Child abuse averted

By Mike Dinsdale

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National Director of the Children's Action Plan Sue Mackwell (seated, front left) with the Whangarei Children's Team (clockwise  from left), Children's director of the Whangarei team Lianne Egli, administrator Katherine Frear, justice service broker Katrina Cowie, social services service broker Karen Wren, co-ordinator Tanya Hay and health service broker Nikki Beazley. Photo/John Stone
National Director of the Children's Action Plan Sue Mackwell (seated, front left) with the Whangarei Children's Team (clockwise from left), Children's director of the Whangarei team Lianne Egli, administrator Katherine Frear, justice service broker Katrina Cowie, social services service broker Karen Wren, co-ordinator Tanya Hay and health service broker Nikki Beazley. Photo/John Stone

A dedicated Children's Team to turn around the lives of Whangarei's vulnerable children and reduce child abuse is already having an effect, the woman charged with implementing the teams nationally says.

In October last year, Whangarei was the second place in the country, after Rotorua, to get a dedicated Children's Team as part of the Government's Children's Action Plan.

Whangarei was chosen because of its child abuse rates of almost two-and-a-half cases a day. Figures from Child Youth and Family show that in 2012, 1511 substantiated cases of child abuse were reported in Northland, with 911 in Whangarei. The cases covered a range of abuse including physical and sexual abuse.

The Whangarei Children's Team now has 68 children - and their families - on its books and last week had the first child and family come through the other side of the process where they no longer needed intensive support and could work through their own issues.

National Director of the Children's Action Plan Sue Mackwell visited the Whangarei Team last week and was pleased with the work it was doing.

It had made a difference to the lives of the children and families it worked with and the Government would soon roll out Children's Teams in eight other centres, Ms Mackwell said.

She said the team had a holistic approach to the problems facing a child and ensured that it put the child first, then got the appropriate help the child needed as soon as possible.

"It was quite a new, inventive approach when introduced. What we were trying to do was get the right people in and give them the right information they need to make the right decisions about what services the child and their whanau need," Ms Mackwell said.

"What's unique and different is that we surround them with key, clinical people - pediatricians, psychologists, health, education and social services and non-government agencies - and the focus is totally on the child. It's the child that is referred to [director of the Whangarei team] Lianne Egli and her team."

Ms Mackwell said the children being dealt with were among the district's most vulnerable and the aim was to get them the support and services they and their family needed so that it did not get to the stage where the child had to be taken from the family and put into Child Youth and Family care.

The success would be judged by how many of the children did not go into state care.

"But it's really important that the child is kept safe during all this. These are the most vulnerable children who may well have ended up in CYF care if they had not been referred [to the team]," she said.

Ms Mackwell said the team was the ambulance at the top of the cliff to prevent the children spiralling into a life of state care.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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