Too high but falling

January 23, 2015

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has welcomed latest child abuse statistics showing that the number of children abused in the year ended June 2014 fell by 2,306 or 12 percent on the previous year.

“Let there be no doubt that our child abuse figures remain appallingly high but it is pleasing to see the numbers going down for the first time in 10 years,” says Mrs Tolley.

During the year to June 2014, 16,289 children had 19,623 findings of abuse substantiated compared to 18,595 children with 22,984 findings of abuse in the previous year. 

Of the 146,657 notifications made to Child, Youth and Family in 2014, 54,065 reports required further action involving 43,590 children.  This compared to 148,659 notifications in 2013 where 61,877 reports required further action in relation to 48,527 children.  A drop of 4,937 children.

In 2014, there were 9,499 children who were emotionally abused, 3,178 children who were physically abused and 1,294 children who were sexually abused.  In 2013 the corresponding figures were 11,386 children emotionally abused, 3,181 physically abused and 1,423 sexually abused.

“Good progress is being achieved in implementing the Children’s Action Plan.   With 30 specific measures designed to prevent abuse and neglect, it will make a real difference in reducing child abuse in this country.

“New Zealanders are becoming increasingly intolerant of abuse and neglect in their communities, and the more people willing to report their concerns, the better chance we’ll have to keep our children safe and protected.” says Mrs Tolley.

The number of people on benefits is also declining.

Could there be a link between that and the decline in child abuse?
While New Zealand's child abuse statistics are still far too high, we're making significant progress in preventing abuse and neglect.<br /><br /><br />
ntnl.org.nz/1zxtVU7

 


None should, any could

January 22, 2015

Could any parents put their hands on their hearts and say they had never done anything that might have endangered the life of one of their children?

Left a little one in a bath to answer a phone, or turn down the pot boiling on the stove; backed out of a garage without checking no child could get in the way; had a momentary loss of attention near water, a busy road or while driving; left a door or gate open that could have let the child get into danger; not put medicine, poison or matches out of reach; had children on a trailer or the back of a ute . . . ?

Often when there’s a tragedy because of human error, it’s the result of a chain of events where a change in one link could have averted it.

This is what appears to have happened in the tragic case of the baby who died in a car.

If the father had been able to take the baby to the day care centre as he normally did; if the mother had not been preoccupied; if she had glanced in the back of the car as she got out; if someone else in the car park had seen the baby; if the day care centre had been able to reach the mother, if they’d tried to reach the father . . . .

So many ifs and if only one of those had been different the baby might still be alive.

Tragically he’s not.

When our sons died it was no-one’s fault. They had brain disorders and nothing anyone could have done could have prevented their deaths meaning we could grieve without the guilt which the mother of this baby will feel.

Inevitably she has been judged. How could she do that? How could anything be more important than her baby? Isn’t putting the label forgotten baby syndrome  just excusing the inexcusable?

No doubt she is asking those questions too.

But can any of us say that there wasn’t a time when we were looking after our children that we failed to give them and their safety our full attention and it was only a matter of luck that the consequences weren’t tragic?

None of us should allow anything to come before the safety of a child in our care but any of us could and almost certainly have.

Thankfully for most of us the result hasn’t been tragic, sadly in this case it was.


Hard Country A Golden Bay Life

December 17, 2014

hard

Robin and Garry Robilliard had big dreams of owning their own farm but only a very small budget with which to purchase one.

Knowing better properties closer to town were out of their reach they settled for Rocklands, a rundown property on very marginal hill country over the Takaka Hill from Nelson.

Not only the farm was rundown, the house was too, allowing too easy access for mice and rats.

The three previous owners went broke trying to farm the property and given the challenges they faced the Robilliards could easily have done so too.

But they were determined to keep hold of their dream and their farm and they persevered where many others would not have.

Farming this hard country required demanding physical work and mental toughness.

Robin recounts the their trials and triumphs without self-pity and with a sense of humour, painting a vivid picture of their life  and times and the people who played a part in them.

Farming and raising their children would have been enough for most women but Robin also managed to write entertaining accounts of their life for the Auckland Weekly and was a guest on the TV programme Beauty and the Beast.

This led to opportunities for travel writing and accounts of her travels behind the iron curtain are included in the book.

Hard Country is an interesting and  inspirational read which will appeal to a wide audience, not just those with a connection to farming.

That said, if you have a farmer in want of a Christmas present, this book would make a good one.

Hard Country A Golden Bay Life by Robin Robilliard is published by Random House.


Road blocks to family life

October 11, 2014

Is helping middle class families social engineering?

James Pethokoukis asks the question and provides his answer:

One frequently mentioned criticism of the plan in “Room to Grow” to dramatically expand the child tax credit* is that it’s somehow “social engineering.” But as Bob Stein, the author of that chapter, has patiently pointed out, the expansion would actually help offset the anti-family “social engineering” of current government policy and make Americans less dependent on government.

Anyway, all this talk of “social engineering” reminded me of a passage in “Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II” by George Weigel (bold is mine):

Perhaps the hardest-fought battle between Church and [Poland’s] regime involved family life, for the communists understood that men and women secure in the love of their families were a danger. Housing, work schedules, and school hours were all organized by the state to separate parents from their children as frequently as possible. Apartments were constructed to accommodate only small families, so that children would be regarded as a problem. Work was organized in four shifts and families were rarely together. The workday began at 6 or 7 a.m., so children had to be consigned to state-run child-care centers before school. The schools themselves were consolidated, and children were moved out of their local communities for schooling.

Now that’s social engineering. I guess my point here is that policy reformers should think carefully about the roadblocks government inadvertently puts up to Americans conducting a healthy family life. Maybe that’s tax policy. Maybe it’s welfare policy. . . .

I am not a fan of Working for Families when it is given to people earning well above the average wage.

However, I do accept it has a place at the lower end of the wage scale to ensure families are better off with a parent in work than on welfare.

Anecdotal evidence says it discourages  a second parent from seeking work because what’s earned is cancelled out by what’s lost in steep abatements from WFF.

If financial reward was a major consideration in the parent seeking work that could be the case.

Another issue which impacts on family life is the push for urban development which promotes infill-housing and going up rather than out.

Going up results in apartment blocks and in-fill housing – both usually have hardly any outside areas for relaxation and play which families need.

That is the norm in many other countries and isn’t a problem if there are plenty of public recreation areas which isn’t always the case.

The concern people have over the ageing population is not just a function of the post-war baby-boom. It’s a function of people having fewer or no children since then.

How many children people have, or if they have any at all, is entirely their business.

However, governments can influence that by policies which are or aren’t family friendly.

WFF is family friendly although it gives support to some who might not need it.

Sole parent benefits do support families in need, but they can also sabotage family relationships if the state is a better bread-winner than the absent parent.


Helping to help selves

September 29, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has asked officials to come up with fresh ideas to tackle the issue of child poverty.

. . . Key’s genius is to sense developing problems, define what needs to be done and then act decisively to cauterise them. No better example is the call he has made this week for the DPMC, Treasury and other departments to delve into the issue of child poverty, and come up with fresh advice on how to wrap services into meeting the needs of those families who are struggling.

Left to its own, child poverty could lead to the evolution of a frustrated under-class and long-term a divided society. Key is going to make sure the issue is dealt to and doesn’t become a political headache. He doesn’t belong to the school which believes throwing more money at the problem is the solution. There’s a fundamental tension between ensuring sufficient welfare assistance is available and ensuring incentives to get into work are strong enough. Two out of five children said to be in poverty are in homes where one parent at least is in work.

Working for Families and other welfare measures are tactical measures: the overall strategy lies in more jobs, and, as Key sees it, in upskilling those who lack the skills for the opportunities opening up. Key argues the million NZers who voted for National on Saturday are caring people who will want to see the Govt understands the issue and is working its way through it. But he says those million people will also want to see those to whom assistance is targeted helping themselves. . .

Children shouldn’t be punished for poor decisions their parents make but nor should parents be paid, or compensated, for abrogating their responsibilities.

Only the hardest of hearts would begrudge assistance to the most vulnerable.

But most people work hard for their money and expect that those their taxes help, help themselves if and when they are able to.

Simply throwing money at the problem would entrench dependency and the social and economic issues that follow.


Environment first for farmers

September 20, 2014

Lincoln University research shows environmental stewardship is a high priority for farmers:

Farmers on properties with a net annual profit less than $50,000 list ‘minimising pollution’, ‘improving the condition of the property’ and ‘ensuring employees enjoy their job’ as more important objectives than ‘expanding the business’ or ‘making a comfortable living’.

That’s according to the latest results from research conducted by Lincoln University Senior Lecturer in Farm Management Research, Dr Kevin Old, and Research Fellow, Dr Peter Nuthall, who sought opinions and preferences with regard to farm succession and governance.

According to the researchers, the prioritised objectives of less profitable farmers may reflect a mindset which has largely dismissed the idea of achieving larger returns or expanding the business on grounds that these are essentially unobtainable. As such, job satisfaction or meaning comes from notions of environmental stewardship or quality of life.

Interestingly, farmers on properties with lower returns also placed ‘attending field days’ as one of the lowest objectives.

There could well be a link between this apparent unwillingness to learn and low returns. But it could also be that these farmers don’t feel they can afford the time off their farms.

For more profitable farms (those with a net annual profit of $100,000-$150,000) the same objectives appear as top choices, albeit in a slightly different order. These farmers put ‘it is important to make a comfortable living’ at the top of the list. However, the other top ranked objectives are in the same order with ‘minimise pollution’ fitting in after ‘ensuring employees enjoy their job’.

Of great surprise to the researchers was the objective ‘it is important to pass the farm to family’ being placed at the bottom of the list as the lowest ranked objective. . .

I think this has changed after the ag-sag of the 80s when farms couldn’t afford to have adult children come home and they got work elsewhere.

New Zealand has historically had an orientation toward the family farm: ownership systems were simple, and most farms kept one or two people fully occupied. Likewise, objectives were orientated toward farming ‘as a way of life’. The research aimed at ascertaining whether this traditional model has changed and to what degree.

It was found that the average age of farmers in New Zealand in 2006 was 50, but in 2013 this had edged up to 53. The average farm size has similarly increased, from 557 hectares in 2006 to 591 hectares in 2013.

The average number of people working on the farms has also increased. In 2006 it was 2.05, whereas the figure for 2013 sits at 2.76.

The researchers noted that changes in employment levels per farm are most pronounced in the dairy sector. This is no doubt due to growth in the sector which has seen dairy production increase from 951.5 kilograms of milksolids per hectare in 2006 to 1134.3 kilograms of milksolids per hectare in 2013 (compared with a drop in lambing productivity from 130.3 percent to 127 percent).

The South Island in particular has seen a notable increase in average farm size, which has gone some way to contribute to the fact that 3.2 percent of all farms in New Zealand – all of which are dairy operations – now have eight or more people working on them.

Across all farm types, 25 percent are run by a single person. Farms with two people make up a further 41 percent, with three person farms covering an additional 13.5 percent. As such, close to 80 percent of farms in New Zealand are still low labour operations.

Of note, 20 percent of all New Zealand farms are sheep farms and have three people or fewer working on them.

It was also found that sheep farms experience less of a problem finding sufficient labour than dairy operations.

That reflects our experience.

Along with the increasing age of farm managers, the number of years which farmers own their farms is probably increasing. Currently the average length of ownership is 25 years.

Another change is likely to be in the number of farms each farmer has an interest in. While nearly 60 percent of farmers are involved with only one farm, the average across all farm types is 1.75 farms. This number is increasing, however, largely due to the growth in dairying, with some farmers holding an interest in more than seven farms.

It was found that family farms have a variety of ownership systems. Private companies are becoming important, with 14 percent of the respondents noting they have such a company. This might be combined with various other ownership systems, of which a trust could be one. In fact, the results showed that trusts factor into 47 percent of all properties in one form or another. Of the respondents, only 1.24 percent reported a public company ownership model.

Of all partnerships, around 70 percent involve a spouse. An additional 25 percent also involve one or more family members, but partnerships with non-family members are uncommon. A farmer’s spouse is also an important person in the case of trusts.

The researchers found that, on the whole, family ownership systems are such that the farmers themselves make most of the decisions. Indeed, the farmers reported they were the main decision maker on 71 percent of the farms, although they do frequently consult other family members before acting. It is suspected that this has probably changed over the years. Overall, it is likely that family members and other ‘important people’ are increasingly consulted.

All in all, while farms are certainly getting larger and farmers are staying longer on their farms, ownership systems largely remain relatively simple, and farmers continue to make most of the decisions on their own. Likewise, farmer objectives probably haven’t changed much, although the extra emphasis on the environment and sustainability was surprising.

“If you believe all that you read you would get the impression that New Zealand farming is going corporate,” says Dr Peter Nuthall. “But, while it is true that some corporate or quasi-corporate family arrangements exist, by far the majority of farms are simple family affairs.”

Farming doesn’t provide a high return on capital so is more suited to family operations than corporate ones which generally are more focussed on the bottom line over a shorter time period.


Fathers’ Day

September 7, 2014

To be a good father and mother requires that the parents defer many of their own needs and desires in favor of the needs of their children. As a consequence of this sacrifice, conscientious parents develop a nobility of character and learn to put into practice the selfless truths taught by the Savior Himself. – James E. Faust

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection. – Sigmund FreudWhen a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry. –  William Shakespeare

It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. -Pope John XXIII

 It is much easier to become a father than to be one. ~Kent Nerburn

It was my father who taught me to value myself. He told me that I was uncommonly beautiful and that I was the most precious thing in his life.  – Dawn French

A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father. – Frank Abagnale

 Son, brother, father, lover, friend. There is room in the heart for all the affections, as there is room in heaven for all the stars. – Victor Hugo

And from Brian Andreas:


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