Investment in prevention to reduce intervention

United Future news and views with Judy Turner MP

Straight talk…

In the six years I have been in Parliament I have never been able to shake off a deep-seated disquiet about the way we approach child protection in New Zealand.

I continue to have more questions than answers and remain convinced that those involved are very well intended.

Our system is based on notifications being investigated and where abuse is substantiated there follows an intervention. Every year in New Zealand notifications go up by about 15% and of course the number of children taken in to care from substantiated cases is on the increase.

The burden of such high levels of notifications and removals impact not only on the children and their families but also on the system which is trying to resource them. The work overload can result in high numbers of unallocated cases, hasty assessments, high staff turn over and workforce shortages, premature case closure, and inadequate monitoring of children in placement.

Children taken in to care often experience multiple placements which pose risks to their mental health and emotional wellbeing. There is even emerging overseas research suggesting that children in foster care could be more damaged by being removed from their parents and being subject to multiple placements than had they remained with their families.

I have had contact with lots of parents and caregivers seriously traumatised by investigations.

This week I have read an interesting paper from Australia suggesting that if we want to reduce child abuse and neglect then there are some lessons to be learnt from the preventative approach of our Public Health System.

The authors suggest that there needs to be primary, secondary and tertiary prevention initiatives that include:

· Universal services for children and their families at the primary level

· Targeted prevention services for identified vulnerable families at the secondary level

· Tertiary interventions for children in need of protection.

Investment in prevention to reduce intervention …. Sounds good to me!


… universal prevention activities not only have the potential for preventing abuse and neglect; they also enhance child health and well-being overall by improving behaviour problems and school readiness”

Triple P Parenting programme


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