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Saving Our Children

Monday 16 January 2005

Early Means EARLY When it Comes to Saving Our Children

Further endorsement today for the work carried out by the Family Help Trust, one of Christchurch's most effective early intervention family support agencies.

Speaking on National Radio this morning, Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Beecroft, said he believes "comprehensive early intervention" is the most effective way of stopping our young criminals from progressing to a life of crime as adults.

Judge Beecroft said many people "talk a good game about early intervention, who could be against it" and there's now "a groundswell of opinion that the 0-5 year age group is crucial."

He suggested that better, comprehensive early intervention from birth to 2 years of age is needed, citing the importance of the home visitation element of Plunket's service to help identify problems early.

Family Help Trust clinical services manager, Bill Pringle, agrees.

"Effective early intervention has be put in place very early," he says. "When children are nine, ten or eleven, the chances of changing learned behaviour in dysfunctional environments is hugely reduced. At the Trust, we work in the family home to break the cycle of dysfunction and violence in high risk families while children are under 5, younger or even before they are born," he says.

Those families are referred to the Trust by groups including midwives and GP's.

New Zealand has one of the worst child mortality rates in the world as the result of violence. On average, ten children die every year and many more are injured and emotionally and physically scarred.

Bill Pringle says we should be appalled at the violence and abuse that goes on in New Zealand homes, however, it is positive that more people are seeing the importance of effective early intervention, with "early" meaning while children are very young.

"The public abhorrence of such vicious actions against children is made loud and clear when another of our little ones is hurt or murdered; that abhorrence must be apparent every day not only when it hits the news."

"We know our services are effective and support Judge Beecroft's comments unreservedly," he says.

There are currently twelve families on the Trust's waiting list with more than 600 having been successfully supported and helped over the last 5 years.


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