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Another Child’s Death and the People’s Report

Media Release June 2014


The highly anticipated People’s Report stemming from the Owen Glenn enquiry has been followed by a saddening case in point – yet another preventable death of a young Kiwi child. The report diagnoses the sickness in our society, but, Footsteps CEO and founder Kevin Christie says, “The cure is incredibly complex and will take time and unity to implement.”

The leading home-based ECE provider sees evidence of what it refers to as the ‘inconvenient truth’ in our society on a daily basis, and says there are no surprises to be found in the People’s Report.

Mr Christie says, “It exposes on a national level the dangerous and slippery slope many of our children are now on. This report needed to be produced and it has come at the right time ahead of the election. Family violence and child development must become election issues, so we can develop outcome-based solutions that are realistic and achievable.”

Footsteps has the benefit of adding another set of eyes and ears in the home and is the only national educational organisation in New Zealand to gain certification from leading child protection training organisation Child Matters, to ensure all staff receive training and qualify Footsteps to train its own staff in child protection. Mr Christie says too many organisations talk about child abuse but do nothing about it. “Prevention requires action – it is not simply the agreement or acknowledgement that a problem exists.”

The People’s Report highlights many issues surrounding family violence, from the abuse itself to the abusers and victims, and tags societal gaps and systematic dysfunction as key problem areas. “We as a nation are more interested in defining vulnerability than addressing it. Let’s wake up and do something other than talk about what has been raised,” says Mr Christie.

Footsteps serves more than 1,000 children nationwide through its home-based Learn Programme. The People’s Report indicates that 60% of all reported violence in New Zealand is family-related. Demand for Footsteps’ services has grown significantly (enrolments have quadrupled over the last five years), indicating the extent of the need for home-based ECE support.

Mr Christie says, “We need to break down the compartmentalized mentality of the services set up to help families in need. There are many fine services that are helping, and we must start collaborating more efficiently. There is merit in the old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

“The cure for this dismal diagnosis? This is evident in the outcome-based work we do with our families – we incorporate the values of whānau in all that we do. Whānau is not limited to family members but includes everyone in a child’s community who can contribute to that child’s development. These can be caregivers, family, educators, health providers, authorities and friends. Whānau and collaboration extends the safety net for our children and the support network for families.

“For this to happen we need to bring about a societal change, and the awareness that the People’s Report is creating is a step in the right direction. We are grateful to have been approved to run parenting programmes based on this same philosophy.

“Learning cannot take place unless a child’s well-being is intact; this includes a safe environment in which grow, develop, and learn in. Footsteps takes all forms of child abuse seriously, and we challenge all in our industry to tackle the issue head on. The buck stops with us to provide the crucial ingredients for every child’s development.”

Footsteps Case Study
Bella* was placed with a caregiver at six months of age. Bella had previously been left mainly in her cot, with little interaction, cuddling or stimulation. Footsteps began working with the pair a few days after placement.

The Footsteps teacher, Sarah*, began working with Janice* the caregiver to introduce tactile experiences, physical movement and emotional attachment that would facilitate bonding.

Sarah instigated a referral to Plunket for Bella, who had never had a health provider. Sarah also introduced Janice and Bella to a nearby baby gym, which gave Bella the opportunity for social interaction with other children, stimulation through movement to engage the wiring in the brain and visual stimulation to improve eye tracking.

Bella’s journey is a story of continuous learning and development, documented in the Footsteps LJ (learning journey report) filed in her Kete Ako (Learning Kit).

Janice and Sarah worked together to ensure that Bella had the love, stimulation, interaction and touch that will enable her to be safe, develop, learn and realise her future potential.

*Name changed for privacy reasons


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