Child abuse is such a delicate topic I seldom want to comment upon. The evil that resonates from peoples actions cannot be justified and I avoid to entertain any notion which dampens the rights of all children to flourish in their community.
Try as I may this morning though I searched without success to open the latest article posted by Dr Rawiri Taonui. His thesis focussed on pre-european Maori child rearing practices and I assume the social and economic determinants arising from the free market that currently influence media perspectives on the disproportionate representation of Maori.
I think this would have been good reading. However, I digress and I would like to return to my original thinking. The Department of Child Youth and Family Services legislative responsibility was originally percieved as the most ground breaking piece of legislation in the world wholly focussed on ensuring children and their families or whanau remain together through facilitated mutual collaboration, more specifically whanau group conferencing. Its principles and values are pretty much spot on – however implementation is another issue. It depends on the resources at hand, ie the people and the training required to carry this vision forward.
For example I haven’t seen the latest statistics although I suspect nothing has changed with Peter Hughs in charge and now that Ray Smith I believe is heading over to be the CE for Corrections. Either way CYFS used to recieve on average 50-60,000 notifications per year, whether telephone calls, visits to the office, emails etc.
Once a filtering process is applied or an assessment and investigation, you could narrow this count down to less than 10 percent of the total notifications requiring further actions or 5000-6000. Forty percent or 2,000 cases would involve Maori children typically aged between 6 months to 2 years, living with a single mum aged 16-25 years and more likely to be abused by mum’s boyfriend aged between 18-30 years who is unemployed, illiterate and Maori.
I watched Te Karere last night and Kelvin Davis reiterated that Maori men need to take responsibility. I also remember the Minister of Social Development asking iwi leadership to take more responsibility for the welfare of their own. And then the quick response from Maori quarters to limit this responsibility to the state. Can you see the picture?
In the past John Rangihau was tasked with the same duty by leading a ministerial task force to review the Crown’s position on child abuse and Maori. Their groundbreaking report became known as Puaoteatatu and laid the foundation for the CYFs Act.
Why does abuse happen? We could say ban rugby because statistics tell us that when provinces such as the East Coast lose A&E admissions for women increase dramatically on the day of the event. This won’t happen, the National party believe that if NZ loses the Rugby World Cup it will lose the election?!
What about CYF social workers?
There are roughly between 2000-3000 statutory social workers of which 10 percent again are Maori or 200-300. Of these 200 Maori social workers over half do not have a B qualification yet for Pacific CYF social workers, over 80 percent have a Masters degree. A new social worker is 3 times out of 5 more likely to burn out and leave within the first two years of employment.
In terms of tertiary preparation, the curriculum taught by universities for social work focuses on the voluntary and community perspectives never the statutory side therefore resulting in new recruits for CYFs being ill prepared to handle the emotional strain when faced with severe abuse and death.
How can a person with limited life experiences make the hard decision’s, that if wrong either results in a tragedy or a miscarriage of justice?
How do agencies and iwi social service providers ensure the principle of the paramouncy of the child which is a legislative percusor when asked to be accountable for whanau ora?
How can organisations balance these expectations?
This is not a simple situation, the complexities are many and the barriers are high. But this is not an impossible task, you just have to unravel the puzzle.