Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Crud parents don't have basics to be a... 'family'

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Hail-Sage McClutchie died in 2009. Photo / Supplied
Hail-Sage McClutchie died in 2009. Photo / Supplied

Submissions closed this week on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, otherwise known as Paula Bennett's attempt to combat child abuse.

Will it make a difference? At the risk of sounding like Cassandra, unless we're prepared to make some tough calls and go beyond the rhetoric, I doubt it.

The Family Commission's latest website posting in relation to this paper talks about child protection being child-centred, but when was the last time that happened?

It seems every time abuse cases get to court all the resources have revolved endlessly around the parents until, oops, the child is dead and suddenly the agency is now making changes to its criteria.

In yet another depressing coroner's inquest last week, we heard how Morrinsville mother Kelly Percy played pokies to teach her partner a lesson while her little girl, 22 months old, lay dying.

Yeah, that'll learn him.

A few days later, the wee tot, Hail-Sage McClutchie, died in Waikato Hospital from a traumatic brain injury after days of vomiting and having convulsions.

But neither her pokie-playing mother nor her boyfriend, Adrian Wilson-Minimita (who needed chastising for staying out playing pokies a day earlier), sought medical help.

In fact, they had gone out drinking, taking the little girl with them and, when they did go to the doctor, they left because they had to wait too long. Stink.

Wilson-Minimita told the court his "step-daughter" (and I use that word reservedly, because, in my opinion, it insults the wonderful stepfather/stepchildren relationships out there) injured her head when she fell off a slide while he was smoking. (Pokies, smoking ... pattern here?)

He also said there were other minor injuries she had incurred while playing, but Waikato Hospital doctor Peter Heron told coroner Peter Ryan he didn't believe these caused enough damage to cause death.

He said some of her injuries were more consistent with those seen in shaken baby syndrome.

Somehow I believe Heron over Wilson-Minimita.

Don't you feel so bad for these medical specialists who have to deal week after week with these children who arrive by ambulance, floppy, unresponsive, vomiting, hours away from death, accompanied by mulish, useless parents?

And elsewhere in the hospital they are probably treating parents desperate to have a baby.

Child Youth and Family - the government agency paid to protect children from abusers - failed this child too.

The coroner specifically shamed CYFS for contributing to Hail-Sage's death by failing to undertake a safety assessment.

As usual, CYFS offered the usual excuses. Chief social worker Paul Nixon told the coroner CYFS decided to "exercise discretion" as the social worker wasn't concerned about Hail-Sage's safety.

I've been writing about child abuse for 22 years and if I had a dollar for every time I've heard that line I could retire wealthy. But let's not forget who is really responsible for Hail-Sage's death - her mother - who chose to bring her into the world (or probably "fell pregnant").

Percy, it turns out, has a record of useless parenting.

Her first child was taken from her by CYFS. And she and Wilson-Minimita also have a 10-month-old son of whom they want to regain custody.

We see the photos of these neglected or abused children after they've died and they are so beautiful: Nia Glassie, James Whakaruru, Hail-Sage.

It is gruelling to think about the suffering they endured before they found peace.

If we can't tolerate it, how could their mothers stand by?

I don't understand this. Why do they have children? Why do they keep having babies?

I don't believe these types have babies because they are a family.

Outside court Wilson-Minimita said they wanted to "be a family" again.

Again? They weren't family before.

Family don't go off to play pokies while a puppy is vomiting and having convulsions, let alone a baby girl,

I'll tell you why these sorts of people "want to be family and have more children" - so they don't have to take responsibility if they can't afford it because they can just turn up at Winz and the taxpayers will pay.

If the Green Paper works, people like this should never be allowed to be parents again, and should never have access to welfare funding.

- Herald on Sunday

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