Attitudes to parenting and relationships have to change

EDITORIAL

The Kahui twins should have been celebrating their 10th birthday this week. Instead they have become the most recognisable symbol of one of this country’s most horrifying and deep-seated problems — the abuse of small children.

Chris and Cru Kahui were failed by someone close to them in a case that resonates so much because it has never been solved.

It would be nice to think that at least progress had been made since then, but the head of the child abuse team at Starship Hospital Dr Patrick Kelly says “frankly not a lot has happened” since the Kahui twins were killed.

“Not a lot” translates to 61 more infants and young children having died, of which about half have been failed by parents or caregivers. New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record of the 31 OECD countries.

Most were not under the radar of Child, Youth and Family at the time they were killed. The median age for children dying from fatal head injuries is five months.

The much maligned and sometimes unfairly criticised CYF service is being overhauled after a panel of independent experts found failings in the way it was dealing with vulnerable children.

Successive governments have battled with this problem but despite the best will in the world, they have found it almost impossible to make progress.

The Minister now responsible, local MP Anne Tolley, concedes more can be done and expresses confidence that the review will produce benefits. She also points to steps taken including the establishment of children’s teams and better information sharing.

Labour’s spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern makes a good point when she says that curing this needs to start at a much simpler level, including programmes at schools.

The situation is similar to the equally-ingrained problem of violence against women. Things will only get better when there is a complete change in attitude by New Zealanders.

Until that happens the Kahui twins will lie in their Mangere grave and on the nation’s conscience, as far too many more children share their tragic fate.

The Kahui twins should have been celebrating their 10th birthday this week. Instead they have become the most recognisable symbol of one of this country’s most horrifying and deep-seated problems — the abuse of small children.

Chris and Cru Kahui were failed by someone close to them in a case that resonates so much because it has never been solved.

It would be nice to think that at least progress had been made since then, but the head of the child abuse team at Starship Hospital Dr Patrick Kelly says “frankly not a lot has happened” since the Kahui twins were killed.

“Not a lot” translates to 61 more infants and young children having died, of which about half have been failed by parents or caregivers. New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record of the 31 OECD countries.

Most were not under the radar of Child, Youth and Family at the time they were killed. The median age for children dying from fatal head injuries is five months.

The much maligned and sometimes unfairly criticised CYF service is being overhauled after a panel of independent experts found failings in the way it was dealing with vulnerable children.

Successive governments have battled with this problem but despite the best will in the world, they have found it almost impossible to make progress.

The Minister now responsible, local MP Anne Tolley, concedes more can be done and expresses confidence that the review will produce benefits. She also points to steps taken including the establishment of children’s teams and better information sharing.

Labour’s spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern makes a good point when she says that curing this needs to start at a much simpler level, including programmes at schools.

The situation is similar to the equally-ingrained problem of violence against women. Things will only get better when there is a complete change in attitude by New Zealanders.

Until that happens the Kahui twins will lie in their Mangere grave and on the nation’s conscience, as far too many more children share their tragic fate.

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