Fancy an emetic? The Herald is running a series of articles on child abuse today. Here is a nauseating recitation from a single article:
- An average of eight children are killed each year, and many more end up battered in hospital at the hands of family members.
- Children under two are especially vulnerable; each year 59 are admitted to hospitals for what doctors call “non-accidental head injury” (often known as shaken baby syndrome) and more than 2000 confirmed cases of child maltreatment come to the attention of Child Youth and Family.
- New Zealand has the fourth-worst child murder rate in the OECD at 0.9 deaths for every 100,000 children.
- In August alone two children were beaten to death and another two critically injured.
- police have just confirmed they are investigating the alleged murder of 2-year-old Karl Perigo-Check, son of Wanganui gang member Karl Check
- Last year an average of five children a day were re-abused within six months of the first offence coming to light.
- Research led by Dr Kelly shows a staggeringly high level of repeat abuse in children under two admitted to Starship Hospital with non-accidental head injuries between 1988 and 1998 – 44 per cent were renotified to Child, Youth and Family and one child was re-abused six times.
We know what causes this:
- Broken families
- Drug and Alcohol abuse
- Any previous history of violence, particularly domestic
- Family history of child abuse.
- Poor family/whanau support.
What we lack is the political will to change this. I don’t see Paula Bennett doing much more than tinkering around the edges of CYFS and the health system. But addressing the causes requires massive structural change. At a minimum:
- Phase out the DPB
- Mandatory drug and alcohol rehab for first time offenders
- Zero tolerance for all gang activities
- Strong community-based monitoring systems for incidences of domestic violence
- Strong community-based support systems for ”at risk” families.