Family First NZ has identified government respect for parents as the number 1 issue for 2008.
“Politicians, with the support of UN Conventions, the Children’s Commissioner and Youth Law Project to name a few, have sought to increase children’s rights without considering the vital role of parents,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Parents understandably feel undervalued, under-resourced and under suspicion.”
Recent examples include:
* a teenager who attempted to use the Care of Children Act to ‘divorce’ her parent because she didn’t like the family rules
* the Privacy Act being quoted by the Police as justification for hiding the whereabouts of a 16 year old runaway daughter from her concerned parents
* CYF and Police failing to prosecute a 21 year old who admitted having sex with a girl under the age of 12
* the anti-smacking law which sent a clear message to parents that the State and its agencies know better how to raise children even if parents are reasonably and responsibly correcting their children. (Ironically Sue Bradford stated in an interview last week that the law was never intended to solve the problem of child abuse and violence)
* continued lack of an independent CYF Complaints Authority despite repeated calls for one and an increasing number of families being adversely impacted by the actions and decisions of social workers (acknowledged by a recently released book by senior social workers) without an avenue of appeal for the parents
* children as young as five have been told off for bringing yoghurt, muesli bars, salad rolls and juice to school as over-zealous teachers try to enforce healthy eating rules – despite parents pleading to be allowed to give their children the occasional treat
* parents concerned about the graphic nature of information regarding the meningococcal B campaign provided to children at school, mostly without consent (study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal)
* proposal by the Children’s Commissioner to screen every child’s home, threatening to refer good parents who resist this intrusion, to social welfare agencies, while failing to target the real abusers and provide the necessary services for young and new parents
* young girls (some well under the age of sexual consent) being sneaked off by schools to get contraceptives or an abortion without any parental knowledge or consent yet these same kids have to get parental permission to go on a school trip to the zoo
Mr McCoskrie says “On one hand, a parent is responsible for the actions of their child in the community and school, and meeting their emotional, financial and physical needs, yet at the same time their role is being undermined, and weakened by laws and policies which bypass the input of parents and treat them like a sub-contractor.”
“The huge irony is that the more the state undermines the role and authority of parents, the less responsibility parents will feel they should take for their children,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“If the government wants parents to be responsible parents, they must firstly respect their role.”
Family First will continue to monitor policies from all the political parties in Election 2008 and test whether they support and strengthen the role of parents, or create a ‘rights’ culture which pits children (and the State) against their parents.