Signs of change?
Reading an article in the current (May) issue of North & South magazine I see some possible signs of change in the thinking that drives NZ social policy. The author of “Our Shame”, as many magazine writers have done before, has set out to (in her words) “traverse the grim statistics of child abuse, neglect, and killings” in this country.
What’s different about this article is that it also traverses a fundamental change that appears to be taking place in thinking at CYFS and amongst some other key players.
Dorothy Scott, Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection says current state-run child-protection systems aren’t working and are:
“unsustainable and harmful to children and their families.” Scott says overloaded agencies such as CYFS, forced to resort to coercive heavy handedness, often further hurt the children they are trying to protect.
Ian Hassall, a former Childrens’s Commissioner and now a department head at Auckland University of Technology says:
“Two decades and a cascade of reviews have demonstrated that increasing coercion on the part of the state (in removing children from their families) has not worked.”
Sanely and refreshingly, Lesley Max a ‘social entrepreneur’ and founder of ‘HIPPY’ — Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters — dares to talk about sole parenthood as a “damaging pathway” and a major factor leading to child neglect and abuse.
“The current wisdom in New Zealand is, says Max, that it is how families relate to each other, not how they are structured that’s the problem. In other words it’s not politically correct to focus on sole parenthood.”
Lesley Max suggests:
“a public health promotion” along the lines of the seatbelts, anti-smoking, anti-junk food, anti drink-drive campaigns.”
Unfortunately the article is overall rather incoherent in the range of ideas it puts forward as solutions. Although sole-parenting is named as a risk factor, the obvious need to restore the role of fathers in parenting and in preventing child abuse gets no direct mention. Much of the article reads like a press release from a couple of organizations seeking to expand their empires and gain a bigger slice of government funding.
However it’s clear from what some of the movers and shakers are quoted as saying, that there is an increasing acknowledgement that whatever the state has supposedly been doing to protect children has not been working.