Today's column may offend, so if you're of delicate mind, turn the page now. Don't keep reading then whinge to the editor, the Race Relations Commissioner or Press Council because the truth hurts.

The general population is becoming immune to child bashing in this country. It's such an everyday occurrence that we're apathetic towards it.

Television footage of pig farmers housing sows in farrowing crates, or dairy farmers inducing cows to abort calves on demand, provokes more outrage than another story of a child homicide.

The sight of slain police dog Gage generated more anger than pictures of baby Cezar Taylor, the latest to die, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend.

Every week at least one child is admitted to Starship Hospital with non-accidental injuries and many people at the cliff-face - doctors, nurses, police, social workers - desperately care about this and have done so for years.

But no matter how hard they try, nothing, (I'll say it a little louder), NOTHING reduces our appalling international record for child abuse.

What are some of the common denominators?

Apologists blame poverty. Okay then, let's see what Children's Commissioner John Angus said about child poverty last June. Child poverty is higher in sole-parent headed households - 52 per cent, compared with 13 per cent in two-parent households.

He also points out the child poverty rate is disproportionately high among Maori and Pacific Island children and too many children are spending too long brought up on benefits.

Seventeen per cent of children born in 2001 spent four years on benefits before they turned five and 20 per cent of 15-year-olds last year had spent more than seven of their first 13 years of life raised on welfare.

We also have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the OECD and one of the worst infant mortality rates.

Isn't it glaringly obvious? Babies born to young, unattached, unsupported, poor Maori or Pacific girls, dependent on welfare, are more likely to be killed or bashed.

What to do?

These girls don't deliberately get pregnant to get the Domestic Purposes Benefit but they are a magnet for lowlife mongrels who want easy sex and a roof over their heads, then bash their kids when they won't stop crying.

Blogger Lindsay Mitchell (lindsaymitchell.blogspot), who has campaigned for welfare reform for nearly a decade, shrugs off death threats to advocate temporary and conditional assistance for those over 18: teenage mums should stay at school and live at home, or under adult supervision, to qualify. Long-term dependence must not be an option.

And she's right. Incentives work - instead of welfare protecting these mothers, it has done the opposite: "It's just dreadful what we have let develop under the guise of a caring, compassionate welfare state."

But, right now, we have children in danger; what about them? We can't remove all at-risk children, as some suggest, because there just ain't enough places to remove them to.

As usual, we blame Child Youth and Family (me included) but this time I spoke, off the record, to some social workers.

They're buggered, to put it mildly. Many of them have 30 families on their caseload, some really violent. Social workers are regularly threatened. How can they protect children in this environment? We need more social workers for starters.

Maori social workers confirm it's mostly Maori mothers and children in danger, with some being severely sexually abused.

If the Government can find money to restore old wharf sheds, it can find money to pay social workers more and recruit teams - trusted people to help CYF supervise at-risk families. Don't take the babies away - help the mums and boot out the boyfriends.

This week, I attended a reunion at Porirua's He Huarahi Tamariki, founded years ago by Susan Baragwanath as a school for teenage mums and dads.

I caught up with Helen, who was a struggling school student with two kids when she was cover girl for the 2001 North & South story I wrote on teenage pregnancies.

She's still with her partner, completing her science masters and begins her PhD next year.

Short term DPB + education + adult supervision = happy ending.