How we can help stop child abuse

Last week, I wrote about child abuse and how we need to put an end to it. It’s one of those topics that’s incredibly hard to talk about, but we can’t not talk about it simply because it’s too difficult. Even this week, another story has been shared in the media about some abuse another New Zealand child has suffered. This article came out a few days ago: Auckland man jailed for burning young boy with boiling water.

After writing last week’s post, I wasn’t happy that I ended it not having answers or having an idea on what we can do to help. I’m not the sort of person that can leave a topic as is without investigating solutions. So, I looked further into the issue of child abuse, in New Zealand specifically. I found the following information that I want to share with you all in the hopes that in doing so, we may help some children survive abuse. Or better yet, put an end to child abuse.

First, I want to share some facts listed on the Child Matters website:

• On average one child is killed every 5 weeks.
o Most of these children are under five and the largest group is less than a year old.
• Ninety percent of all child deaths are perpetrated by someone the child knew.
• For the year 1 July 2016 – 30 June 2017 there were:
o 158,921 Reports of Concern to Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children. These include 77,081 Police Family Violence Referrals
o 38,975 Reports of Concern requiring further action by Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children
o 14,802 substantiated findings of abuse (including emotional, physical, sexual abuse & neglect)
o 12,117 distinct children with substantiated abuse findings
o 5,708 children currently in the custody of the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children (4,716 children living in ‘out of home’ placements)
o Studies have found abused and neglected children to be at least 25 percent more likely to experience problems such as delinquency, teen pregnancy, low academic achievement, drug use and mental health problems.

That’s some pretty horrifying stats, right!? The first fact alone breaks my heart.

So, what can we do? How can we help put an end to this?! The Child Matters website lists the following suggestions on how to help:

If it’s an emergency phone 111
If it’s an emergency and you suspect a child is at serious risk, or a crime against a child has been committed this must be reported.

When it’s not an emergency, it’s not always easy to know for certain if a child is at risk. But, if you suspect something or have a gut feeling/hunch, trust your gut. More often than not, our gut feelings are right. When a child is potentially at risk, you are best to take action.

Taking action doesn’t have to be extreme measures. There are a lot of things you can do to help prevent abuse or stop it early on. These actions include:

STEP UP – Do something personally to help
You can make a real difference in a child’s life. By being prepared and getting involved, you may help make a child’s life better or safer. It’s not easy, especially when it involves family or friends. But, by taking action, lending a hand or listening at an early stage, you may prevent something more serious.

• Learn to recognise the signs
• Provide a listening ear
• Offer help or babysit for a stressed parent
• Give helpful or supportive information
• Explain that violence is not OK
• Talk it over with an experienced person
• To learn how to prevent harm to children, contact Child Matters 07 838 3370
• To talk over your concerns confidentially you can call CYF for advice on 0508 326 459

STEP OUT – Look for community support for the family
If you don’t know a person experienced in Child Protection, or you don’t feel that you can personally help, you can ring Child, Youth and Family on 0508 326 459 to talk over your concerns confidentially with a trained social worker. They will give you advice on what to do.

There are also many other organisations that support children and families. You can contact any of the following organisations for help:

Family Start
Family Works
Salvation Army
• For a full list of agencies see the family services directory
• Child Abuse Prevention Parent Helpline – The Child Abuse Prevention Parent Helpline is the only nationwide parenting helpline in NZ that is available seven days a week. They have no time limit on calls and their friendly telephone support workers are able to offer not only immediate help but also information, referral, and on-going support to those affected by child abuse, concerned about the welfare of a child or needing family or parenting support. They can be reached on 0800 568 856.

SPEAK UP – Report your concerns
If you are still concerned about the safety of the child, or if the suggested actions above are not appropriate in your situation, you can make an official report of concern.

• Call Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children 0508 326 459, or
• Call the NZ Police Local Branch Phone No.

For those not in New Zealand, I would recommend looking into your local child services available. Most of these organisations will have websites with information similar to the above but for your region.

And remember, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s likely something isn’t right.

Please, let’s do our part to put an end to child abuse and to the killings of innocent children.

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