The Dim-Post

December 29, 2011

Evil in return

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 9:36 pm

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

- W H Auden

From one of the stories about the five-year old tourist attacked in Turangi:

A sense of shame runs strongly through Kiwi messages to the five-year-old girl savagely attacked in a Turangi campground.

“Most of the messages are saying please forgive us,” Waikato Hospital spokeswoman Mary Anne Gill revealed yesterday as the girl left hospital, smiling and hugging nurses as she went.

Her European family plan to complete their New Zealand holiday, and police believe she may never remember anything about the sexually motivated attack because of her “heart-wrenching” injuries.

“The theme running through is a sense of shame … that this has happened in New Zealand .. This is not normal for New Zealand.”

If the family’s view of New Zealand was tarnished immediately after the attack, it wasn’t now, she said.

“They see it very much as an isolated incident.”

Isolated incident? But . . . this is normal for New Zealand, isn’t it? I mean, I guess it’s unusual that the child attacked happened to be a tourist attacked by a stranger, not someone living in poverty brutalised by a family member – but isn’t an assault on a child basically a routine occurrence in this country? We have the fifth highest rate of child abuse in the OECD, a child murdered roughly once a month.

Now the Herald reports that a sixteen year old has appeared in court, charged with the crime. If he’s convicted I’ll make two predictions (1) that he’ll be ‘known to CYFS’ because his own family has systematically tortured and abused him, and (2) he’ll spend almost his entire life in prison, because the risk he poses to the public is now so grave.

This isn’t a new problem, and New Zealand politicians have spent a long time insisting that ‘someone must do something’ – well, there are actual, proven policy solutions to the problem of endemic child abuse. Our MPs are ‘someone’ and they have billions of dollars and incredible scope to do ‘something’. But so far as I can tell, no one in New Zealand is even looking at these solutions.

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70 Comments »

  1. Good points.

    I’ve just got back from “The Iron Lady”. She wouldn’t have stood for this. She would have done something; everyone may have argued about the “something” but she wouldn’t have idly stood by and put up with it. Where is our “Iron Lady”?

    Comment by Nick K — December 29, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

  2. Its okay Nick. After three years as Minister, our very own “Iron Lady” has put out a green paper. So that, you know, we can discuss it.

    Comment by DT — December 29, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

  3. If convicted I’ll make two predictions … (2) he’ll spend almost his entire life in prison, because the risk he poses to the public is now so grave.

    He’s aged 16, I wouldn’t be so sure. Unless Judith Collins has Parliament pass some bill of attainder, a lifetime in prison just isn’t possible.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 29, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

  4. Of course the person who committed the crime will have a backstory but initial reports don’t sound like the horror you may imagine ( though often that lurks within “normality”) “This is normal for NZ” -shockingly, yes – like animal abuse is. NZ gets the government it deserves by virtue of the ignorant voting decisions people make. Kiwis have bred a culture that is woefully ill informed, poorly parented and highly irresponsible. Many with those qualifications go on to be parents, thus the dysfunctional mess we read in the daily news. Radical solutions will be needed for the sort of makeover needed to fix this country.

    Comment by Emett Kay — December 29, 2011 @ 10:09 pm

  5. A rousing post.

    Comment by will — December 29, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  6. Sort of like plunket nurses you mean?

    The brits are starting something similar for their problem families. A single point of contact who gets to know the family and helps them honestly through all the interaction with state agencies without being mislead in the way multiple very short contacts can be mislead.

    Comment by Phil Sage — December 29, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  7. Unless Judith Collins has Parliament pass some bill of attainder, a lifetime in prison just isn’t possible.

    SOP for this is he gets put away for a relatively short period, then kills someone while on parole and this time he’s old enough for them to give him a more appropriate sentence. Works OK, as long as you’re not the person he kills while on parole.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 29, 2011 @ 10:27 pm

  8. My first reaction was like Phil’s – isn’t that solution like our Plunket Nurses before they all disappeared?

    It’s a pity that accurate stats on violence rates against children are probably difficult to get for the period when Plunket Nurses were ubiquitous, given the propensity of the culture at the time to not talk about stuff like that.

    The amount it costs to incarcerate someone, would, I imagine, rarely be taken into account when contemplating how much it costs to fully fund a service like Plunket.

    Comment by ben — December 29, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

  9. But such a program will cost millions! Maybe even a few tens of millions! And if we spent the money on that, were would the forty million we’ve wasted kissing America’s arse in Afghanistan come from?

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 29, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

  10. Yeah, but Plunket are very far from perfect in this kind of stuff. They are already funded to do universal checks at regular intervals ( http://www.plunket.org.nz/what-we-do/what-we-offer/plunket-visits/well-child-tamariki-ora-schedule/ ), but they don’t actually do it that fabulously (there are also lots of other health providers who can be funded to to Well Child visits, including Maori health providers and sometimes public health nurses).

    I don’t have figures to hand, but I’d be amazed if the number of plunket nurses per capita was lower now than at any time in the last 50 years. I’d love to see some hard data on that, though, if anybody has any? Sadly I don’t.

    Comment by Dr Foster — December 29, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

  11. The argument made against Plunket and for the “Well Child” service – where any approved provider can get a contract to do set health checks – was that Plunket was captured by educated white middle class mothers. As a service it didn’t have good penetration into other communities. But Well Child has been around for a while now, it should be possible to assess it. Are those communities now getting the support they need, better than in the old Plunket days?

    The other issue is whether the *kind* of service provided is good enough – you know, a set number of visits at a set time and no more unless certain boxes were ticked. I’m sure lots of mothers and babies fall through these box-ticking cracks. (I had a child who was premature and so we qualified for an extra service – oh, but I didn’t because I lived in between the two local providers – my street didn’t appear in either of their contracts. Had I moved a minute across town, a different story… Silly stuff like that happens all the time.)

    Comment by MeToo — December 29, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

  12. SOP for this is he gets put away for a relatively short period, then kills someone while on parole and this time he’s old enough for them to give him a more appropriate sentence. Works OK, as long as you’re not the person he kills while on parole.

    I call bullshit on this. If it takes the fingers on two hands to count up the number of people in this category, I would be very surprised.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — December 29, 2011 @ 11:51 pm

  13. It’s the $50,000 of independent donations from members of the New Zealand public that gives me mixed feelings. It’s very generous of some wonderful people of course in response to a disgusting act, but I can’t help but feel that if it were a break-in of a home in Turangi while mum and dad were having a drink next door after the kids had gone to bed, there’d be fewer (if any) donations and possibly even criticism against the parents for leaving their children unattended.

    Are people just more affected by how we’re perceived from outside than in who we actually are? Or is this more about people responding to publicity?

    Comment by MikeM — December 30, 2011 @ 12:46 am

  14. Sort of like plunket nurses you mean?

    Plunket visits you in your home twice, for about five minutes each visit where they weigh your child, tell you she looks cute and give you some pamphlets.

    Comment by danylmc — December 30, 2011 @ 6:50 am

  15. You mean like the actual proven policies we already have and the incremental changes we are making to improve the position like Whanau Ora? Or perhaps you were thinking of the rough and ready burn all the witches at the stake variant?

    Comment by Tinakori — December 30, 2011 @ 6:54 am

  16. Child abuse is a complex inter-generational problem, and the effects of solutions may take decades to make significant changes. But there are organisations and people working on trying to deal with the problems. One key thing identified as being needed is training on detection and prevention:

    Child Matters – http://www.childmatters.org.nz/
    “Make a difference to children by supporting training in the prevention of child abuse to professionals working with children.”

    Over the last six months I’ve has something to do with others trying to do something:

    NARK – http://www.nark.org.nz/
    “Our mission is to raise awareness of child abuse in New Zealand and what you can do to help prevent this in your community”

    Chatbus – http://chatbus.org.nz/
    “ChatBus is a free, mobile, counselling service, for children under 14years, operating in Dunedin, New Zealand.”

    Survivors of Abuse and Violence Network-NZ
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Survivors-of-Abuse-and-Violence-Network-NZ/136833956391631?sk=info
    ‘Breaking Cycles of our Past’ Halting Violence throughout Aotearoa/New Zealand by utilising the Networks resources and forming a strong collaborative group with one purpose. Strive for a Violent/Abuse free country.

    I’ve also connected with Stopping Violence Dunedin and http://whiteribbon.org.nz/

    There’s many more out there.

    I used to think violence wasn’t my problem because I’m non-violent and wasn’t abused as a child or in a relationship. But I have come to realise that I am a part of the problem of violence experienced by families and communities of New Zealand. Speaking up against violence – incidentally including speaking up against blog violence – is important.

    Turning away and remaining silent contributes to supporting violent behaviour. Non violent people need to stand up and speak up, to make it clear that violence is not acceptable (in most circumstances).

    Just grizzling about lack of government action and doing nothing is not good enough. As members of families and communities we all have a responsibility to do more about one of the biggest problems our society and our country has.

    Comment by Pete George — December 30, 2011 @ 7:32 am

  17. Great post.

    The solution does seem to be some kind of scaled up Plunket and Whanau Ora, but this is very interventionist and therefore open to attack as the nanny state. Not that I care about that, but the PR people for the major political parties probably do.

    @13 – I agree. Just like a reporter at international arrivals asking “so, what do you think of NZ?” our infamous cultural sensitivity is in play here. Still, the money and the letters is a good thing, but it is an interesting insight.

    Comment by John-Paul — December 30, 2011 @ 8:11 am

  18. The New Zealand middle class will nowdays vote for a tax cut and joining in on a pious lynch mob over being their brother’s keeper and paying for doing something concrete about child abuse in the third world (i.e. those parts of New Zealand they don’t live in).

    Whanua Ora? Are you people joking? Donna Awatere-Huata anyone? Indulging in the favourite expression of Kiwi anti-intellectualism – re-inventing the wheel in the magical hope that it will work better (and with less money) than the tiresome and complicated wheels you already have – won’t achieve diddly squat. Mark my words. Common sense and experience should tell us Whanua Ora (and Charter Schools) will turn out to be less about innovative and targeted delivery of services than a mechanism for corruption and the unaccountable transfer of public money to the pocket of the cronies of the governments support party the Maori Party (and ACT).

    I sat at dinner the other week with a women whose only response to the recently reported appalling torture and sexual abuse of a nine year old girl was to repeat robot like that the women found guilty of the torture was the sole person responsible. In fact, her response to everything appeared to be the same: “Don’t care. She/he was the one responsible. People need to take responsibility for their actions. If everyone took responsibility for their actions these things wouldn’t happen. I take responsibility for my actions, and I don’t beat and toture my children. They should bring back hanging for people like him/her”.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 30, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  19. In the dompost http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/6201524/Boy-accused-of-attack-on-girl-heckled . I always find it a bit odd when a crowd turns up to abuse some criminal, this comment in the article “Another woman shyly receives congratulations on yelling something particularly cutting, but takes off with her little dog before she can be questioned. ” is a gem but the last paragraph about the flag?

    Comment by Raumatibeach — December 30, 2011 @ 8:59 am

  20. @Pete, could you please clarify what you mean by ‘make it clear that violence is not acceptable (in most circumstances)’ and what you mean by ‘blog violence’?

    Comment by MikeM — December 30, 2011 @ 9:00 am

  21. “…but the last paragraph about the flag..?”

    Bad prose by a cub reporter who thinks they are the next Patricia Cornwell. It is the sort of thing that sub-editors used to pick up and delete.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 30, 2011 @ 9:08 am

  22. MikeM:

    We obviously have far too much violence in our country and our world, and that obvioulsy needs to be reduced, but sometimes violence cannot be avoided. I live a non-violent life but I wouldn’t rule out using violence, for example to protect myself or others.

    Blog violence – not pointing any fingers here because this is one of the better blogs regarding poster behaviour, but elsewhere it’s common to see examples of a) abusive, bullying and intimidatory posts, b) comments promoting violence as a means of achieving something and c) excuses for use of violence. I pick my targets (and am not immune from being dragged down into dogfighting) but I’m prepared to confront this sort of blog behaviour while trying not to resort to retaliation.

    Comment by Pete George — December 30, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  23. “Don’t care. She/he was the one responsible. People need to take responsibility for their actions. If everyone took responsibility for their actions these things wouldn’t happen.”

    Doesn’t this pretty much sum up government policy? Add in great handwringing when the subsequent cost of imprisonment is tallied up, reduce sentences accordingly to lower said costs and repeat the cycle. Ad infinitum.

    Godzone country.

    Comment by Neil — December 30, 2011 @ 9:36 am

  24. I’m glad Plunket nurses don’t waste time with obviously competent parents. A review of the christchurch Early Start programme included a literature assessment that showed how few home visitation programmes could predict or mitigate child abuse. The Early Start programme was able to reduce child abuse but it’s clearly very difficult and requires a visit frequency greater than what most services can offer. Some other programmes, including Well Child, appear to focus on the family and mother, and may have less benefits for children at risk. The reviews available on online show how difficult it is for outsiders to identify early stages of abuse. No simple answers.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — December 30, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  25. PG says ‘elsewhere it’s common to see examples of a) abusive, bullying and intimidatory posts, b) comments promoting violence as a means of achieving something and c) excuses for use of violence.’
    Dunno where he hangs out mostly, but wherever I see his postings the ‘abuse’ mostly reflects inflamed responses to his unctuous brand of sanctimony.

    Comment by Galeandra — December 30, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  26. @14 Plunket visits you in your home twice, for about five minutes each visit where they weigh your child, tell you she looks cute and give you some pamphlets.

    Comment by danylmc — December 30, 2011 @ 6:50 am

    You’re white, educated, middle class. They assume you’re okay. And if you’re not, you’re resourceful enough to sort it out. They’re bulk funded so they don’t want to waste time on people who need them least.

    Comment by MeToo — December 30, 2011 @ 10:40 am

  27. I think this is an unusual case..

    First, stranger rape is unusual in itself.. most victims know their attacker.
    Second, stranger rape of a five year is very unusual and is often associated with a killing of the victim.. also its often associated with deranged individuals of any race.
    Third, its unusual in that the perpetrator sobbed throughout his court appearance.. hardly the action of gang prospect or a staunch dude.
    Fourth.. how often do the police “negotiate” an appearance at the police station with a family member?

    This kid is way outside the usual parameters for rapists. Its more like he was on P, had previous head injuries or was intellectually disabled.

    JC

    Comment by JC — December 30, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  28. Danyl, that’s all Plunket need to do in nice middle-class families like yours — and mine — because it’s clear that things are pretty well ok. In other cases they have a deeper toolkit. Though not deep enough, I’d argue.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 30, 2011 @ 10:58 am

  29. I call bullshit on this.

    Well, yeah – it wasn’t offered as a serious description of actual procedure.

    @27: looks that way to me too, although police negotiating him handing himself in suggests he’s from a gang family, or at least one in which clan loyalty rates higher than morality.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — December 30, 2011 @ 11:10 am

  30. Comment by danylmc: Plunket visits you in your home twice, for about five minutes each visit where they weigh your child, tell you she looks cute and give you some pamphlets.

    I hope the Plunket nurse was also looking for risk factors to decide whether she or he needed to visit more often. For example, a plunket nurse might think ‘father’s a computational Biology researcher – he’s clearly a clued-up and observant kind of guy who will ask the right questions if something seems wrong’. If you had been a truck driver, you might still have been a clued-up and observant kind of guy, but this wouldn’t have been obvious from your occupation, so the nurse would have had to dig further to satisfy herself/himself.

    Comment by Kahikatea — December 30, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  31. @ MeToo – comment 11:
    “The argument made against Plunket and for the “Well Child” service – where any approved provider can get a contract to do set health checks – was that Plunket was captured by educated white middle class mothers.”

    Ummmm, wouldn’t we *want* Plunket to be ‘captured’ by educated people. And I’ve heard mothers have a bit of experience at, well…. mothering. As for middle class, NZ doesn’t have a cultural sense of class like Britain or India – we usually mean wealth when we talk of class. And given nurses are all basically above median wage earners, that means nurses are kinda ‘middle class by definition’.

    Which leaves ‘white’. And frankly I’m tired of the racist notion that only a person of race X can do medical checks on a baby of race X. How do you think that would apply if we were consistent, and applied it to all aspects of life? I’m sorry waiter, I need you to be of my race before you serve my meal….? Obvious recipe for outrage.

    Your point about box-ticking cracks in the system is fair – but is really a failing of our health system contracting out to external companies/trusts. A nationalised system does not have that problem so much.

    danyl – All power to Plunket doing rapid checks on babies who appear well (you can tell a lot in a few minutes just looking at the baby – bruises, swelling on limbs, etc). I expect them to check more carefully on babies with a family history of abuse or negligence. There does seem to be an issue over agencies info-sharing (ie can CYFS tell Plunket about potential abuse, etc).

    @ sanctuary comment 18. – absolutely!!! Whanau Ora falls squarely into the category of what I described above – people demanding someone of their own race serving them. Turia has yet to explain how Whanau Ora is any different to ‘mainstream’ health providers intervening in at risk families.

    Comment by bob — December 30, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

  32. Yo bob, Imma take a punt that you’re the sort of white dude who doesn’t think there’s any cultural dimension to childrearing, that how “white” people do it is just obviously, manifestly right.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 30, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  33. Sanctuary @21: Not a cub reporter but the Waikato Times’s Alistair Bone – well experienced, though I’m not keen on the pathos he’s used for this article. He has tried to set the scene but it’s too overwrought for my taste.

    Comment by Ataahua — December 30, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  34. “…Not a cub reporter but the Waikato Times’s Alistair Bone…”

    Oh. My. God.

    Neice just won a prize for her writing at school, maybe she should be a reporter for the Waikato Times.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 30, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

  35. bob, middle class capture is a reference to the”clients” not the nurses. Of course the Plunket nurses are middle class, if we’re using class as shorthand for income. And of course they’re educated (in mothercraft/baby health).

    The argument at the time was: Plunket was popular with a certain demographic – arguably the mothers who needed them least. Other mothers weren’t accessing Plunket’s services. What to do about this?

    You can argue that you’re tired of “the racist notion that only a person of race X can do medical checks on a baby of race X” but that doesn’t help you design a system whereby ALL mothers have access to a provider they feel comfortable with – it isn’t just about race but about feeling comfortable approaching the provider with problems you may be having, especially given the provider has a lot of power over you once they know you’re struggling.

    Comment by MeToo — December 30, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  36. Bob wrote: “And frankly I’m tired of the racist notion that only a person of race X can do medical checks on a baby of race X.”

    It’s not about the physical medical checks on the baby – it’s about the information the nurse gleans from talking with the parents.
    Different cultures have different ways of expressing how serious a symptom was – ‘it was getting a bit hairy’ in Australia may be the equivalent of “god! I thought I was going to Die!” in Spain. What people are embarrassed by, and how they react to it, also varies from culture to culture. I remember a Samoan nurse once bringing me a sanitary pad because she thought I was having my period but was too embarrassed to say so – a pakeha nurse would have known that if that had been the case I wouldn’t have been embarrassed to say so.

    If people were perfect at communicating this wouldn’t be an issue, but all people are pretty crap at communicating, and different cultures are crap at it in different ways. And being a plunket nurse is as much about communicating medical information as it is about knowing it.

    Comment by kahikatea — December 30, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  37. “The argument at the time was: Plunket was popular with a certain demographic – arguably the mothers who needed them least.”

    Part of the reson Truby King set up Plunket was to service the rural community where women were often isolated on the farms with not too much knowledge of caring for baby and especially in Kings bugbear.. nutition. So technically the service was there and available to all women. My guess is that some nurses would have been welcome in Maori homes and worked hard on the Marae; and some would not because of mutual distrust.

    These days field workers for some charities do an amazing job going into “any” home to support clients.. but we’d need a lot more for a true well child programme. Incidentally, some of the best modern field officers don’t formal health qualifications, but they do just fine because a big part of the job is about recognising needs and getting the resources to the family. Its at least as important that they are recognizably a part of the down to earth local community and are trusted.

    JC

    Comment by JC — December 30, 2011 @ 6:09 pm

  38. oh, oh, oh I know!

    Sit offenders next to Sanctuary on the pot luck neighbourhood dinner circuit – there will be no recidivism.

    Comment by will — December 30, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

  39. “Corn fed cops” was my favorite line…

    +1 for the ‘Danyl can cope’ response from Plunket. We live in a fairly rough/poor neighbourhood and our visits from Plunket (1 yo and 3.5yo) have been brief/few but neighbours were the babies are more *liklely* to be at risk are having weekly (or more) visits. I consider that fair and appropriate.

    Comment by TBWood — December 31, 2011 @ 6:22 am

  40. Galeandra @25 – I wasn’t referring to hissy niggles at me at The Standard, being called RWNJ is hardly a threat of violence, it’s more of a joke.

    Even if school teachers were fully trained on recognising signs of potential abuse that at best is up to five years too late for kids born into bad or non-coping families. The biggest difficulty for agencies like Plunket is that often the most at risk families are the least accessible.

    There’s no single or simple solution. And we can’t sit back and just expect the government to deal with the problem, it needs more action from the top but it also needs more joint responsibility in families and communities.

    The best most of us can do is take more interest and responsibility within our own families and circles of friends but even that can be tricky so as not to be intrusive.

    We can all do better but we also have to accept that every horrific case will not result in an instant fix, despite quick demands and then everyone goes on again with their own lives until the next time.

    Comment by Pete George — December 31, 2011 @ 8:05 am

  41. Speaking of what we can do for children – assuming we are looking for a holistic approach in addition to our extra hands on nurses –

    “…Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.

    Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality…”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

    Yet here in New Zealand, the governments big idea in education, as in child welfare, is the exact opposite, with a yet another crackpot American concept of semi-privatised public service.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 31, 2011 @ 9:12 am

  42. “…In the Finnish view, as Sahlberg describes it, this means that schools should be healthy, safe environments for children. This starts with the basics. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counseling, and individualized student guidance…”

    “…In fact, since academic excellence wasn’t a particular priority on the Finnish to-do list, when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA survey in 2001, many Finns thought the results must be a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland — unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway — was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity…”

    “The Spirit Level” in empirical action.

    Comment by Sanctuary — December 31, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  43. Further to #16 – add this Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/281789111859182/ “How many innocent children have to die”. See 5 point plan towards bottom of page.

    Comment by Spitfire — December 31, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  44. “Our MPs are ‘someone’ and they have billions of dollars and incredible scope to do ‘something’.”

    Yep, what we need is more socialism, or perhaps socialism done better- one of those two.

    For sure.

    Comment by Redbaiter — December 31, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  45. The Families Commission must have done some research on this?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — December 31, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

  46. Yo Lew – imma take a punt an call you as the kinda racist cracker liberal loudmouth that helped Labour to new electoral lows last month. I recognise cultural differences in child-rearing; I just don’t use that as an excuse for your kinda racist dribble…word.

    MeToo & kahikatea & JC – thanks for such constructive responses. I didn’t mean to sound so pissy before – just that I have seen & heard this argument many times, and the difficulty always seems to be in how we *respond* to differing cultural behaviour.

    Do we really have to run parallel systems and send only staff of the same ethnicity out to clients? Do we need to send a Hindi speaker, or a Hindi speaker *of Indian ethnicity*? (latter response is the one I’ve heard most). This may get more info in the short-term, but does it encourage racism? And as we become more multi-cultural, shouldn’t we be doing that for all cultural groups? If so, can we afford it (money and staff availability)?

    I tend to feel we would do better to modify some of our education about how people can be comfortable in NZ in their own cultural model, while still accessing all state services without requiring parallel systems. Use people who are familiar with the client’s cultural background and language, etc, but I draw the line at insisting staff should match the client’s ethnicity, gender, etc.

    Clunking Fist – sadly, the Families Commission has not survived contact with Peter Dunne. His ineffectivity bug is highly contagious ;(

    Comment by bob — December 31, 2011 @ 4:23 pm

  47. Bob, yo, unfortunately I didn’t manage to help Labour at all. Unhelpable. Maybe next time.

    But the point you’re missing is this: when you need to engage with folks, you send folks that those folks are going to be comfortable engaging with. Oftentimes that will be any sort of folks — other times it will be the same kind of folks that they are, or some different kind of folks as those folks feel comfortable with. Folks come in all manner of shapes and colours with all manner of differing needs and yeah, you can try to force them to engage with your kind of folks, or you can try to match them with folks as make them feel comfortable and like engaging is worth a damn, Sam.

    Dig?

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 31, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  48. Lew, I’m left wondering whether it is you that miss the point – or maybe that you actually agree with Bob but there is a difference in emphasis.

    I guess that I accept that in some circumstances, it will be better to send a worker of the same ethnicity to deal with a family of that ethnicity. But that would be in isolated cases – for instance the family is new to New Zealand and hasn’t got a lot of social contacts yet, they are relatively isolated from the wider community, and they don’t have a good understanding of generic NZ communication styles and mannerisms etc. Pragmatically, it could be best and most efficient to help this family using a worker of the same ethnicity.

    However, as a GENERAL rule I think that approach is pants. The long term consequences would be ridiculous. Better to ensure that all social service sector workers are knowledgeable of and trained to work in a range of cultural environments. I think that any kind of tacit assumption that they are not able to adapt to and work well with a range of cultural environments different to their own to help people in need is insulting and demeans their professionalism. This is their job – to help people. They should be empowered to do this rather than told that they can’t because of their ethnicity.

    Comment by DT — December 31, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

  49. DT,

    Better to ensure that all social service sector workers are knowledgeable of and trained to work in a range of cultural environments.

    The only thing wrong with your suggestion in the last par is that it’s about the outreach workers, not about those to whom the agency is reaching out. It is no slight on the professionalism of an outreach worker if she is rejected by a family who simply won’t trust yet another do-good honkey who (they feel) doesn’t understand them or the reality of their lived experience.

    In many cases do-gooding honkey outreach workers don’t understand families at the margins — they should, but it’s really hard and unreasonable to expect for people who are actually pretty poorly-resourced and paid. But the high likelihood of rejection or incomplete engagement holds true even if the outreach worker actually does understand — a family at the margin has no way of knowing. Right or wrong, as a matter of real-world fact, Māori and Pasifika families (and some other marginal groups) are distrustful of government agencies and often resist engagement with them and their representatives. Breaking down those barriers to understanding and the mutual prejudices that arise from them takes years, sometimes generations, and often comes to rest on personal rather than institutional relationships (“oh, Jim is ok but I don’t know about those others”). All that is beyond the scope of ascertaining whether a given infant is safe and well; as a matter of achieving that more urgent goal, giving marginal families options they might feel more comfortable with is just sensible policy.

    It’s useful to think of this sort of outreach as a researcher would — folks are under no firm obligation to give you anything (even Paula Bennett can’t FORCE every family to do so), so it pays to understand how you might make people comfortable with doing so, in order to yield better outcomes for all involved — you get better data as a researcher, better engagement, and marginal families may maintain their cultural safety and build trust with the government.

    None of this is rocket science. Canon reference for this sort of thing in NZ social science research is Linda Smith’s “Decolonising Methodologies”.

    L

    Comment by Lew — December 31, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

  50. There’s also the minor point that there’s overwhelming evidence of the efficacy of this approach. e.g. google away and find out how much dinera i mean putea is assigned to Maori Health units by our DHBs and when you sit down again, ask yourself why the same National party that brought you Orewa One not only tolerates but encourages it. Because it works. Trust us, DT, we don’t have new year parties to go to either…

    Comment by ak — December 31, 2011 @ 11:04 pm

  51. Speaking of ignoring proven actual, proven, policy solutions Stuff reports this today. I love the bit where the author says he tried to give his book (now required reading for criminology students at Otago) away free to MPs but the Nats refused to accept copies.

    I guess proven policy solutions aren’t really what they’re interested in.

    Comment by Neil — January 1, 2012 @ 7:59 am

  52. Good points Lew and ak.

    Comment by DT — January 1, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  53. bob @46, it’s not parallel systems for different races but a wide open field whereby anyone can set themselves up as a service provider and apply for a Well Care contract. There are multiple providers – my local GP, for example – think of it more like a big mess than neat parallel lines. No one is forcing anyone to pick a provider of a certain race; if there is no community demand for your service you go broke. The idea is that the mother has choice – but how many mothers have the time or resources to investigate all the options? How many even know how the system works? This is why I wonder if take-up & participation rates, and child welfare, has improved at all.

    I can see a couple of areas that could do with more resources. Teenage Mums and Dads need their local schools to offer a unit for young parents, where the children are looked after while the parents have a chance to return to school and get a qualification. The parent meets others in her position which lessens social isolation; the parents get a break from caring for baby to attend to the kinds of things other kids that age do; the school provides parent craft alongside other subjects; parents and babies have a supportive eye kept on them. How many schools offer these? Not many that I know of (they do exist) and they would require quite a lot of resources to do right. But what an investment.

    And we need to get serious about alcohol and drug problems and helping young children raised in such environments.

    Comment by MeToo — January 1, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

  54. “In many cases do-gooding honkey outreach workers don’t understand families at the margins ”
    I’ll be able to insist on dealing only with white, middle-class social workers/police/outreach workers who are of Scottish ancestry? Obviously not, as that would be racist. Because I am white…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 1, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

  55. It’s a tempting kneejerk, until you consider your likelihood of actually needing someone to come and tell you how to avoid neglecting or abusing your kids. Face it, we’re not the target market.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 1, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  56. Thansk DT – I actually agree with what you said in your comment 48. And I think you have nicely drawn out Lew’s views, so we can all understand where he is coming from:

    “But the high likelihood of rejection or incomplete engagement holds true even if the outreach worker actually does understand — a family at the margin has no way of knowing.”

    Lew, I didn’t miss your point – I simply disagree. To me marginal families should not be worrying about picking a case worker who *does* understand their pain, precisely because it degenerates to picking someone who looks/sounds/behaves like them. Which descends into racism, sexism, etc.

    While I actually agree with your description of the situation, and how the state currently responds, that simply hasn’t worked in my low-decile neighbourhood. Instead, the ‘Linda Smith’ recipe seems to breed a sense of ‘entitled to bear a grudge’ against whoever the state sends, which is pretty ugly (even when what the state offers is actually pretty damn good). Sometimes we all just have to put aside the hate (while not forgetting historic injustices).

    Thanks MeToo – a good description, and I agree contracted services makes it hard for people to know where to access their ‘messy/parallel’ service providers ;) It also makes it hard to keep the whole system accountable. Totally agree on the teen parenting units.

    PM – I wonder if Clunking Fist is making a subtle point. Scots (at least in Scotland) enjoy the same dire social stats as Maori tend to have in NZ. Yet it would not fly if Scots demanded no English (or Irish, or Welsh, etc) social workers. Or CF could just be Scottish :)

    Comment by bob — January 2, 2012 @ 12:01 am

  57. Bob, it doesn’t matter how much you tell them “you should” — if you don’t create a system that is culturally comfortable for them, they just won’t, whether it’s in their best interests or not. So, if the objective is looking after the kids, the prudent course of action is to create a system they will participate in.

    This same fundamental objection applies to the wider left. If broadly social-democratic policy objectively benefits a majority of the population, it’s prudent to frame and communicate that policy in ways people are inclined towards following, rather than trying to force them to accept propositions towards which they’re naturally disinclined. Lead people, give them reasons to follow you willingly. If you try to drive them before you, it becomes a crowd-control exercise.

    L

    Comment by Lew — January 2, 2012 @ 8:28 am

  58. Lew – I would totally agree with your last comment 57, up to a point. It is always better to encourage people to work together voluntarily, willingly. But…. when people refuse to play nicely with the state, it is okay (and in fact expected) for the state to use its coercive powers to ensure the safety of all it’s citizens. Even if that pisses off some of them.

    That is – bring it back to the post topic – if kids are at risk, work with the families if possible, but if they cut up rough about how experienced, skilled case workers don’t ‘understand’ them, then the state should insist on it’s program and staff being adhered to. Otherwise the adults play off one case worker after another…

    It’s kinda like dealing with children – set boundaries and stick to them. Because if you let the boundaries slide, some kids will *always* find ways to avoid responsibility. And then they become adults and….repeat ad nauseam.

    Comment by bob — January 2, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  59. Whoops – hit post too soon. To clarify, Lew, you are advocating quite a pure form of liberalism – voluntary cooperation. But that emasculates the state, and ignores it’s power to coerce those misbehaving. Parents or caregivers who try to evade accountability for how they are raising their kids should be encouraged to account, but the state can intervene if not (including up to removing the kids).

    Comment by bob — January 2, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

  60. bob, ok, I think we’re a bit closer than first seemed. I’m not advocating an absence of coercion — I’m saying that coercion is functionally impossible at any meaningful scale in a case like this, and though I don’t have the figures to hand I’d bet that fifty dollars spent on enforcement would do less good than one dollar spent on providing a system people wanted to use in the first place.

    L

    Comment by Lew — January 2, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  61. bob, how do you know the family is at risk unless you have access to them in the first place? Encouraging people to participate in a scheme like Well Child is one way, and may be a good way to spot smallish problems. *Force* people with big problems to participate and they lie and cover up. (My cousin was an IV drug user and her family watched for years as she pulled the wool over Plunket and CYFS eyes about her kids – she was terrified they would take them away. So she wasn’t honest about the help she and they needed.) What to do? Assume people who opt out of state provided services are dysfunctional when maybe they are not?

    Re racism or “feeling comfortable” with people of similar race or culture – it goes both ways – ask any Pakeha Aucklander who has used the health services lately about the racial mix at Auckland hospitals and some will say they don’t care who treats them, so long as they are competent – but others will rave on about how few white faces they saw (and all the white faces they did see had English or South African accents), how too many specialists were Indians or Middle Eastern etc.

    Comment by MeToo — January 3, 2012 @ 10:30 am

  62. MT, had to laugh when I read that. The attendant anaesthetist at my first daughter’s birth was an ethnically Indian or Pakistani guy called Chris, or Matthew, or some other stereotypically Anglo name, who spoke with a comically broad Glaswegian accent.

    L

    Comment by Lew — January 3, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  63. “55.It’s a tempting kneejerk, until you consider your likelihood of actually needing someone to come and tell you how to avoid neglecting or abusing your kids. Face it, we’re not the target market.”

    PM, you’re saying white folk after whiter than white? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Baby_P
    If you can a link to the story that details how his teenage sister describes hearing Peter’s spine snap, you’d arm yourself with a tyre iron and pay the mum and her boyfriend a visit.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 3, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  64. ARE whiter than white. Dagnamit

    Comment by Clunking Fist — January 3, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

  65. CF, nobody’s arguing white folks don’t need help. What we’re arguing is that there’s plenty of it available to them, provided by systems with which they’re generally both familiar and comfortable.

    L

    Comment by Lew — January 3, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

  66. “What we’re arguing is that there’s plenty of it available to them, provided by systems with which they’re generally both familiar and comfortable.”

    Enter the big problem.. if you are in the target group and you have problems, then one of your worst fears is one or more of the children will be taken off you.. not only do you suffer the pain of loss, humiliation etc, but you’ve lost a significant source of income. Even if you are “comfortable” with the field worker you run the above risk plus attention from a dozen or more agencies all looking to “help” you.

    Then too, if your problem is mental health, substance/alcohol abuse, party girl/boy, compulsive shopper, violent but loved partner.. then help is going to strike at your core; and that seems to me to be a huge turnoff to seeking help. For some families, a better than nothing solution might be time out or drop off centres where you can park the kids.. limited questions asked, as often as needed. At least that way someone gets to check out the kids, and look after them for a spell.

    JC

    Comment by JC — January 3, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  67. Lew – okay, we do seem to at least partly agree :) None of us want the state to coerce anyone into anything, and I agree that no-one can really *force* a parent to answer a question about Jimmy’s bruises (they can just lie). But as a last resort, I would rather have the child removed than a CYFS worker shrug their shoulders at a parents’ refusal to cooperate and say ‘I can’t force them’. Nor to see a parent refuse to deal with the state because the case worker wasn’t ‘culturally desirable’.

    MeToo – yeh, I’ve been in the same hospitals as you and heard the same stuff! I try to quietly slip in a ‘but didn’t nurse of ethnicity X treat grandad well’… ;)

    Many at risk families are reported by a concerned professional (doctor, hospital staff, teacher, etc) or police after a concerned neighbour calls. But I reckon mandatory pre-school checks are required in NZ. Takes away the stigma if everyone gets it, and the physical child checks are more important than questioning the parents (can help prevent developmental problems like glue ear escaping attention until they start school, too).

    Assuming any parent who dodges the checks is dysfunctional is a safe starting point – you can always change that opinion if more facts say otherwise. I assume your cousin’s family would have stepped in or said something if her kids were at risk.

    JC’s idea appealed at first, but it creates a perverse incentive for deadbeat parents to drop the kids off whenever they want to party. That won’t fly politically ;) But perhaps the idea could work for when the state needs to take the children out of a bad environment for a short while – kinda like emergency foster-parents, but at a specially set up home with staff on shifts…

    Comment by bob — January 3, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

  68. But so far as I can tell, no one in New Zealand is even looking at these solutions.
    I can assure you it was part of Labour’s policy research that came into our excellent Kids First policy. That included a beefed up compulsory Well Child service, to stop people falling through the gaps.
    We may not have got in, and National may continue to refuse to work with us to implement excellent solutions, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t looked at the research and the proven programs.

    Comment by Ben Clark — January 4, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  69. The cost of child abuse.

    http://www.stopchildabusenow.com.au/pdf/Access%20Economic%20Report_Exec%20Summary_FINAL.pdf

    Comment by Ross — January 4, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  70. Sadly, it appears you were only partially right here, Danyl: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/6502905/Turangi-child-rapists-mum-admits-failure.

    Indeed he was systematically tortured by his family; but CFYS aren’t mentioned at all. Will we see him again? Probably in about 5 years.

    Comment by The Baron — March 1, 2012 @ 10:47 am


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