Western Leader : January 26th 2012
www.westernleader.co.nz 2 WESTERN LEADER, JANUARY 26, 2012 NEWS 2949824AE Office Ph 837 0340 Fa x 837 1760 Hours: 8am – 5pm Editor Claire Kenny email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sales Manager Julie Cooper email: email@example.com Circulation Ph 525 2022 Fa x 580 1648 email: firstname.lastname@example.org Classifieds Ph 525 2100 Fa x 580 1643 email: email@example.com 66,754 Audited Circulation (ABC Jan-Dec ’10.) 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For God’s sake, do something How many more of this country’s chil- dren must face violent death or injury before people with responsibility for their safety take decisive and urgent action to protect them, particularly Maori whanau – in which the crisis is at its worst – to stop the killings and maimings. The pattern of suspicious deaths and child battering and killing continues – already one child dead this year, other court hearings due on earlier offences. And the dead triplet case to be solved. If our dreadful statistics continue that annual victim list could be 10 or more by the next New Year – plus hundreds more needing hospital specialists to save them. With these heart-breaking deaths and injuries, pressure from worried people grows. The demand for action heightened after the jailing – in the days before Christmas – of an Auck- land mother for the prolonged torture of her daughter, then aged eight. She had pleaded guilty to 25 horrifying charges including assaulting the girl with a machete and a hammer, kicking her in the crotch while wearing steel-capped workboots, tearing off her toenail and pouring salt and boiling water on the wound and writing abusive words on the girl’s body. One charge involved assault on the girl’s younger brother. The justifiable definition of torture came when Judge Brooke Gibson sent the mother to jail for seven-and-a -half years with a minimum non-parole period of five years. Judge Gibson described her mis- treatment as ‘‘sustained abuse, amounting to torture’’. She suppressed the mother’s name but only to protect the child, one of the very few times in her life that her daughter has been at all protected. The facts of her life – which illus- trate what is a national crisis – show she was taken from her mother as a baby and was later transferred to an unrelated caregiver for what were clearly her only best years. She was then put into a Child, Youth and Family-approved whanau caregiver where she complained she was sexually abused before being passed back to her mother after years apart. A report from former Ombudsman Mel Smith of an inquiry into CYF handling of her life has simply reinforced growing concern. He plainly understated the obvious – that CYF ‘‘could have done better’’ and that the department’s methods involved ‘‘a complicated labyrinth of relationships, assessment and critical decision’’. His report called for urgent study and action involving ‘‘kin placement’’ and concerns among professionals that too often the wishes of a parent or parents or whanau prevailed. In fact, the plight of this little girl is simply the latest revealed example of major problems which need urgent attention from the government – and a Maori community and MPs appearing to ignore a problem which too often ends in injury or death for children who need aroha. Instead they are simply cash cows providing social welfare handouts. In the mailbag: From Valerie Davies of Leigh, for- mer women’s editor of the Auckland Star and NZ Woman’s Weekly colum- nist on family issues. She is married to Pat Booth. ‘‘In the inquiry into Child, Youth and Family’s incredible decisions taken over the little girl who was starved, tortured and terrorised by her parents, have the following questions been asked: ‘‘Why was the little girl taken from her secure home when she was four years old to be deposited with her whanau who presumably were strangers to her? ‘‘Was the little girl asked what she wanted – to stay with the people who had loved her for as long she could remember or go to a group of people who had no track record of caring for her? ‘‘Why was the little girl returned to her mother when the whanau has abused their trust and abused her, when the mother had already been found unfit to care for the child when she was born? ‘‘Do staff at Child, Youth and Family have any training in basic ‘child psy- chology’, covering such vital topics as ‘bonding’? ‘‘Are any checks made on the wha- nau to discover their motives for sud- denly wanting to parent a child after four years of absence from her life? ‘‘Since there is evidence to show that many whanau apply for custody in order to get access to money paid for the child’s upkeep, are there any requirements to show that they qualify as competent carers? When couples apply for adoption I doubt that they would be considered suitable parents if they were unemployed. Would this cri- teria apply to whanau? ‘‘Making excuses for torturing or killing children should be unaccept- able and yet already I’ve heard a com- ment on the death of the triplet that coping with multiple births is difficult. It surely must be, but that’s no excuse for killing a baby.’’ Also on record is the published evi- dence of Carmel Claridge of Kohimarama, who left CYF because of concerns over its system. ‘‘Not one of the people putting up their hands to take on the care of chil- dren in all the files I worked on were self-supporting. All were beneficiaries. ‘‘The care orders were simply a means to a notch up the benefit ladder, a means to quicker state housing, a means to ensure continued access to taxpayer-funded systems supposedly in place to ensure the well-being of children. ‘‘The calibre of these people was, to be brutally honest, often so inadequate I would hesitate to leave pets in their care, much less children. ‘‘The whanau system is failing miserably. Sadly the best thing for many children at risk, brown skin or white, is to get them as far away from their ‘whanau’ as possible until those children have had the opportunity to experience life without abuse, violence, poverty and welfare dependence. With- out that they do not stand a chance and neither do their children or their children’s children.’’ ■ Carmel Claridge is my nomination as an expert witness in a long-overdue campaign to save our children.
January 24th 2012
January 27th 2012