Tuesday, 11 September 2007



Child home-screening plan 'insult'
By DAVE BURGESS - The Dominion Post | Monday, 10 September 2007

A proposal by Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro to have mandatory screening of every baby's home life is the ultimate insult, Family First NZ says.

The estimated $5-million-a-year scheme would make it compulsory for every newborn's caregiver to nominate an authorised provider to assess their family's progress through home visits. Those who refused to take part would be referred to welfare authorities.

The suggestion has outraged Bob McCoskrie, the national director of Christian-based lobby group Family First. "To threaten to refer the overwhelming majority of well-functioning parents and families - who will quite rightly resist this intrusion - to social welfare agencies is the ultimate insult."

Briefing papers are being written for presentation to the Government's task force for action on family violence, which began a $14 million campaign last week to fight domestic violence.

The proposal is in response to shocking child abuse statistics. Regular Unicef report cards, updated this year, consider New Zealand the most dangerous place for children, in terms of health and safety, out of 24 developed countries.

The Paediatric Society estimates 15 to 20 children are killed through child abuse each year.

Mr McCoskrie said the children's commissioner should concentrate on the problems that lead to child abuse, such as gang violence, methamphetamine use, violence in schools and the breakdown in families.

"But she wants to treat all parents as potential child abusers rather than affording them the respect, support and encouragement they deserve - while failing to target the real abusers."

National Party leader John Key said mandatory investigation of all children should be a last resort.

"A targeted approach would allow for more resources to be put in to those with greatest need."

The proposal calls for a database to track the development of New Zealand children, which Mr Key would not oppose. "You have to balance the intrusion of privacy over the need to try to get a resolution to an issue that is of quite great concern. In this case the issue warrants that."

But Mr Key doubted that the scheme could be run for $5 million a year. At-risk families would have to receive concentrated support from agencies such as Plunket.

Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Ruth Dyson welcomed the early intervention programme and said she would discuss the proposal with agencies.

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