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Alert system for Abusive Mothers Recommended

Posted on: March 3, 2010

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Alert system for abusive mothers recommended

Last updated 08:54 03/03/2010

Abusive mothers would be tracked throughout their lives, if a recommendation in a report to be released today is adopted by Government.

The Experts Forum on Child Abuse report highlighted problems where officials were not told when a further child was born into an abusive family, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported today.

Currently cases are closed when a child dies from abuse or has been removed by social services, but the report recommended changing that so cases remained open and health professionals would be alerted about the family history when a new child was born.

Other recommendations included better prevention such as assessment and advice before birth, followed by intensive support at home, more agencies such as schools and hospitals to have a legal responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect, and sharing of information between all agencies.

The change would mean a mother was effectively tracked throughout her life even if she changed partners.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who convened the forum last November, said there was a case last year of a child who died in suspicious circumstances which was currently before the courts. CYF had removed two children from the same couple previously but had not known of the third.

“I found it pretty incredible when I became minister that we didn’t know about subsequent children, and that was because cases were closed.”

The forum included Starship hospital’s Dr Patrick Kelly, Children’s Commissioner John Angus, Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier, Archdeacon Dr Hone Kaa, Paediatric Society president Rosemary Marks and university academics.

Dr Kelly said the proposals could raise civil liberty concerns.

“Just because we are aware of that past history doesn’t always condemn her to having all [her] children removed. But it is a safety issue. I don’t think that’s any different from someone’s past driving record being relevant to a job which requires driving.”

The forum was part of a wider review Ms Bennett is undertaking following findings that 1800 children subjected to abuse or neglect in 2008 were abused again within six months.

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