Let’s talk about Child Welfare

I have wanted to write for some time about something that perplexes me. I feel angry, frustrated and very sad when I think about it.

It’s about the issue of Animal Welfare support and Child Welfare support.

I see a lot of support shown in people’s ideology around animal welfare. It seems to be growing and a big thing now. I see posts constantly on Facebook of abused animals, or protests around the poor treatment of animals.

It’s not something that has been close to my heart to be honest. I appreciate that it is important, I hate to see animals badly treated. But I did grow up in a farm. I did grow up killing animals as a way of life – rabbits, possums, mice, ferrets etc. I watched my Dad butcher meat for our family and loved it. I like hunting, fishing and catching food for my family.

I’d like to make a point here. I do not like seeing animals treated badly! But actually even more than this – I do not like children being treated badly.

It seems as a nation we would prefer to join the Animal Welfare movement than we would the Child Welfare movement. As individuals it seems that it’s easier to allow ourselves to remain unaware of children’s welfare, and consciously aware of animal welfare.

I often wonder why we most people believe it is someone else’s job to do the Child Welfare work? The government department responsible for Child Protection. Don’t even get me started here! I feel so sorry for them. I have worked with them a great deal in the past and believe it is an impossible job, very complex and very, very difficult.  It must be rewarding when things work out, when a child is helped, when a child’s life is saved. However, I’m sure they don’t get paid enough to deal with what they deal with and they do not have enough resources. They are given the responsibility when it is actually all of our responsibility. They are given an impossible job and then vilified when something goes wrong.

Imagine if you were given a job to investigate something that everyone wants desperately to hide, paid peanuts, given a huge workload with long hours and no benefits and said you couldn’t have any resources to do it with but that the most vulnerable people in our society are relying on you and the whole country expects you to succeed – oh and by the way if you make a mistake you’re toast and there will be multiple governmental enquiries and unrelenting media scrutiny!

But back to the animal issue – I know this is psychological. It’s easier!

The appalling treatment of a child can be so shocking and so psychologically challenging that it can be too much for people. We are certainly not going to post a photo of a child who has been beaten and abused on Facebook and make angry statements about it to gain support for the movement. We prefer to post photos of animals (lovely cuddly ones and abused ones). We prefer to give money for services for animals, we prefer to set up shelters and rescue services for animals, we prefer to make TV shows and documentaries about the amazing people who do these great things for animals.

All this while there are a lack of good homes for foster children, while young people are turfed out of CYFS homes and care when they turn 16 years old, while the amazing few who do take them in are not recognised at all. We would rather celebrate our rugby heroes than our unrelenting child heroes.

And then I think about the children I have come across over the years. There are some who will forever remain in my mind.…and then I about the unknown children who I haven’t come across. I feel so profoundly angry at the lack of support, at the lack of awareness, at the lack of willing carers. That our most important asset we could possibly ever have as a country, is so marginalised, abandoned and unprotected!

I have heard of a case when the animals were removed by SPCA before anyone even thought to investigate whether the children were OK….they weren’t.

I have heard young people talk about how much better their parents treat their dogs than they treat them. It’s the tone of voice, the caring, the attention and love. Children and young people are not stupid. They have eyes, they see the world. They see great care and attention go towards animals. We rush to puppy training school and behaviour modification for animals. There were so many people and puppies in my puppy training class. Parenting and child behaviour and family work – we do not rush to. We will do everything we possibly can not to go. It’s a last resort. Often it’s almost too late. How many times must a distressed child say they want to die before a parent will get help? How many things must a child not say before an adult in their lives notices?

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the Western World. It is shameful and evident in our appallingly high suicide rates, overflowing prisons, high number of gangs, massive mental health disorder rates and child poverty and family violence rates.  What are we doing as individuals to stop this?

We will buy free range eggs to help the hens, we will buy free range pork to help the pigs, we will donate to SPCA, our wealthy businessmen will give money to environment and developing countries. When will we give money and help to services who work toward eliminating our appalling statistics.

When will we give our money and support to developing our own country out of the violence and abuse that plagues our ability to grow great men and women?

In such a small country there is no excuse. Let stop blaming and start speaking out and acting out to stop violence, neglect and abuse against children.

I’ll leave you with the very sad thought that you will know a child who is currently going through or has gone through some dreadful trauma or abuse, perhaps at the hands of their caregiver, parent or family member. Don’t think you can’t do anything about it. You can. Notice, support, care and find out how you can help. Speak out. Stop the silence which upholds abuse.

We teach children what to do when there is an earthquake, when there is a fire, when there is a disaster…but the greatest disaster ever is the violation of the innocence of a child who looks to us to care and protect, a child who has the right to a safe and loving upbringing.



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