Who can protect our children?

NZ Herald Aug 16, 2009

Our state services fail to protect some of New Zealand’s most severely abused children and allow them to be “revictimised”, according to research published in an international medical journal. It says the child protection system could be seen as a “poorly controlled experiment” through the inability of government agencies to work together on cases of child abuse. It follows two cases of alleged child abuse last week in Northland, one of which ended in the death of a 2-year-old. The child in the other case – a 17-month-old – was severely injured. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett met the families of the two children on Friday. “Protecting our most vulnerable children is of the highest priority to this Government,” she said afterwards.

…The report, published in the Child Abuse & Neglect International Journal, was written by two Starship doctors Patrick Kelly and Judith MacCormick, and an Auckland health board social worker Rebecca Strange, who works with child abuse victims. It studies the fate of 39 children aged under two who were treated at Auckland Hospital for “shaken baby syndrome” during the 1990s. It follows their health and development for up to 17 years. The “syndrome” has become a term for traumatic brain injury in infants. One of its common causes is hard, physical shaking of the child.

..It is particularly critical of the former Child Youth and Family service, now part of the Ministry of Social Development. Investigations of “doubtful quality” by CYF meant reports to the agency of fresh abuse against children – even in front of witnesses – would be treated as unproven, when they likely indicated serious risk.

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