Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Risk for Children

In the latest Maxim Institute newsletter, the following comments are made in regard to the Death and serious injury from assault of children aged under 5 years in Aotearoa New Zealand report...

According to the review, risk factors which increase the likelihood of a child suffering "fatal assault or serious injury" before their fifth birthday, include children living with "non-biological" fathers, a background of domestic violence, "mental illness," "alcohol and drug abuse," poverty and the ethnicity of the child. It confronts us with an uncomfortable statistic: "In New Zealand, Maori ethnicity is a static risk factor" associated with a six-fold greater risk for male children and a three-fold greater risk for female children. Higher risks are also associated with mothers who are young and have a low level of education. The review notes that "identified risk factors seldom occur in isolation," with the families at greatest risk ticking more than one of these boxes.

Let's be honest, none of this is news. And it has little to do with the anti-smacking 'law' that came into force last year.

Being honest about the risk factors will only go so far if we are not also willing to examine, evaluate and critique the efficacy of interventions, as the second half of the review begins to do. It identifies home visitation and parent training programmes as helpful responses to the issue of abuse. These programmes involve professionals working with families to connect them with vital services and improve their parenting. The report notes that these programmes are effective for some families, particularly when relationships with workers are strong and persistent, and when a "broad range of needs" is addressed. "Case co-ordination" between agencies is also vital—the same families continually pop up in a variety of contexts, but the co-ordination and communication between agencies is often lacking. While the Commissioner's chief response to the report was to call for funding for a "shaken baby prevention programme," our response needs to be broader than that. It needs to address all the causes of death and the range of effective interventions that the report outlines.

All this is good stuff....and knowing about this, how can the Church be involved and help? No doubt, parts of the church are already working in these areas, but if it's something that we can help further with, let's do it.

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