Tuesday, 31 July 2007

31 July 2007 - Stuff - Abused children expelled from kindy for violence


Abused children expelled from kindy for violence
By KATHY WEBB - The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Some abused children are becoming so violent they are being expelled from kindergarten or infant classes at school, a Hawke's Bay paediatrician says.

Russell Wills, the clinical director of maternal, children and youth health at Hawke's Bay Hospital, said the effects of violence against children and their mothers went much deeper than physical injuries.

"The focus is on shaken babies and broken bones," he said.

That was serious enough, but a wider and deeper problem was emerging, that of violent children unable to trust adults or relate to other people.

He was dealing daily with children who had developed severe psychological problems that became permanent if not treated while they were infants or toddlers.

"By the time a child is 10 you've missed the boat."

It was becoming common for children to be expelled from kindergarten or the first two years of primary schooling, Dr Wills said.

Their parents were often poor, estranged from their own families, with little support and few parenting skills.

Violence was often the only way they knew how to react.

That spilled over into hospital wards, where parents fought and fathers threatened staff, Dr Wills said.

In one week he had had to have two fathers kept from the serious care baby unit and the children's ward.

Hawke's Bay health board's development of a strategy to tackle the region's high rate of child and domestic violence had worked so well that levels of reporting had rocketed.

Dr Wills expected 2500 Hawke's Bay youngsters would be referred to social welfare services this year, 300 of them by the hospital.

Staff had been trained to identify abuse and ask direct questions about it.

"There's a 50 per cent likelihood that if Mum is being beaten, the kids are, and if the kids are being beaten, there's a 50 per cent chance Mum is too."

Domestic violence referrals had increased from 40 a year to 120 as a result of directly confronting women.

The strategy, called the Hawke's Bay Family Intervention Programme, had proven so successful it is to be launched nationwide tomorrow by the Health Ministry.

The Napier-based Sensible Sentencing Trust announced yesterday it was creating a unit within its ranks to push for zero tolerance and tougher jail sentences for child abusers.

Spokesman Garth McVicar said jail terms for people killing or abusing their children had been woefully inadequate.

"Our children are unable to defend themselves and Parliament seems to have put this problem in the too-hard basket, and judges are ignoring the public's cry for deterrent sentences to protect our children," he said.

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