Tuesday, 18 September 2007



Those WOFs for kids and parents
By PAT BOOTH - Auckland | Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Strange but true - some great ideas which seem so simple are actually very complex.

That's a first reaction to the well-intentioned plan from Children's Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro for what amounts to regular Warrants of Fitness checks on children from birth to five.

A WOF, let's make it clear, not only of a child's health and well-being but also the fitness of parents to provide a stable and safe environment for them.

In the light of what we now know to be life around us you can't fault the intention.

She estimates that this move could save the lives of five children every year for the first five years alone.

That would cut in half the country's terrible record of killing its children.

The Kiro plan in its simplest definition: Regular and compulsory screening of every baby's home life.

She wants every newborn baby's parents or caregivers to nominate 'an authorised provider' (whatever that means) to assess their family's progress through home visits.

Under the Kiro rules, those who refused to take part would be referred to welfare authorities who would set up an official monitoring process.

Cindy Kiro has been quoted as describing systems of 'voluntary engagement' with groups like Plunket as 'a recipe for disaster'.

She says her scheme, which she believes would cost about $5 million a year - a quote which sounds suspiciously low - has no equals anywhere. "We can lead the world in it."

Briefing papers for the plan are being written for the government's task force on family violence, which has launched a $14m campaign to fight domestic violence.

The campaign is apparently based on a 2005 report written by Auckland University researcher Janet Fanslow, who says home visits are one of the only proven methods to cut the child abuse rate.

The big doubt in my mind is just how feasible is it?

The logistics seem overwhelming.

The Health Ministry has had major, long-running problems setting up a national computer register of children's jabs - who and when.

In the Auckland region, the potential figures for the new WOF are daunting.

Samples from the 2006 census: More than 14,600 children four and under in Waitakere and more than 12,500 in North Shore city alone, a total of more than 6000 new babies each year in Waitakere, Shore and Rodney, for example.

These figures don't include statistics from the big baby-making suburbs in Manukau either.

How many staff would you need to register totals like this, then to identify and track them through those first five years?

How many trained specialists would the country need to keep up those regular and all-important visiting rosters?

Who would have the professional skills and personal abilities to see the signs of danger and to act on them?

How would ill-equipped and irresponsible parents respond?

How would capable and caring parents react to this regime?

How would welfare departments who have failed so often in the past lift their standards and their processes to cope?

And then, inevitably, there would be outcries from civil liberties and ethnic groups who would find human rights issues and/or cultural objections to what they would see as a Big Brother intrusion into so many private and blameless lives.

For me, if it could be made to work, I'd sooner that children's names are on computer files than on tombstones.

1 comment:

Andy Moore said...

Boy, these socialists think money will solve anything.

$5m p.a. does sound a suspiciously low estimate.

Instead of the Government protecting life and liberty, the people are relying on the Government to do everything for them.

A lot of the problem stems from pure apathy.

Kiro's plan is essentially a "Warrant of Fitness" (WOF) for parents.

What next?