Reliable child abuse measure vital for NZ
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2012
New Zealand’s child abuse record is brutally laid bare in one of the most comprehensive releases of Government data on the nation’s bruised and broken children.
There are 22,000 substantiated child abuse cases each year, resulting in around 1000 prosecutions and 128 recorded hospital admissions.
One expert says child abuse rates are not falling and it’s time we developed reliable measures to quantify the horrific harm suffered by children.
The child abuse rates, prosecutions and hospital admission figures – released under the Official Information Act – highlight stark differences in reporting.
A number of hospitals are failing to record suspected rates of child abuse, while other hospitals have been accused of pointing the finger at innocent parents.
In Northland, where more than 1300 child abuse cases arise each year, the hospital does record suspected child abuse and refers questions on to Child Youth and Family (CYF).
Chief executive Nick Chamberlain said the responsibility of determining child abuse rests with CYF and Police.
In contrast, Auckland’s Starship Hospital and Waikato District Health Board were able to provide detailed data on suspected and definite child abuse assaults and deaths.
Blows to the head and broken bones were the most common forms of assault on a child, but doctors also treated open wounds, eye injuries, severe bruising and fractured vertebrae.
The alarm is also being raised on less visible injuries: neglect, sexual abuse and threats to an unborn child.
Dr Eleanor Carmichael, a paediatrician at Waikato Hospital, said very rarely will doctors know immediately if a child has suffered abuse.
Children with head injuries may be having fits and be unwell, but show no bruising or marks.
It is only after investigating that it can become apparent why a child suffered a head injury.
Otago University child abuse researcher Dr Pauline Gulliver said while the figures were a cause for concern, they must be treated warily, as hospital admission and CYF data can change with social and policy trends.
“We have some work to do to develop reliable measures of child maltreatment rates before we can confidently say what is happening with child maltreatment in our community.”
Child, Youth and Family chief social worker Nova Salomen said they determined whether abuse had occurred after careful consideration of the circumstances, including the level of harm caused to the child.
A finding of abuse does not necessarily lead to criminal charges for a number of reasons.
The Government is also considering strengthening measures to remove babies from parents who seriously abused or neglected their children.
– Ã‚Â© Fairfax NZ News
NZ does not put enough resources into assembling reliable child abuse statistics.
Hospital statistics used to record domestic violence separately from injuries to other violence. This was discontinued, when recording changed from ICD9 to ICD10.
Hospitals said that to separate domestic violence from other violence required asking questions, that they were uncomfortable to ask, as it was not essential to providing treatment. Besides, if a patient were to untruth to them (it is so unPC to call it lying, now that perjury is Government subsidised and caught supported), they can only guess as to what the truth is. There is no point in gathering data, that you know to be unreliable…… This would be self delusion.
Even with a large expensive investigation, it is sometimes not possible to be confident what was the cause of the injuries. This is the function of the Police, rather than hospital support nurses.
The problem of failing to produce good quality statistics, is closely related to the problem of failing to analyse policies, before they are brought into operation and also failure to evaluate policies once they are in operation, for the quality and quantity of outcomes.
1. Consideration of changes to familycaught$ after 30 years of erratic and often disastrous performance, without a full evaluation of it’s performance.
2. Consideration of changes to DPB, after nearly 20 years operation, again without a full evaluation of its impacts onto society.
Somebody said that “He who does not learn from history, is doomed to repeat it”. Is this what we want to do?
Gathering good quality statistics is expensive. If we don’t do it, we will continue to fail to protect many of our children from neglect and abuse. This is costing us hugely, in terms of wasted education effort, wasted children’s lives, wasted prison spending, wasted criminal injuries. It is cheaper in the long run to face our problems and solve them.
Even if we try to improve the quality of NZ statistics, due to our small size, we will never be able to fund statistics of quality matching these larger countries. We need to do our best, which just ins’t happening at present.
We also need to be learning from larger, better run countries statistics too.
Who is it, that is most scared of reliable NZ statistics being published?