annual report 2009-2010 cover image

Keep at-risk children safe – with emphasis on under two-year-olds

There are unacceptably high rates of child abuse in New Zealand. The early years in the life of a child are critically important for their overall development. A safe, happy and healthy early life can improve a child's health, learning ability and development. That is why we have systems in place to care for and protect children in at-risk families.

Vulnerable Children programme

Vulnerable Children was launched in November 2009. It focuses on protecting children under the age of two years. The programme aims to learn what works best and what we can do to effectively reduce the number of children harmed and abused in the future.

The need for this programme is reflected in the Ministry’s 2009–2012 Statement of Intent indicators, which show the rate of re-substantiated abuse or neglect of children has increased with the economic downturn.

The proportion of children assessed as abused or neglected increased from 15.40 per 1,000 children aged 0–16 years in 2008/2009 to 16.61 in 2009/2010. The rate of re-substantiated abuse/neglect within six months of a previous abuse/neglect finding increased from 1.77 per 1,000 children aged 0–16 years in 2008/2009 to 2.21 in 2009/2010. Emotional abuse was present in just over 80 per cent of all substantiated re-abuse cases in 2010; physical abuse 18 per cent, sexual abuse six per cent, and neglect 36 per cent. In 2009, emotional abuse made up 78 per cent, physical abuse 16 per cent, sexual abuse 5 per cent, and neglect 39 per cent. Family violence is the primary contributor to the high levels of emotional abuse reported to Child, Youth and Family each year.

The Vulnerable Children programme of action includes:

  • Never, Ever Shake a Baby campaign
  • Auckland District Health Board’s Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome programme
  • Multi-agency safety plans
  • First Response to family violence call-outs
  • Child,Youth and Family social workers in hospitals.

Never, Ever Shake a Baby campaign
Every year around 23 babies are admitted to hospital as a result of being shaken. International research shows that inconsolable infant crying is a key trigger for shaking and physical abuse, typically when babies are between six weeks and four months old.

We ran a multimedia campaign between December 2009 and June 2010, aimed at educating parents and caregivers about why you must never, ever, shake a baby. This involved television, radio, print and online advertising, and mall and bus shelter banners in our main centres. The campaign was supported by strong community action.

Auckland District Health Board’s Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome programme
We supported the Auckland District Health Board’s Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome programme, led by Dr Patrick Kelly, Consultant Paediatrician, and Clinical Director of Te Puaruruhau, Auckland District Health Board’s Child Abuse Unit. Lead maternity carers will talk with every new parent about how to look after a crying baby and why you must never shake them. All new parents will also receive information pamphlets and a DVD resource.

The programme raises awareness among new parents in the Auckland District Health Board’s region.

Child, Youth and Family social workers in hospitals
Child, Youth and Family has had a practice leader based in the Starship and National Women’s hospitals since 2000. From December 2009, this initiative has been expanded with social workers joining hospitals in Counties Manukau, Waikato, Wellington, the Hutt Valley, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

By working closely and developing relationships with key staff across the hospitals, the Child, Youth and Family social workers are able to share information and expertise and increase the likelihood of identifying at-risk children and young people. This will ensure that when a child presents with injuries that could be non-accidental, services are linked and co-ordinated between the hospital midwives, police, Child, Youth and Family, other professionals and the child’s family. The key focus is to ensure the child is supported during this vulnerable time and, in cases involving non-accidental injury, the child is kept safe from further abuse.

The programme will be further expanded by the end of 2010. This means Child, Youth and Family social workers will be in all 21 district health boards. Recruitment is already underway, with induction training scheduled for the end of October.

Multi-agency safety plans
Multi-agency safety plans will bring together Child, Youth and Family, the police and health professionals to ensure there is a clear, safety plan established for all children admitted to hospital as a result of abuse. The safety plan is about making sure children have a safe home to go to when they leave hospital, and there is an agreed plan to monitor their continued safety and wellbeing.

Our Child, Youth and Family social workers in hospitals take a lead role in ensuring robust safety plans are put in place. These plans include details about who will care for the child, any health issues, additional supports needed for the child and their family, and clear definitions around the roles and responsibilities of each professional involved in the case.

First Response
The police advise Child, Youth and Family every time they attend a family violence call-out when children are present in the home. This results in around 51,000 family violence reports of concern from the police each year and equates to 46 per cent of all reports of concern to Child, Youth and Family.

Many of these reports do not require Child, Youth and Family’s ongoing involvement for a variety of reasons. For example, the incident might be an isolated argument between mum and dad but the children were asleep and not involved, or it could be between mum and dad and other relatives who don’t usually live in the home and mum and dad are protective and appear to be taking appropriate steps for their children’s safety. However, these incidents do indicate a family may need support.

In Auckland, we piloted an early intervention service aimed at supporting families with children under the age of two years to address the violence in the adults’ relationship before it escalated.

First Response was a Child, Youth and Family led initiative in collaboration with the police and a community organisation called SHINE*. Where there are children under the age of two years present in the home, a SHINE* social worker visits the family within 72 hours of a family violence call-out. They provide support and information to help the family keep everyone safe and to link the family up with appropriate services in the community. If at any stage there are concerns for the child’s safety, the SHINE* social worker makes a referral to Child, Youth and Family.

Impact of changes made to section 59 of the Crimes Amendment Act

In the period between April 2010 and 30 June 2010, Child, Youth and Family received 105 notifications (0.4 per cent of total notifications) where the information included concerns about smacking, for example, parental drug abuse and smacking. A further seven calls were received about light smacking only. These calls were not recorded as formal notifications and no action was taken by Child, Youth and Family.

Differential Response

The Differential Response provides more response options for Child, Youth and Family’s care and protection services. The nature and degree of our involvement reflects the risks, strengths and needs profiles of families. We aim to achieve a reduction in re-engagements with families. This may be through a Child, Youth and Family response and/or a partnered response where Child, Youth and Family works in partnership with other social services providers, facilitating their involvement with families whose needs they can best meet. Providers have the flexibility to refer the families back to Child, Youth and Family.

Partnered Response Pathway
The Partnered Response Pathway is a component of the Differential Response approach. It allows us to work with social services providers in the community to get the right services to the child. It supports those families who will be better helped through community-based support rather than through statutory social work intervention.

This year we completed the national rollout of the Partnered Response Pathway, with every site implementing their plans for strengthening relationships with community providers. This ensures vulnerable families can get access to the level of services they need. We are completing a review of the implementation of this response and identifying the next steps we can take to further strengthen this approach.

Home for Life

We implemented a national programme to increase awareness of and to support access to permanency for children and young people in care. We put in place regular monitoring of sites to see what progress they were making with their site care plans. To further support our permanency work, we brought together our foster care and adoption expertise to develop the framework, policy and materials required to better prepare potential caregivers. This formed the background to the Home for Life work we will deliver in the 2010/2011 year.

A home for life is when whānau or foster carers make a lifelong commitment to a child, and the child is no longer in Child, Youth and Family care. It provides a safe and stable home for children, helps them to build strong and nurturing attachments and gives them the greatest chance of growing into secure adults. Our Home for Life programme does not change the fact we believe children belong with their families. We will still work with families to keep their children safe, we will find extended family and whānau carers as a first priority and we will look for foster families only if the children’s own extended family is not able to safely care for them. All children deserve a family to call their own and a permanent home where they will be kept safe and well cared for. The reality is, many children will not be able to return home to their own parents.

Child, Youth and Family helped 389 children into permanent care in the last two years.

Health and Education Needs Assessment Framework

We evaluated the Health and Education Needs Assessment Framework for all children and young people who come into our care in 14 Child, Youth and Family pilot sites. This assessment helps to provide us with an overall picture of the health, disability and educational needs of the children and young people who come into our care. It helps social workers to develop care plans tailored to help caregivers look after children and young people. The framework will continue to be refined to prepare for its national implementation in 2011/2012.

Evaluation findings of the assessment show:

  • 88 per cent of children and young people that come into care have health problems
  • 44 per cent warrant referral for specialist treatment.

Child, Youth and Family’s performance

For the first time in more than a decade, Child, Youth and Family delivered against every service commitment. This year significant progress was made on a number of Child, Youth and Family’s performance measures and in some cases standards were exceeded. This includes services for adoption, care and protection, and the development and funding of community services. These results reflect the work Child, Youth and Family has done to improve its systems and processes, and to improve how it records and measures the way it works.

Child, Youth and Family also continued to have success in reducing the number of cases not allocated to social workers. In 2009/2010, Child, Youth and Family reduced the number of unallocated cases by 51 per cent despite a 13 per cent increase in care and protection notifications. To ensure we continue to improve our performance in 2010/2011, we have established new performance measures and raised the current performance standard targets.

At the end of June 2010, 124 cases were unallocated to social workers, a reduction of 89 per cent since 2006 (1,092 unallocated cases).

annual report 2009-2010 cover image

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