Hundreds of kids in CYF abuse review

NZ Herald 25 May 2013
Child Youth and Family is reviewing the cases of more than 200 children thought to have been subjected to continued abuse and neglect despite repeated warnings to social workers.

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills said the children had been referred to CYF more than 20 times each and the notifications could include everything from serious violence to children repeatedly turning up to school hungry.

“I wish it was none but you’re going to have kids who have repeat notifications,” he said.

The review was sparked by District Court Judge Dale Clarkson’s criticism of CYF in December after social workers failed to respond to 21 warnings relating to four siblings who were abused and neglected by their father, a convicted child rapist, and their mother, who left them alone in a South Auckland mall carpark.

Judge Clarkson was so alarmed at CYF’s “disappointing lack of protection” that she referred the case to Dr Wills. His review of a report by CYF chief social worker Paul Nixon into that case has been completed, but Dr Wills said CYF was doing a second review that would focus on the 200 children referred to CYF more than 20 times in the past 10 years.

…Dr Wills said while it wasn’t unusual for parents to lie, avoid social workers and move around the country, it was unusual for cases of that nature not to be reviewed by staff.

He said CYF’s workload needed to be reduced and this could happen as police and health providers increasingly referred lower-level cases to community organisations.

According to CYF figures, the numbers of referrals have gone from 40,939 to 152,800 in nine years. Dr Wills attributed that in part to a change in social attitudes towards violence and campaigns such as the “It’s not OK” anti-violence” campaign.

Mr Nixon said improvements had been made since the 2000s. “For the first time in over a decade Child Youth and Family is consistently delivering against every single commitment.”
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