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The Vote points to misunderstanding about children's plight


The Vote points to misunderstanding about the plight of children

The debate about whether the problem for children is poverty or parenting on The Vote on TV3 tonight points to misunderstanding about the factors that determine whether or not families are able to adequately meet the needs of their children, says Every Child Counts*.

“Evidence shows that there is no single factor that contributes to poor outcomes for children. Children are more likely to have poor outcomes when risks accumulate, when public policy doesn’t respond to modern realities (like sole parenthood), and when societies do not prioritise children. It is far too simplistic, and perhaps even mischievous, to suggest that the cause of New Zealand’s dismal record on child wellbeing is either poverty or parenting,” says Deborah Morris-Travers, manager of Every Child Counts.

“Blaming parents for the myriad of problems experienced by Kiwi Kids, and making primetime television out of it, does nothing to support the social and political change children need.

"New Zealand government work and international evidence both point to children being most vulnerable when risk factors accumulate. For example, low maternal age, low education level, substance abuse, unemployment and mental illness could combine to create a situation where the family lives in poverty, stress is high and parenting is neglectful or violent.

“While the prime responsibility for children firmly resides with parents, wider social and economic determinants impact on the ability of parents to meet their children’s needs. This is why public policy is so important – it has the single biggest impact on rates of poverty and shapes the kind of society we create for families with children. This can be seen clearly with the dramatic rise in poverty that occurred in the early 1990s as a result of government policy. That rise in poverty was not due to a sudden decline in parenting skills.

“With 270,000 children living in poverty, it’s clear that we are dealing with systemic inequality and the impact of multiple generations growing up in disadvantage. Many of the parents who are struggling to meet their children's needs will also have experienced hardship earlier in life and, in the interests of their children, they need support not condemnation.

"Poverty creates stress in families and undermines mental health, which can lead to dysfunction that compromises child wellbeing. Poverty also creates division and isolation, leaving parents without the community support needed to raise their children.

“Until New Zealanders fully grasp the ethical and economic reasons for getting alongside parents and working together to meet the needs of our nation’s children we will continue to fail them. Preparation for parenthood, parenting education, income, housing, education and health are all part of getting this right. Failing to do so means we are wasting children’s potential and that is a terrible thing to waste,” concludes Ms Morris-Travers.

ends

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