Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel Smalley: Child should always be put first

Add a comment
Sometimes meetings to hand over a child turn for visiting turn ugly. Photo / 123RF
Sometimes meetings to hand over a child turn for visiting turn ugly. Photo / 123RF

It can be a pretty fraught situation at the best of times - when the parents of a child or children have separated but they still have to meet to hand over children for visitation rights.

Sometimes those meetings turn ugly. Abusive. Sometimes violent. And all the while the child or children are in the middle of it all.

The Government's come up with a new scheme to help avoid that situation. It's being piloted in Rotorua and Whanganui. In essence, the handover will be facilitated or supervised so the environment is safe and parents or caregivers don't have to meet.

It's a good initiative. It's tragic that we need such a scheme in the first place, but....well, it's reality, isn't it? And this avoids children being caught in the middle of any chaos.

What I would suggest is that this scheme should go a step further.

The situation with visitation rights when it comes to foster children needs an overhaul too.

I have friends who fostered a little girl - she wasn't a year old when she came to them. Her father was violent towards the mother. Their first child had been taken from them, my friends fostered the second child, and the mother was pregnant with a third at the time.

But they had to facilitate visitation for the little girl and it was a dire situation.

The foster parents couldn't go with the little girl because of the threat of violence from her birth father - so the birth parents and the foster parents had to be kept apart.

The birth parents didn't have a car, or any means of transportation apparently, and they lived on the other side of Auckland.

So the little girl had to be taxied to them - a form of taxi.

So she was picked up by a stranger, strapped in a car seat and driven for over half an hour to see her birth parents. And as you can imagine, she had bonded with her foster parents and so the whole process was traumatic for everyone.

And when she arrived at the place for her supervised visit, there was often more than a dozen people there. And she was handed around this group of strangers for a couple of hours, and then she'd be put back in the taxi and driven back to her home. And then for the next few days she's very clingy with her foster parents, and she wakes in the night for a few days, crying. She normally sleeps through.

And so you have to question who benefits from that?

Is that in the child's best interests?

I understand the importance of maintaining visitation rights, particularly when the little girl is so young and the courts are yet to decide whether she'll be placed in a home for life, or returned - one day - to her parents.

But instead of taxing the little girl across the city and putting her through all of that trauma, why not insist that the visitation is just with her mother and father, and they will be taxied to a visitation centre that is near her home.

Wouldn't that make sense?

Isn't that in the child's best interests....and after all.....isn't that the focus for this new Ministry for Vulnerable Children?

In every situation, the child should always be put first.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Rachel Smalley is a radio host for Newstalk ZB. Listen to her between 5am and 6am every weekday morning.

Rachel’s career in journalism is extensive. She has reported from Europe, Africa, Asia and America, covering elections in Britain, the United States, France and New Zealand. She joined Newstalk ZB as host of KPMG Early Edition in 2013 and also works on TVNZ’s Sunday and Q&A current affairs programmes.

Read more by Rachel Smalley

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 30 Mar 2017 07:46:58 Processing Time: 562ms