Wairarapa child abuse cycle must be broken

By Brendan Manning

More than 270 Wairarapa children were victims of child abuse in the year to June 30.

Child Youth and Family received 2699 abuse notifications in Wairarapa in the financial year, and 10 per cent were substantiated. Additional action was required in 1007 cases, and 274 were found to be abuse cases.

The number of notifications to Child Youth and Family (CYF) has increased on previous years, while the number of substantiated cases dropped.

Acting Detective Sergeant Pete Donaldson, of Wairarapa police's child-protection unit, said child abuse was a continuing problem.

However, since the launch of Operation Hope and setting up a dedicated team to tackle the issue in late 2008, cases were being dealt with more swiftly and treated with higher priority.

The operation's goal was to complete investigations into outstanding child-abuse cases.

Newer cases that had come to light ranged from "minor incorrect parenting issues", including smacking and inappropriate discipline issues, to more serious sexual-abuse cases.

One of the historic cases the team had recently dealt with was a father convicted of sexually abusing his own children and step-children 40 years ago.

"People are choosing to come forward after it's had other implications in their lives."

Education and breaking the cycle of abuse was key to breaking the chain, he said.

"A large number of the offenders we're dealing with have been victims themselves - in all forms of child abuse, whether it be physical or sexual."

More than 150,000 child abuse notifications were made to Child, Youth and Family (CYF) nationally in the past financial year, uncovering 61,074 cases that required additional action and 21,525 cases of substantiated abuse.

CYF general operations manager Marama Edwards said it received thousands of calls from people worried about children or families every year.

"Police are our primary referrers, followed by health and education professionals, social service providers, family members and friends, and members of the public."

The police notified CYF every time they attended a family violence incident and found a child present, Ms Edwards said.

"This practice, along with an increased public awareness and willingness to speak up for children, is a significant driver in the increase in notifications occurring each year over recent times," she said.

The highest numbers of notifications that required additional action were recorded in Whangarei, Manurewa, Tauranga, Waikato West and Wellington's Hutt Valley respectively.

Of the 21,525 substantiated abuse findings in the past financial year, 12,114 were emotional-abuse cases, 3249 were physical abuse, 1396 were sexual abuse and 4766 were case of neglect.

One of the key initiatives of the Government's White Paper on Vulnerable Children, released last month, was establishing a database of about 30,000 "at risk" children.

The database would assess the chances of a child being abused and act as an early alert system.

It was one of about 30 changes the Government had committed to after a lengthy review of the law and processes relating to vulnerable children after a series of horrific abuse cases.

The proposals stop short of introducing mandatory reporting by health workers and teachers - but do impose legislative requirements for government agencies when dealing with suspected abuse.

Also introduced were measures to keep potential abusers away from children, and the ability to strip parents of their guardianship rights.

The death of Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie in 2007 was a catalyst for the White Paper.

The girl, 3, died from head injuries after being subjected to months of abuse by her family, including being placed in a clothes dryer at top heat for up to 30 minutes.


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