to improve screening and vetting.

We can pass laws that place restrictions on dangerous people where there currently are none.

But we cannot pass laws that stop children being beaten, neglected, or sexually and emotionally abused.

We cannot pass laws that stop children being killed, by those who should love and protect them.

We cannot expect that throwing more money at this problem – without changing how we work – will actually fix anything.

Accepting that this is as good as it gets will not cut it.

This is where the Children’s Action Plan, of which the Vulnerable Children Bill is just one part, will make a difference.

It is multi-dimensional, cross agency and community driven. . .

The Green Party and Harawira put their blinkers on and voted against a Bill which isn’t pretending to give all the answers but will address part of the problem.

Shame on them.

12 Responses to Helping vulnerable children

  1. Andrei says:

    Once again the Government setting itself up as God in its unbridled hubris,

    What would a parliament that can actually pass a law that allows two men or two women to “marry” one another know about the welfare of children?

    SFA that’s what.

    If you cannot grasp that what children need is not new laws but loving parents and if you cannot grasp, which the dolts we have the misfortune to have as our “representatives” cannot that the best way to achieve this is to encourage and nurture strong bonds between the men and women who will conceive and raise the children we need we are only going to see more and more degraded, debased and dysfunctional adults.

    And no amount of new legislation is going to change this

    Like

  2. Andrei says:

    Anyway its Friday today, the day of the week when the most vulnerable children of all are dismembered in our local State run hospital with the full blessing the majority of the hypocrites in Parliament who wring their hands about “protecting vulnerable children”.

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  3. Andrei says:

    the best way to achieve this is to encourage and nurture strong bonds between the men and women who will conceive and raise the children we need we are only going to see more and more degraded, debased and dysfunctional adults.

    A vignette of New Zealand life after two plus generations of rule by the Godless progressives.

    A Whangarei teacher has admitted kicking her estranged husband’s pregnant partner in the face at a junior rugby match.

    The violence erupted when the teacher, Terynne Whitney Mills-Barber Dunn, 28, was talking to her estranged husband Warren Dunn, and the pair was joined by Mr Dunn’s partner Rauwinia Wycliffe, who was 14 weeks pregnant.

    Dunn had given birth to Mr Dunn’s child six weeks before the confrontation, which resulted in her arrest.

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  4. Mr E says:

    You don’t like law changes to protect children Andrei?

    Like

  5. Dave Kennedy says:

    “The Green Party and Harawira put their blinkers on and voted against a Bill which isn’t pretending to give all the answers but will address part of the problem. Shame on them.”

    While I acknowledge the reference to this being only one part of the problem, unless we have all our systems working in synch there is a very real danger of more damage being done. Education has been severely knocked around because of things being implemented before everyone thing is aligned and organised.

    The Greens supported the bill at the first reading and it going through the select committee process. While we supported the intent we had a number of concerns that weren’t adequately addressed at the end, so for genuine reasons we couldn’t support the final bill.

    Child abuse often occurs in the context of domestic violence and unless this is addressed in any comprehensive way, elements of this bill may actually make things worse for children. If the action plan for children involves removing children from one dangerous environment, then placing them into a system with serious flaws, the children will effectively be abused twice.

    As the Glenn report revealed, most victims felt that systems of support were inadequate and just created more stress. Currently social workers are struggling to manage their case loads and throwing more children into a system that is already trying to operate beyond capacity is very unwise.

    While it is important to have concerns recorded the information placed on the database will often not be verified and the potential for incorrect information to be locked into the system is very real. If we are going to be putting these systems in place, we need to make sure that the evidentiary processes are solid and that the ability for the system to cope is sound, because our children’s lives depend on it. That assurance doesn’t exist.

    Currently our justice system convicts only 1 in a 100 sexual offenders and the Justice Minister has refused to pick up the recommendations of the alternative pre-trial and trial hearings systems. Unless all of our systems are operating in synch with each other this bill will likely not achieve any of it’s admirable intentions and will just make things worse.

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  6. Dave Kennedy says:

    Should read ‘everything’ in the second paragraph above.

    Like

  7. Andrei says:

    you don’t like law changes to protect children Andrei?

    Dave Kennedy sort of gets it.

    It’s not law changes that are needed it is culture changes.

    All the law can do is punish and coerce people and that fixes nothing, usually makes matters worse as Dave Kennedy points out.

    You see Mr E we live in degraded and debased culture, wealthy but degraded just like Paris Hilton is wealthy and degraded.

    Where I part company with Mr Kennedy is that he sees poverty as the cause, whereas I know that those who have money just use this to paint over their dysfunctions, to hide them from others.

    What is a cooler set of wheels, a new BMW M6 or a second hand imported Previa filled with child seats? Which would you rather drive?

    This is not a trick question, it tells you where your priorities lie and where our societies priorities lie

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  8. Mr E says:

    “What is a cooler set of wheels, a new BMW M6 or a second hand imported Previa filled with child seats? Which would you rather drive?”

    Neither are cool to me. If you said a tidy condition series Landrover, you would have had me.

    If I won Lotto that is what I would buy.

    Perhaps there in lies my ignorance of your point. I’m a practical Mr E. I like things that just work.

    I tend to think the greatest gains made in reducing Child abuse exist in education of parents. But I don’t mind law changes that protect those most at risk. Subtle changes are preferred I think. I don’t think our existing support system is broken although I do have resource questions.

    So looking at a law that tinkers to protect is fine by me.

    And I think Daves take on this law is wrong – it is not about “throwing more children into a system that is already trying to operate beyond capacity”

    It is about the hand back process. Making sure kids are handed back safely.

    I have no doubt removing children from parents causes stress, and plenty of it, but when a childs safety is in question, stress is the lesser of the two evils and unavoidable.

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  9. Dave Kennedy says:

    “Where I part company with Mr Kennedy is that he sees poverty as the cause”

    Andrei, I never stated that and I have already explained before that poverty contributes to to problems of child abuse but as you say there are cultural aspects that have become embedded in our society that we need to address. I have travelled extensively and have noted that other cultures that are not nearly as affluent as ours cherish their children and elderly far more than us and this has nothing to do with wealth.

    Addressing poverty in New Zealand will only deal to the physical elements that affect children, lack of food, decent housing, appropriate clothing and the ability to participate in all our communities offer (sports, cultural activities). Nothing can replace love and caring but the value our Governments place on children through their policies can dictate and shift culture and attitudes.

    If we really valued our kids we would also value good parents who want to spend time with their children, we now have a culture where stay at home mothers are bludgers and all children should attend child care. We now have a culture where we are encouraged to dob struggling parents in rather than offering a helping hand. Celia Lashlie has it right when she talks about people crossing the street to avoid a home with ragged kids and a struggling mum rather than calling in and offering support.

    Andrei, I wrote this the other day and would be interested to know if it aligns with your thinking too.

    http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/domestic-violence-poverty-and-children.html

    Like

  10. Dave Kennedy says:

    “I have no doubt removing children from parents causes stress, and plenty of it, but when a childs safety is in question, stress is the lesser of the two evils and unavoidable.”

    Mr E, If you read the Glenn report and many other examples I can provide you with (including my own anecdotal experience), children often receive worse abuse after being removed from their families. You may even remember the foster parent in the news recently who regularly beat the kids in his care to sort them out. It is not just about the handing back process. Also every damaged kid we create has the potential to be an abusive parent.

    Like

  11. Andrei says:

    I read your post Dave – your thought patterns a foreign to me

    But another charming story from today’s news

    A Northland Child Youth and Family caregiver has been sentenced to 14 and a half years in prison for the physical and sexual abuse of children.

    Taite Kupa, 57, was found guilty of 21 charges of rape, sexual violation and assault last month in the Whangarei High Court.

    He was convicted of three counts of rape, one of attempted rape, six charges of unlawful sexual violation by sexual connection, and one sexual violation. He was convicted of ten charges of assault.

    The assaults were against six different children in his care all aged under 15, and the rape and sexual assault were against two girls under 15.

    We live in a world ruled by Satan and the vast majority of politicians are his (usually unwitting ) servants

    Like

  12. TraceyS says:

    My sister-in-law had a Previa filled with child-seats and it was pretty cool when they pulled up at our place. The older two kids – a builder and a farmer – come in their own vehicles now (neither a BMW). Best thing is they still come around, having forgiven us for practising our parenting skills on them before we had our own.

    Like

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