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A Wellington solo father says he went to Child, Youth and Family Services for help - and ended up with a conviction for smacking his daughter.

Jimmy, 55, has been a solo father since his wife became psychotic soon after giving birth to their second child 21 years ago.

Later he lived with another woman for a few years in a provincial town and had a third child, Jane (not her real name), now 15.

After her parents split, Jane stayed with her mother until she was 7, but developed behavioural problems which Jimmy says the mother couldn't handle.

So she moved down to join her father and her half-siblings in Wellington.

Within six months she was caught smoking in the school toilets. By the age of 12 she was skipping school and living on the streets.

"She'd disappear for two weeks. The cops would pick her up in Manners Mall and she'd come home," says Jimmy.

"I pleaded with CYFS for some help, I had meetings with the district manager. He said, 'You've fallen through the cracks'."

But it was a different story late in 2007 when the police picked Jane up again, this time from a flat known to be owned by a drug dealer. Jimmy collected her from the police station in his car.

"I said: 'You have embarrassed me for the last time, Jane. This has got to finish, this can't go on'," he recalls.

"She was not listening. There was no eye contact. She was playing like it was a bit of a joke.

"I smacked her on the top of the leg and said, 'Just listen to me, girl, just listen to me, for God's sake!' She didn't."

The next day Jane went to the CYFS office and told them her father had smacked her. CYFS told the police and Jimmy was charged with assault.

"I said, 'You've got to be joking!"' says Jimmy, who had never smacked any of his children before. "I was totally shocked."

In court, he was convicted and discharged. CYFS then put Jane in a care-and-protection residence for three months. For a while she stopped running away.

"CYFS will not get involved unless there has been an incident," Jimmy says. "If someone asks for help, they don't have the resources to do that.

"If CYFS were proactive rather than reactive, things would have been different. But I understand the pressures they're under."

* CYFS will respond on Friday.