Children experiencing violence get a voice
New initiative gives children experiencing violence a voice
In every New Zealand classroom, it is estimated at least five children are wounded by seeing adults they love hurt each other.
The stark reality behind New Zealand’s family violence statistics has seen the emergence of a new profession — that of Child Victim Advocate practitioner. Child Advocates from around New Zealand will gather on 4 October 2007 for a Hui sponsored by the Family Safety Team (FST) initiative and supported by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). The Hui aims to establish and maintain a national network of Child Advocates as well as to share information, debate advocacy issues and establish interest groups with particular advocacy focus.
FST Child Victim Advocate, Kathy Kerr, believes the time is right to establish a national network of Child Advocates integrating the established FST Advocates with the new MSD Child Advocate positions. ‘Child Victim Advocates are already an integral part of each Family Safety Team and the MSD will employ around 45 Child Advocates for Children and Young People who Witness Family Violence nationally, with some of those positions already filled. These Advocates will do their best to ensure that children witnessing violence will receive the support and services they need. As this is a new initiative, we need to work hard together to be recognised as professional practitioners in our own right as we strive to ensure the voices of children are heard.’
Catherine Lawson from Jigsaw feels establishing the professional role of Child Advocate is timely. ‘Children that witness family violence require enormous assistance and support to be able to move through their developmental stages after experiencing the traumatic, haunting witnessing of family violence. We have a moral obligation to unite in the protection of our children and take measures to put a halt to the high levels of child abuse in Aotearoa.’
UNICEF Advocacy Manager David Kenkel is enthusiastic about child advocacy; ‘UNICEF thinks this is an extraordinarily important initiative. Child advocacy creates the opportunity for social change. Our society tends to “invisibalise” children so perhaps the existence of professional Child Advocates signals New Zealand's desire for change. The welfare of children is everybody’s business.’
The Child Advocate Hui will open with a formal Maori welcome on 4 October, 2007 at 9am at the Glenview International Hotel, Hamilton.