Child-abusers must prove fitness as parents

By Kate Shuttleworth

The Government is moving to protect vulnerable children. Photo / Getty Images
The Government is moving to protect vulnerable children. Photo / Getty Images

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia says she will need some convincing over sweeping changes made in an effort to stop child abuse and death in New Zealand.

Today Social Development Minister Paul Bennett revealed the full details of changes to be pushed through under the Vulnerable Children Bill.

Under the changes a parents who has been convicted for killing or abusing an infant or child, or who has had their child removed after abusing them will have to prove to Government they are fit to parent more children.

Until now the state had to prove the parent was unsafe.

Mrs Turia said the state should be the last recourse when it came to child abuse, and any changes need to come from the community.

"I do not see the state as a first response to any situation - I believe communities and families are those who are best set to do something about these issues.

Mrs Turia said the proposed changes could result in an increase in complaints that are not correct.

" I have no doubt that should we go down this track people will be more alert and there will be some mistakes made.

"I think the department needs to be more investigative in their approach, rather than just stepping in and taking children away from their families when they don't need to," she said.

Mrs Turia is yet to say if she will support the legislation, but it is likely changes will be made.

The new child protection policy comes alongside wide-ranging restraining orders to keep suspected child abusers away from children for up to 10 years.

High Court and District Court judges will be able to impose the new civil orders on people who are tried for serious offences against children - such as incest, sexual grooming or sexual violation - even if they are not convicted of the offence.

Mrs Bennett announced today children removed from parents could be placed with Home for Life carers.

The Government will ramp up its cross-agency approach to protect vulnerable children, including screening and vetting up to 376,000 staff.

Five government departments will work together introducing child protection policies - Police, Justice and the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development.

Chief executives will have performance indicators built into their contracts relating to child protection.

Every Child Counts said the Government's plans to standardise the screening of people working with children, increase the reporting requirements of State agencies, and constrain the movements of people who pose a safety risk to children are positive.

Every Child Counts manager Deborah Morris-Travers said leadership is central to building a society and culture that protects children, and policies that ensure appropriate screening of people working with children are fundamental.

- NZ Herald

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