Fall in abuse case figures raises hopes

NZ Herald 25 Sep 2012
Child protection officials believe New Zealand may be finally tackling its child abuse problem after the first drop in substantiated abuse cases for at least eight years. Child, Youth and Family Services has reported a 4 per cent drop in substantiated findings of abuse and neglect, down from a record 22,087 in the year to June last year to 21,525 in the latest June year. It is the first decline since a dramatic escalation of abuse statistics dating back to 2003-04, when the figures were first collated on the current basis and showed 8461 findings of abuse and neglect…. (T)he drop in substantiated cases came despite a continued increase in notifications to CYFS of suspected abuse and neglect – up from 150,747 to a record 152,800 in the latest year, including an increase in police referrals of children in homes where domestic violence occurred from 57,153 to 62,678. CYFS also investigated more cases – up from 57,949 to 61,074. “So we have investigated more cases but found slightly less child abuse,” Mr Nixon said.

 …But the co-director of the NZ Family Violence Clearing House, Dr Janet Fanslow, said both CYFS and police data were affected by changing policies and priorities and could not be used to indicate underlying trends. “While we would love the story to be true, and it’s what we are all working towards … we don’t have the data sources that are sufficient to draw that conclusion,” she said. The figures show slight falls in emotional abuse and in sexual abuse, but continued small increases in findings of physical abuse and of neglect. Findings of physical abuse are still 74 per cent higher than in 2003-04.