Response to the Nia Glassie incident
What are we doing with Our Future?
Of all the disturbing reports on the treatment of Nia Glassie, perhaps the hardest to believe is that this wee girl sustained abuse, over weeks- perhaps months. People must have seen. Someone should have contacted the authorities. This level of abuse has to be a community issue and the only way we can attack our appalling child abuse statistics is by dealing with it as such. We can no longer afford to stand by and witness the breakdown of our family structure. Every child in New Zealand is precious; they are our future and should be given every opportunity to reach their full potential. We need to do more at a policy level than shake our heads in disgust and wait for the next horrific incident.
We must identify, right from the outset, those children most at risk and target resources to their parents and caregivers. Our expensive public education system includes no compulsory content or training on child development, on the critical importance of the first three years of life. Undeniably, all New Zealand communities would benefit from better parenting support and assistance but inevitably some more than others: those historically disadvantaged, often from the bottom of the socio-economic spectrum, young parents from a deprived background who have received little care and affection, who have little education, with early childhood experiences of domestic violence, abuse, alcohol and drug dependency, poor parenting and educational disadvantage. These high-risk parents are identifiable from early pregnancy.
There are community organisations out there to provide the necessary help and assistance. But are they getting to those most in need before it's too late? Nia’s situation again highlights urgent need for discussion around Cindy Kiro’s comprehensive tracking plan, or Graeme MacCormick’s idea for a universal welfare and needs assessment for every child at birth.
If Nia survives this appalling abuse; even if she doesn’t have clinical brain damage, how much damage would her developing brain have received during the prolonged abuse that will have changed her life forever? New Zealand’s inexcusable youth crime statistics are populated with young offenders whose young lives are scattered with incidents of chronic maltreatment, parent inflicted injury, complete failure of attachment –all culminating in damaged impulse control. If Nia survives this, will she be at high risk of joining the ranks of feared young offenders?
It is imperative that every New Zealander involved with young children knows the critical ‘brain building’ importance of the first three years of life, and how to help give children the best start. This is what will shape our society.
Kim van Duiven
On behalf of
The Brainwave Trust
The Brainwave Trust’s focus is on the first three years and our science based research tells us that healthy attachment is fundamental to our well being and in the main, occurs in those first few years. It determines so much of who we are and what happens to us in later life. When healthy attachment occurs, it significantly reduces the amount of community resources being spent at the bottom of the cliff on child welfare and longer term on adult welfare and judiciary costs for the problem areas of our society. We provide early intervention and education.