Doctor’s four-point scheme to halve child-abuse deaths

NZ Herald April 16, 2008

A leading child-abuse doctor says child deaths could be halved by a four-point plan including medical assessments of all infants reported to Child, Youth and Family. The clinical director of the child-abuse centre at Auckland’s Starship hospital, Dr Patrick Kelly, says Child, Youth and Family (CYF) social workers should not be left alone to assess whether young children are at risk. He told a child-abuse conference in Manukau yesterday that all children under 2 who were notified to CYF should be assessed by a multi-disciplinary team including health professionals. The proposal could be hugely expensive because CYF received 75,326 notifications of possible abuse or neglect

….Police statistics reported by former CYF chief social worker Mike Doolan show that 35 children died from maltreatment in the first five years of this decade, an average of seven a year. Dr Kelly said most children who died were under 3 and 80 per cent were not known to CYF beforehand. But when he analysed 48 children admitted to his unit with head injuries in the 12 months before the deaths of twins Chris and Cru Kahui in June 2006, including eight children who died, he found that all 48 had seen another health professional such as a midwife, Plunket nurse or family doctor before their admission to Starship. “We need a paradigm shift. Infant abuse and neglect is not just a matter for the Ministry of Social Development. It’s a health issue,” he said.
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Family First Comment
: At last some common sense and realism. Rather than attaching a social worker ‘cop’ to every family as the Children’s Commissioner wants, Dr Kelly is highlighting that community agencies already know the children at risk and the families that need intervention. They simply need to work together and communicate with each other. Simple and effective.
See our 5-point Action plan to tackle child abuse