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Services for children exposed to domestic abuse struggling

18 April 2013

Frontline services for children exposed to domestic abuse still struggle for funding

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse released issue papers yesterday about the need for specialist services such as KIDshine

In spite of the growing body of research confirming that children exposed to domestic abuse suffer long-term damage, specialist services which support these children such as KIDshine, now running 10 years, still struggle for funding.

The University of Auckland-based Family Violence Clearinghouse recently released two issues papers which back up what Shine knows from experience: that children are enormously affected by exposure to domestic abuse, and many of these children are directly abused as well -- if not physically, then certainly emotionally or psychologically.

(The first issue paper examines the connections between child maltreatment, intimate partner violence and parenting, while the second looks at the policy and practice implications of this. The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse is based at the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health.)

Janet Fanslow from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse stated that “specialist services need to be available for children who have been exposed to intimate partner violence” and that “supporting children’s relationships with the non-abusive parent can also transform practice, and help create better outcomes for children.”

Holly Carrington, Shine’s Communications & Development Director who has been with Shine since 2000, says that Shine’s experience also confirms these issues papers findings.

“There are many ways that children can be hurt or traumatised by domestic abuse without being targets of physical abuse themselves. For example, our Advocates have seen a number of cases where a child’s father has hurt or even killed the family pet while the child watched, very clearly giving them the message that ‘this could also happen to you.’ This experience was clearly hugely traumatic for the children involved,” Carrington says.

“One of the children we worked with told the KIDshine Advocate, “Who will look after me if my mummy gets dead?” she adds.

More than 99% of the victims Shine works with who are at extremely high risk of serious injury are female with the perpetrator being their male partner or ex-partner.

Shine established the KIDshine service ten years ago, basing the programme on a similar one that our Executive Director, Jane Drumm, looked at in a study trip she took to the United States in 2002.

KIDshine was formally evaluated in its early years, demonstrating that it helped children enormously over 3-4 visits. Common outcomes reported include improved sleep, better eating, less behavioural problems such as aggression or inattention at school, and improved communication with their mother. KIDshine Advocates have been told things like:

“My big brother, he knows how to phone the police. He knows our address to tell them and I know it too. He will look after me”.

“The children are all sleeping better. And they are talking openly with me now about their experiences.”

Yet Shine has struggled over these ten years to raise funds to run the service in a limited area, mostly central Auckland. It relies heavily on private donations and grants, corporate sponsors, as well as short-term government grants and contracts to support its frontline services for victims of domestic abuse and their families.

Carrington says:

“We were deeply concerned that the Government’s White Paper on Vulnerable Children made barely a mention of children exposed to domestic abuse, when we know that this is a problem with serious and longlasting negative outcomes for hundreds of thousands of children throughout NZ.

In spite of limited resources, we have successfully run KIDshine for the past ten years, and we remain committed to running this service because we are acutely aware of the need and the difference this service makes in the lives of the children it serves.”

ENDS

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