CYFS too quick to take kids, says study

NZ Herald December 06, 2007
The Government’s top social workers say a “culture of blame” over child abuse is driving social workers into taking children from their families to avoid any risk of being blamed if things go wrong. Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) chief social worker, Dr Marie Connolly, and her predecessor Mike Doolan say “sensationalist” media coverage of high-profile child deaths is making social workers less willing to trust the families of the children referred to them. The number of children and young people in CYFS care has risen by half this decade, from 3533 in 1999-2000 to 5191 at the end of last year, despite an actual decline in child deaths from 1.07 a year for every 100,000 children in the 1990s to 0.79 a year in the first five years of this decade. In a new book on child homicide, Dr Connolly and Mr Doolan call for a move away from the “culture of blame” to what they call a “public health model of welfare” which targets the whole range of factors that lead people to harm children. In a foreword, the director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection, Dorothy Scott, calls for specific moves to: * Cut problem drinking by raising alcohol prices, restricting advertising and tightening parents’ control of their children’s drinking. * Make sure health services reach all new mothers and catch post-natal depression.  * Work proactively with vulnerable men in custody disputes.