CYF slow to follow up child neglect – report

NZ Herald Dec 7, 2010
An official investigation has found that Child, Youth and Family Services failed to act on more than 200 cases of child neglect last year until it had been notified more than 10 times. The inquiry by Children’s Commissioner John Angus found that in the most extreme case it took 29 notifications of a family before the service determined that a child was being neglected and took action. It reports widespread frustration by doctors, teachers and other professionals, who reported families to the service and felt that nothing was done about it. “You are waiting for something to happen, you are waiting for them to be run over in the driveway or burn their arm,” one health professional told the inquiry. “Some days I walk away and I just wish something would happen … because then I would get some help.” A teacher said: “Kids do us a favour by committing a crime because Youth Justice gets involved and wraparound services are provided.” The inquiry found that, in contrast to huge attention paid to child abuse, official agencies have no agreed definition of the more common problem of neglect. An inter-agency guide to child abuse produced by CYF defines neglect as “any act or omission that results in impaired physical functioning, injury and/or development of a child”. But the inquiry says this leaves out acts or omissions that risk harm to the child, so CYF fails to intervene in practice unless there is actual harm or a clear threat of physical harm.
…Neglect is closely linked with poverty. Confirmed cases last year included 1.7 per cent of all children in the poorest fifth of the country but 0.1 per cent of children in the richest fifth. Most cases are also linked with either alcohol and drug addictions or mental health problems, such as post-natal depression.
Bob McCoskrie on National Radio’s The Panel discussing this report