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Judge Brown’s Report - Barnardos Wish List

27 February, 2001.

“Barnardos is anxiously awaiting the public release of Judge Brown’s report into how Child, Youth & Family responds to cases of child abuse or neglect,” said Ian Calder, Chief Executive of Barnardos. The recommendations are likely to have a significant role in determining the Government’s future direction in terms of the guidelines and resources it makes available to Child, Youth & Family so that the Department can effectively address the workload it faces in the area of child abuse and neglect.”

“While we are not party to the findings of Judge Brown’s review, we consider there are at least six key recommendations the report needs to contain if the present unsatisfactory situation is to change,” said Ian Calder. “I think that in considering our wish list of recommendations, it is important to remember that solutions already exist, there are already proven programmes in operation in the community. Barnardos is running a number of them. It is not just a case of all talk and no action. We believe that real inroads can be made into the problem through CYF’s collaboration with community agencies with specialist expertise.”

The recommendations we believe the report must have, if there is to be a change for the better, include the following:

1. Promotion and Development of Advice and Telephone Services
Information, advice, and telephone counselling services could all play a significantly greater role in dealing with family member’s concerns about child abuse, and also reduce the incidence of notifications to Child, Youth & Family.

Many community organisations provide these services which could be enhanced to give families the initial help and advice they need. Services such as Barnardos FAIR Centre 0800 222 345, Barnardos Parent Help Line 0800 4 Parent, and the parent advice lines run by the Child Abuse Prevention Service are examples of what is available. However, they would require greater funding to be fully effective, and they need promoting as the “first call for advice”.

2. Specialised Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Investigation Teams
These need to be established by Child, Youth & Family and staffed not just by social workers but also with doctors, psychologists, and other specialists as needed from time to time. These Child Abuse teams should be able to assess the degree of seriousness of the referral or notification, and to recommend appropriate action that needs to be taken and the assistance required by the family and child.

Social workers from Child, Youth & Family should ensure that the recommendations are carried out.

3. Development of Preventative Services
Family support, counselling and early intervention services can prevent child abuse and neglect. These services need to be available to all families where the risk of abuse has been identified. Trained staff can be effective in reducing the levels of stress in families, and in improving their skills of managing children without resorting to abusive behaviour.

Barnardos has family support services which are only partly funded for the work being done. These services are effective and could be extended to meet the needs.

4. Greater Support to Whanau/Family Placements
Before children are placed with members of the extended family or whanau, full assessments are required to be made and the risks determined. These family members should be offered all the necessary supports to ensure that the child placed with them is adequately cared for. This support might need to include counselling for the child, support/counselling for the carer, the provision of legal advice, and the availability of financial assistance. Follow up visits should be required in all cases.

5. Out-of-Family Placements to be Adequately Resourced and Supported
Foster care placements, family group homes, and independent living arrangements (for adolescents) need to be financially resourced with foster parents given access to ongoing support services. A greater emphasis needs to be placed on social workers working with members of the family to enable the child or young person to return safely, or for them to move to independent but supported living situations.

Barnardos provides comprehensive support for its foster parents and finds this contributes greatly to the success of the placement. In addition, Barnardos is running a pilot project in Wellington to establish longer term placements where the child is not able to return to the family or to place the child back with the family with the necessary supports being provided.

6. The Provision of Specialised Residential Services
The provision needs to be increased particularly in the area of conduct disorder and young people with a history of sexual abuse.

Barnardos and other community-based organisations have developed expertise in these areas and could assist Child, Youth & Family with the provision of services.

“None of the problems currently faced by Child, Youth & Family are insurmountable. Programmes that work are already in existence. We look to Judge Brown’s report to act as a further spur to Child, Youth & Family and community organisations to work together to address these problems. It should also serve as an important reminder to the Government of the role is too must play in ensuring Child, Youth & Family are both adequately resourced and have clear unequivocal guidelines as to its future direction” said Ian Calder.

Judge Brown’s report is currently with the Government and its release is widely expected by the end of February 2001.

...ends...

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