NZ Herald 1 June 2016
Family First Comment: An excellent column from Ewen McQueen. An interesting follow-on from our report earlier this week on a significant factor of child poverty, which is also a significant factor of child abuse and neglect.
“However, this is the inconvenient truth that no one wants to face. The politicians don’t want to face it because they know it will be an uncomfortable conversation with the electorate. It may lose them votes. Many would also have to revisit their ideological commitment to socially liberal policies that have undermined marriage and family life. They would have to admit that their rejection of traditional Christian morality around family life has not led to a celebration of diversity. It has led to dead children.”
The court has reached its verdict. The marchers have gone home. The politicians and media have done their usual hypocritical hand-wringing. But the question remains – where was Moko’s dad?
A father is supposed to be there to protect his children. A father is supposed to be there to help their mother look after the family. A father is supposed to provide for and love his family.
So where was Moko’s dad? We have no idea. We have no idea because the question was never asked. It never is. In all the national breast-beating that happens whenever such a tragedy occurs, the real issue is never addressed. Why are so many children left without the care of a natural father? Why have we allowed a relationship culture to become embedded which accepts as normal the regular dropping in and out of relationships and frequent changing of partners? How is this supposed to build strong and loving families?
These are the questions that should be asked. But instead the focus is always on the failure of social agencies, the need for more education or awareness campaigns, tougher sentences or more money to be spent co-ordinating ever more welfare programmes.
This in spite of the fact that no matter how much money we spend, the problem is never resolved. And years of anti-violence awareness campaigns have made little difference. We all know violence against children is not okay – even the perpetrators. We don’t need a host of media and social celebrities telling us that.
What we need is the truth. The social science evidence gives us that and it is conclusive. In 2009 the Office of the Commissioner for Children undertook a review on death and serious injury to children. It concluded that of all factors, having a non-biological parent in the home increased the risk by eight to 12 times. A year later they published another report which noted that family breakdown and “frequent changes in household members” was a significant factor contributing to child abuse and neglect.
The New Zealand research findings are mirrored internationally. In Australia research by Deakin University in Melbourne concluded, “Children under 5 living with a non-biological or step-parent are up to 77 times more likely to die from a violence-related injury than those living with their biological families.”
In the US a study by the University of Missouri similarly concluded, “Children residing in households with unrelated adults were nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries than children residing with two biological parents.”
The fact is that we have allowed a casualised relationship culture to become accepted as normal. It is a culture that sees too many of our children left in the “care” of mum’s latest boyfriend. In other cases like Moko’s they are left in the “care” of other unrelated adults when mum is struggling and dad is no longer in the picture. This places them at huge risk. This is what makes them vulnerable.
However, this is the inconvenient truth that no one wants to face. The politicians don’t want to face it because they know it will be an uncomfortable conversation with the electorate. It may lose them votes. Many would also have to revisit their ideological commitment to socially liberal policies that have undermined marriage and family life. They would have to admit that their rejection of traditional Christian morality around family life has not led to a celebration of diversity. It has led to dead children.
The media don’t want to face the real issue because as soon as their current affairs journalists finish shedding tears about the latest tragedy, it is back to business as usual. And business as usual means more trash programming that normalises and promotes the very values that are rotting our family life. If it is not some reality show with contestants hopping in and out of bed with each other, it is a soap fuelled by a focus on continual relationship churn or a “comedy” pushing the lie that the new liberal morality is all fun and laughter.
Sadly the reality for our children is very different. Until we are willing to face that, all the national soul searching will produce nothing but more hypocrisy.