Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lindsay Mitchell: Complaints about ECE care


In my article Vulnerable Children bill: Will it make a difference? published a few days ago, I wrote:
Today abuse is split into four categories; emotional, physical, sexual and neglect. In 2012 emotional abuse made up 56 percent of substantiated findings, physical – 15 percent , sexual – 6 percent and neglect, 22 percent. Child, Youth and Family record data about the nature of substantiated findings. Unfortunately information about the relationship between the offender and victim is not available.
Pieces of information about that relationship can be collated though. Almost 85% of emotional abuse findings are associated with family violence situations. In terms of child injury mortality and homicide, “… most perpetrators are parents, acting either alone or together.“   Emotional abuse and neglect tends to be associated with parents who abuse alcohol and drugs and/ or have untreated mental health problems. Sexual abuse is the only type of abuse that is commonly associated with offenders outside of the immediate family but even then a third of perpetrators were parent figures and just over a fifth were other relatives according to a sample of childhood sexual abuses cases reported to police. 
Despite this the Vulnerable Children Bill, currently under public consultation, focusses very strongly on vetting people who work with children.
I've written to the Ministry of Social Development asking for information, "Regarding substantiated findings of child abuse during the calender year ending 2012, details of familial relationship between offenders and victims," and am awaiting an answer.

In the meantime another organisation, ChildForum, appears to have pursued similar lines via the Ministry of Education. The information they have received under the OIA is reported rather sensationally in today's NZ Herald.

Bear in mind these are complaints, not substantiated findings:

Litany of tears
The 247 complaints included:
* Teacher bit a child and twisted her hands and arms.
* Parents not told their child had fallen off a slide and had to wait for medical treatment.
* Student on teaching practice saw staff smacking children and dragging them by their arms.
* Child found wandering on the street while centre was unaware he was missing.
* Dogs roaming in play areas.
* Staff not administering prescribed medication to a child.
* Children left alone in vehicles.
* Staff smoking near youngsters.
* Food withheld from pupils.
* Infants' nappies unchanged.

To put 247 into context, in 2012 there were 152,800 reports of concern to CYF.

Only 14 percent of reports to CYF dveloped into substantiated findings. If the rate was similar for ECE complaints that would translate to 35. But any number between 35 and 247 would be a tiny fraction of the 195,000 children attending pre-school.

Ironically, I can envisage these "horror" tales being used to campaign against beneficiary parents being required to send their children to Kindergarten etc from age 3, when statistically speaking  a child is at greatest risk at home with welfare-dependent caregivers.

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