3 – 29 September 2007

Anti-social behaviour plan could target three-year-olds
By ARWEN HANN – The Press | Saturday, 29 September 2007

Plans to screen and treat children as young as three are part of new Government plans to cut anti-social behaviour.

The six-year multi-agency plan has been developed by the ministries of education, health and social development and is designed to increase the number of children getting help for severe anti-social behaviour and conduct disorder.

It is estimated that up to 5 per cent of primary and intermediate pupils have problems with conduct or display severe anti-social behaviour.

The report said it was difficult to assess the effectiveness of intervention services.

However, it said “key challenges” had been identified, including “inadequate and inconsistent mechanisms for identifying and determining eligibility for services for young people” and “gaps in the availability of specialist services”.

The plan proposes developing systematic screening for three to seven-year-olds within the education sector.

Treatment plans would include parenting classes and education for teachers on how to deal with disruptive children, as well as a “behaviour change programme” for the child.

A referral for mental health treatment could be included.

The foreword, signed by Education Minister Steve Maharey, Health Minister Pete Hodgson and Associate Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson, said behaviour problems were the “single most important predictor of later chronic anti-social behaviour problems, including poor mental health, academic underachievement, early school-leaving, teenage parenthood, delinquency, unemployment and substance abuse”.

Canterbury University College of Education senior lecturer John Church, who contributed to the report, said early intervention was more likely to succeed.

“The critical element is parental involvement and the thing about working with young kids is most parents want the best for their kids,” he said. “When their children are three or four, most parents will come on board. By age 12 or 13, the parents usually want out because they have been worn down.”

It was also more cost-effective. “It is possible to have a little parenting training, which is a good influence on the children for about $4000 per case at the age of five to six,” he said.

Church said that by the age of four it was possible to distinguish between children who were a little badly behaved and those with severe problems.

He said he would also like to see teachers given more training to identify children with severe behavioural problems.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the Government needed to back up its words with actions. `There are plenty of organisations out there who are working with these people and know them and what they are looking for.”

He said he had similar concerns about the plan to those he had had about Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro’s plan to screen all families for signs of abuse. “We need to be targeting that percentage of high-risk families we know about rather than trying to criminalise all families.”

The New Zealand Educational Institute said it supported inter-agency plans because the onus for dealing with anti-social behaviour should not fall just on teachers.

nzherald – Is it time to bring back the cane?

Teachers protest at school violence
5:00AM Tuesday September 25, 2007
By Derek Cheng

Schools are becoming increasingly violent.

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It is a daily struggle for teacher Judy Firkins to manage her 5- and 6-year-old children at Jean Batten School in Mangere.

She has been punched, been struck by objects thrown at her and had to restrain children attacking other pupils in her decile 1 classroom.

“How much more stress do we have to cope with and how resilient does a teacher have to be before we get practical help with these students?” she said in a passionate address to the New Zealand Educational Institute annual meeting in Wellington yesterday.

“As a senior, experienced teacher, these children are demoralising and destroying my enthusiasm to provide an exciting and vibrant programme.”

Mrs Firkins, who has been teaching for 35 years, told the Herald she had taken several blows from one boy while trying to protect other pupils.

“He just fisticuffed me and I ended up with bruises on my chest,” she said.

“I have one child in the class … I cannot physically handle him. I think he’s learned that the way to cope with anger is violence, and I get worried about the safety of my children and myself in this vulnerable situation.

“And you’re just wasting so much valuable teaching time.”

Mrs Firkins was one of several teachers at the meeting to express deep concerns over the impact of increasingly aggressive children.

They spoke about how disruption – including physical and verbal attacks from children as young as 2 – was eroding classroom safety and the quality of education.

A New Zealand Educational Institute report based on a survey at the end of last year found that one in seven primary school teachers had been hit by students last year, and 58 per cent reported “aggressive verbalconfrontations” with students.

Dealing with it came at a high personal cost to many teachers, who have to cope with emotional stress, physical injuries and sapping conditions.

“This has become a norm: you can expect to walk into your room every day and know someone is going to make your life hell,” said Tauranga teacher Graham Woodhead, who teaches 10- and 11-year-olds.

Early childhood education teacher Diane Lawrence said: “It doesn’t only happen in [primary] schools, it starts well before then – the throwing of chairs, the biting, the hitting, the verbal stuff [from 3- or 4-year-olds] and younger. There has been a huge increase in the time since I’ve been teaching [1981].”

Union members at the meeting backed the institute’s report, which endorsed a wider community and Government response to a problem that had its roots outside the classroom.

“We have to change the way people behave, we have to change the way people think, stop these kids from thinking it’s okay to behave like that,” said the institute’s national vice-president, Frances Nelson.

She said the institute would now seek feedback from community groups and the Government on how to address the problem.

Stuff – Those WOFs for kids and parents


Those WOFs for kids and parents
By PAT BOOTH – Auckland | Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Strange but true – some great ideas which seem so simple are actually very complex.

That’s a first reaction to the well-intentioned plan from Children’s Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro for what amounts to regular Warrants of Fitness checks on children from birth to five.

A WOF, let’s make it clear, not only of a child’s health and well-being but also the fitness of parents to provide a stable and safe environment for them.

In the light of what we now know to be life around us you can’t fault the intention.

She estimates that this move could save the lives of five children every year for the first five years alone.

That would cut in half the country’s terrible record of killing its children.

The Kiro plan in its simplest definition: Regular and compulsory screening of every baby’s home life.

She wants every newborn baby’s parents or caregivers to nominate ‘an authorised provider’ (whatever that means) to assess their family’s progress through home visits.

Under the Kiro rules, those who refused to take part would be referred to welfare authorities who would set up an official monitoring process.

Cindy Kiro has been quoted as describing systems of ‘voluntary engagement’ with groups like Plunket as ‘a recipe for disaster’.

She says her scheme, which she believes would cost about $5 million a year – a quote which sounds suspiciously low – has no equals anywhere. “We can lead the world in it.”

Briefing papers for the plan are being written for the government’s task force on family violence, which has launched a $14m campaign to fight domestic violence.

The campaign is apparently based on a 2005 report written by Auckland University researcher Janet Fanslow, who says home visits are one of the only proven methods to cut the child abuse rate.

The big doubt in my mind is just how feasible is it?

The logistics seem overwhelming.

The Health Ministry has had major, long-running problems setting up a national computer register of children’s jabs – who and when.

In the Auckland region, the potential figures for the new WOF are daunting.

Samples from the 2006 census: More than 14,600 children four and under in Waitakere and more than 12,500 in North Shore city alone, a total of more than 6000 new babies each year in Waitakere, Shore and Rodney, for example.

These figures don’t include statistics from the big baby-making suburbs in Manukau either.

How many staff would you need to register totals like this, then to identify and track them through those first five years?

How many trained specialists would the country need to keep up those regular and all-important visiting rosters?

Who would have the professional skills and personal abilities to see the signs of danger and to act on them?

How would ill-equipped and irresponsible parents respond?

How would capable and caring parents react to this regime?

How would welfare departments who have failed so often in the past lift their standards and their processes to cope?

And then, inevitably, there would be outcries from civil liberties and ethnic groups who would find human rights issues and/or cultural objections to what they would see as a Big Brother intrusion into so many private and blameless lives.

For me, if it could be made to work, I’d sooner that children’s names are on computer files than on tombstones.

The Dominion Post – Child home-screening plan ‘insult’


Child home-screening plan ‘insult’
By DAVE BURGESS – | Monday, 10 September 2007

A proposal by Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro to have mandatory screening of every baby’s home life is the ultimate insult, Family First NZ says.

The estimated $5-million-a-year scheme would make it compulsory for every newborn’s caregiver to nominate an authorised provider to assess their family’s progress through home visits. Those who refused to take part would be referred to welfare authorities.

The suggestion has outraged Bob McCoskrie, the national director of Christian-based lobby group Family First. “To threaten to refer the overwhelming majority of well-functioning parents and families – who will quite rightly resist this intrusion – to social welfare agencies is the ultimate insult.”

Briefing papers are being written for presentation to the Government’s task force for action on family violence, which began a $14 million campaign last week to fight domestic violence.

The proposal is in response to shocking child abuse statistics. Regular Unicef report cards, updated this year, consider New Zealand the most dangerous place for children, in terms of health and safety, out of 24 developed countries.

The Paediatric Society estimates 15 to 20 children are killed through child abuse each year.

Mr McCoskrie said the children’s commissioner should concentrate on the problems that lead to child abuse, such as gang violence, methamphetamine use, violence in schools and the breakdown in families.

“But she wants to treat all parents as potential child abusers rather than affording them the respect, support and encouragement they deserve – while failing to target the real abusers.”

National Party leader John Key said mandatory investigation of all children should be a last resort.

“A targeted approach would allow for more resources to be put in to those with greatest need.”

The proposal calls for a database to track the development of New Zealand children, which Mr Key would not oppose. “You have to balance the intrusion of privacy over the need to try to get a resolution to an issue that is of quite great concern. In this case the issue warrants that.”

But Mr Key doubted that the scheme could be run for $5 million a year. At-risk families would have to receive concentrated support from agencies such as Plunket.

Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Ruth Dyson welcomed the early intervention programme and said she would discuss the proposal with agencies.

The Press – Many beneficiaries reveal abuse


Many beneficiaries reveal abuse
By PHIL HAMILTON – The Press | Monday, 3 September 2007

Thousands of beneficiaries are victims of domestic violence, according to new Work and Income statistics.

In the first year, Work and Income’s family violence intervention programme asked beneficiaries to reveal violence in the home.

Across the 11 Work and Income (Winz) regions there were 3817 disclosures until the end of June this year, with 339 in Canterbury.

Work and Income head Patricia Reade said a family violence co-ordinator had been put into each region, with no real idea of how many disclosures they would receive.

“We had no expectations around numbers,” Reade said. “We just wanted to ensure we were providing appropriate support around domestic violence.”

Reade said the number of disclosures, which were leaked to the Press, equated to just over one per cent of their total clients.

“In the context of total benefits (280,000) it’s not a big number.”

The programme was confidential, with just 1312 of the total number willing to have the information put on their record, she said.

The regional co-ordinators support frontline staff with training, mentoring and information on the range of services and programmes available.

When a person discloses family violence, the case manager refers them to services such as Women’s Refuge, Stopping Violence Services, Barnardos and Jigsaw.

Reade said Work and Income could make a significant contribution to reducing family violence and promoting the safety and well-being of clients and their families.

“Because family violence is a sensitive and personal issue, Work and Income provides a supportive and safe environment but respects the client’s choice about when and how they disclose family violence.”

Christchurch Women’s Refuge manager Annette Gillespie said the programme was proving to be a success. “One, in raising awareness; two, in making sure there’s a referral path; and three, for strengthening the relationship between our agencies.”

She said Women’s Refuge had noticed the increase in the number of referrals from Work and Income, but it was not known whether those women would have contacted Women’s Refuge themselves.

With the rollout of domestic violence screening at all public hospitals, Gillespie expected demand for Women’s Refuge services to rise.

“We would expect where there is the demand there will be greater resourcing.”

The programme began in all regions in June 2006, although it had been operating in Nelson, Canterbury and Bay of Plenty as a pilot.


“We would expect where there is the demand there will be greater resourcing.”

So these programmes will be resourced to meet the demand. Later, as in Sweden, they will then need to keep the demand up to keep getting the resourcing. Many good families who have used reasonable force to correct their children have been ruined by this policy in Sweden. Why will it be any different in New Zealand?


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