Stuff co.nz 21 November 2015
New Zealand remains one of the most dangerous countries in the developed world in which to grow up, despite efforts from successive governments.
Thirteen Kiwi kids have died in suspicious circumstances so far this year – one of the worst years on record and much higher than the annual average of nine.
Every second day, a child is admitted to hospital suffering from inflicted injuries, including burns, broken bones and head wounds – with Starship children’s hospital in Auckland seeing more cases of serious abuse than ever before.
Police are being swamped with child abuse complaints and have boosted the number of detectives working on the sensitive cases in recent months.
A Stuff data investigation has found at least 204 children, aged 0-14, have died as a result of neglect, abuse, or maltreatment in New Zealand since 1992.
Most commonly, they died at the hands of men. Almost three quarters of the killers were family members.
The killers were almost equally likely to be mothers or fathers, accounting for 31 per cent and 29 per cent of cases respectively, where the victim’s relationship with the killer was known.
De facto fathers were the next largest group of perpetrators, accounting for 17 per cent of cases.
The most common cause of death for a child was a head injury, followed by asphyxia, which includes suffocation, strangulation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Children were at greatest risk of death from assault when they were under five years old, with the highest risk in the first year of life.
Stuff’s investigation found the average age of a child killed in the last two decades was about three years old.
Nearly half of child homicide victims were Maori, while Maori made up just a quarter of the country’s child population
Deprived parts of the country were overwhelmingly represented in the statistics.
According to a 2014 report by the NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, 786 children aged 0-14 were admitted to hospital from 2009 to 2013 with injuries arising from either assault, neglect or maltreatment. The figures are likely under reported because officials have to be certain of an assault before it can be recorded.
The report shows admission rates have declined gradually since 2000.
However, child abuse expert Dr Patrick Kelly, clinical director of Starship’s child protection team Te Puaruruhau, said research showed abusive head trauma referrals to the hospital were on the rise.