Hundreds of Bay kids abused

By Cassandra Mason

Tauranga Police say tackling child abuse remains a top priority.
Tauranga Police say tackling child abuse remains a top priority.

More than 830 Tauranga children were victims of child abuse in the past year.

Child Youth and Family (CYF) received 5871 abuse notifications in Tauranga in the year to June 30 - of which 1887 required further action.

Of the 5871 notifications, 838 or 7 per cent were substantiated abuse cases. That's one more than in the previous 12 months. The total number of abuse notifications was also up from the previous year.

Meanwhile, 265 cases of substantiated abuse were identified in Tauranga in the three months to September 30.

Figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act also show 139 local children were in out-of-home care and protection placements on June 30. That compares with 153 in June 2012.

Police say tackling child abuse remains a top priority, and while fewer people are turning a blind eye, it is still everybody's responsibility to speak up and report cases.

The field crime manager for Bay of Plenty police, Detective Inspector Mark Loper, said Tauranga police worked alongside CYF to combat child abuse.

"This is proving extremely beneficial with particular advantages in terms of free flow of information. Ultimately we are part of one large team and good communication is key."

National criminal investigations manager Detective Superintendent Rod Drew said child abuse was well-documented in New Zealand and "an absolute priority" for police.

"Child abuse happens across all aspects of society and ethnic groups, therefore, all adults need to be responsible and speak up to protect children in their families and communities."

Every police district had specialist child protection staff dedicated to investigating and preventing child abuse and were usually working on a number of cases at any given time, he said.

Abuse continued to involve family members, partners and happened in community and social settings, Mr Drew said.

"Often the question is asked by those reporting 'What if I am wrong?' But what should be asked is 'What if I am right?'

"It is everyone's responsibility to report child abuse. Too many people have failed to speak up when they are aware of or suspect abuse is happening and children have subsequently died."

Children's Commissioner and Hawkes Bay paediatrician Russell Wills said there was a clear link between poverty and child abuse.

Admissions to hospital with inflicted injuries were 10 times more common for the poorest 10 per cent of children compared with the wealthiest 10 per cent.

The pattern over the past five years showed increasing "societal intolerance" for violence toward women and children.

"We have cases brought to our attention earlier in the life of the child, earlier in the life of the violence and that's helping us to intervene earlier before harm is done and that is a good thing."

He credited the changes to developments such as the "It's not OK" campaign, anti-smacking legislation and an increase in parents referring themselves for parenting programmes.

"You don't get major societal change quickly ... but I think those are promising early signs.

"In the end, what's going to make the biggest difference ... is changing attitudes."

Close to 150,000 child abuse notifications were made to CYF nationally in the past financial year, uncovering 61,877 cases that required further action, including 22,984 substantiated cases of abuse. Of these, 12,777 were emotional abuse cases, 3343 physical abuse, 1459 sexual abuse and 5405 cases of neglect.

On June 30 this year, 3844 children were under CYF care - down from 3884 in 2012.

CYF deputy chief executive Bernadine Mackenzie said children came into CYF care for reasons ranging from neglect to physical abuse. CYF then worked with the Family Court to determine whether a child should be removed permanently from its parents.

A child or young person was only removed from their immediate family when CYF considered the child's safety to be compromised.

- Bay of Plenty Times

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 Dec 2014 05:51:46 Processing Time: 568ms