Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Train parents to understand their job

By Merepeka Raukawa-Tait

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The scene in Henderson where dairy owner Arun Kumar was fatally stabbed during a robbery at a dairy. Photo/File
The scene in Henderson where dairy owner Arun Kumar was fatally stabbed during a robbery at a dairy. Photo/File

I was in Henderson this week the day after Mr Arun Kumar died on the floor of his dairy.

He had been stabbed in the neck. Two boys were arrested and charged. The 13-year-old with Mr Kumar's murder and the 12-year-old as an accomplice. Both were also charged with assault with intent to rob. They appeared in court that afternoon.

I spoke with members of the Henderson community, many who work to provide social services to families living in West Auckland. Some know the boys and their families. Feelings ranged from disgust, horror, anger, sadness and shame.

There was overwhelming outpouring of sympathy for the Kumar family. They are well liked and respected.

What I did notice though is no one appeared that surprised. Sad that a murder had taken place, yes, but surprised? Not really. When you work in social services, particularly in distinct communities, you know who's who.

You know the families; the ones who cause the most trouble, the ones left to fend for themselves, the ones who rule the streets, and the ones who never had a chance from day one.

Social service workers could write the book "When parents go from bad to worse". Instead of saying "little bastards", they know better. They know the households where the parents are never home or have shot through long ago. They know when this happens someone else will fill the vacuum. And they know what background that person will come from.

Who willingly goes into a household laden with problems and high needs? Only someone from the same background or worse. Workers know without guidance and good parental discipline the children from these homes become untamed and unruly. They will fend for themselves as best they can. Outsiders start to influence their behaviour. By 10 years of age, they have been set up to become the next generation of criminal offenders.

This year I have been approached by an increasing number of grandparents, some living in Rotorua and from other parts of the country, going out of their minds trying to provide support and to get help for their grandchildren. They have given up on the parents. I suspect those who contact me do so as a last resort as I do not work in this specialist area.

Their stories would make you weep. These are not parents who left their children to bring themselves up. They come from a generation of workers, where everyone had a job and worked to support their own families.

They saved what they could when they could. Their homes may not have had all the material possessions we enjoy today but there was always enough love and care to go around.

It appears their adult children, on the other hand, have taken the easy way out. Living on a benefit, originally designed to provide short-term financial help only, has become their way of life. These families are in disarray with many parents now living apart and the undesirables, including gang members, have moved in.

These grandparents tell me it is the drugs, alcohol and violence that is harming the children the most. They are exposed to it every day. They see it as normal - mum and dad stoned, drunk and fighting with each other. Everyone who comes to the house is the same; looking for drugs or going out to get them. Cupboards empty, nothing to eat and nobody caring whether the children are coming home at night.

Grandparents go to government agencies for help but are turned away. Not the agencies' problem, at least not at this stage. But most children appearing in the Youth Court are known to social services. So are their families.

There are numerous opportunities for early intervention. Uplifting children when they do become the agency's problem is far too late to be of any lasting help.

So that we don't repeat the same mistakes, or at least avoid the same scenarios we need to review how, when and by whom we provide social services.

Training and motivating parents to understand their job would be a good start. If they don't get it, or can't be bothered, there are some grandparents who are willing to do the job.

Even in their twilight years they are prepared to do what has to be done - protect their grandchildren from further harm. They should not be turned away and we should insist they get the support required to help.

They could save millions of taxpayers dollars in the future by being helped when prepared to intervene.

I know these grandparents are tired. They can't do it alone. They need a break.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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