Abuse inquiry as teens' baby fights to survive

By Elizabeth Binning

A 4-month-old boy was critically ill in the Starship hospital last night with head injuries suffered at his South Auckland home.

The baby was taken to the hospital on Saturday night with what police believe are "non-accidental" head injuries, and had surgery on Sunday.

The Housing NZ house in Papakura where the baby lived with his teenage parents was yesterday cordoned off as police investigated what they suspect is a serious case of child abuse.

Detective Sergeant Ian McGill, of the Counties Manukau child abuse team, said the boy was last night in a critical condition on life support.

His family - including his 18-year-old mother and 19-year-old father - were with him, but Child Youth and Family had been called in. The family were believed to be co-operating with police.

Mr McGill said an ambulance was called to the home about 9.30pm on Saturday.

The baby was initially taken to Middlemore Hospital, but was later transferred to the Starship.

Neighbours yesterday knew little about the family who lived at the baby's rundown home.

One woman said parties were always being held there, and people came and went at all hours.

Another woman said police came to the house about six months ago. Moments after they arrived, everyone in the house came out with their hands above their heads.

Yesterday, an alcoholic drink box and empty beer bottles lay on the unmown lawn with other rubbish.

A front window of the house was smashed and shards of glass lay on the ground. A child's stroller could be seen behind a net curtain next to the broken window.

The baby boy joins a growing list of alleged child abuse victims in New Zealand, despite the Government spending large amounts of money on anti-violence campaigns.

At least three children under the age of 5 have died from abuse this year.

Many others have been seriously injured, including 3-year-old Benjamin Mikaio, who was taken to the Starship six weeks ago with life-threatening injuries.

The Avondale toddler had internal bleeding, head trauma and several pelvic fractures, and is still in hospital.

His mother, 39-year-old Itupa Julie Mikaio, is facing a charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and wounding with intent to injure.

Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro said she was shocked and saddened to hear that another child had been injured.

She said between seven and 11 children died from abuse each year, and babies under the age of 1 were most at risk.

"It's terrible; can you just imagine what these kids go through?" Dr Kiro said.

"Often it's not the first time. There's often a whole lot of precipitating things that lead up to the last incident where the child or baby is being abused."

Dr Kiro said having children could be stressful, but there was never any excuse for child abuse.

She said a lot of the problem came back to how the abusive parents were raised themselves.

It was time something was done to ensure "we get it right for the next generation".

Dr Kiro is to present a comprehensive package of actions to tackle child abuse to a family violence taskforce this week.

The Government is spending $14 million on a campaign to make family violence socially unacceptable.

- NZ Herald

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