IT'S been a grim week for reading about child abuse. Today, Rod Vaughan's interview with Homes of Hope chief executive Hillary Price is a glimmer of hope, locally, about what can be achieved to support abused and neglected children but unfortunately is a drop in the ocean given the massive problem New Zealand has.
A national report released this week on Child Youth and Family's supervision of at-risk children in foster care is damning, noting that 117 youngsters were abused last year while in CYF care.
The scale of child abuse in New Zealand of course goes far beyond children in care. As Rod Vaughan notes in his report, New Zealand has the fifth-worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries. On average, one child is killed every five weeks. Most of these are aged under 5 with the largest group being less than a year old. Ninety per cent of all child deaths are perpetrated by someone the child knew.
A child is admitted to a New Zealand hospital every second day with injuries arising from either assault, neglect or maltreatment with nearly half of them aged under 5.
Earlier this week Sonya Bateson reported that 41 children were admitted to Tauranga Hospital in the past 10 years. Two-thirds of them were under 5, information supplied by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board revealed.
Details of the injuries are hard to stomach. They are not just physical - though the physical injuries are bad enough, including open wounds and broken bones.
Ten children were admitted for suspected sexual abuse, including a 4-year-old with an acute inflammation to the back of the throat, a 3-year-old with gonorrhoea and another 3-year-old with abdomen, lower back and pelvis injuries.
There may be many, many more cases of child abuse that go unreported or unnoticed, as Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock said in our report.
But of those cases of sexual abuse that are reported, and the offender convicted, wouldn't we want to do everything in our power to ensure this offender at least did not reoffend?
The good news, in my opinion, is that a child-sex offenders register is likely to be in place by next July, and authorised staff from Police, Corrections and agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development will have access.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley this month introduced legislation to track convicted child-sex offenders for life, 15 years or eight years, depending on their crimes.
The scope of the controversial register would be widened from just child-sex offenders if it could be shown to be working, Ms Tolley said.
There have been concerns raised about its effectiveness. It will be reviewed after three years.
There are also what Ms Tolley herself calls "significant human rights issues".
I find it hard to care about the human rights of any sex offender and find it impossible to care about the rights of a child sex offender. However, there is protection in the law that there will be no public access, such as where there is a threat to a child, data may be released to a third party.
It is estimated that about 2740 child-sex offenders will be registered after 10 years and police estimate that, over 10 years, the register could prevent between four and 34 child-sex offence convictions.
Like Ms Tolley, "I am on the side of the kids". Any measure that makes a reduction in child abuse is a good move.
The rights of the children far outweigh the rights of the offender.
There are so many children in New Zealand suffering varying degrees of neglect, emotional and physical and sexual abuse.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says in our report today that the Government has set a target of reducing the number of children "experiencing substantiated physical abuse by 5 per cent by 2017".
"This is a verifiable, independent target that we want to be judged on, and we're putting our money where our mouth is to show this is a real priority for us."
The sex offenders register is also a quantifiable measure. It has been a long time coming.