Judge slams CYF, saves kids

AMY MAAS
Last updated 12:16 15/12/2012

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A Family Court judge has criticised Child Youth and Family for failing to remove four children from the care of their warring parents after they suffered repeated abuse and neglect.

In a decision released by Judge Dale Clarkson yesterday, it was revealed the children - aged 13, 9, 8 and 3 - suffered "repeated serious violence" despite CYF being notified 20 times in the past nine years.

The children's father has a criminal history which includes a conviction for raping his 14-year-old niece over 15 months.

Judge Clarkson has now placed the children under the guardianship of the Family Court.

"The guardianship of the Court would not have been required in this case had the social workers done their job properly. The history speaks for itself," she said in her decision.

Judge Clarkson also said that because the "deficiencies in CYF's performance in this case have been so serious" she has referred the decision to the Commissioner for Children.

In her decision, Judge Clarkson said the 20 notifications to CYFS were made by police, social workers, teachers and two were made by the father himself, although he later retracted one. 

Some of the complaints made to the agency include the mother leaving the children alone in an unlocked car while she attended her husband's hearing at the Manukau District Court for violence against her.

The mother had left them in the car with chicken, bread and some juice. The car was unlocked and the windows were partially wound down.

On another occasion, the children were left alone overnight and police were notified. She did not return home until 5am to find the children missing.

Two years ago police were called to the family's home after an argument between the parents escalated to the point where the mother used a metal bar to smash the passenger window and windscreen of the father's car while the three youngest children were in the car.

Police were also called after the parents "physically struggled" over a child and the mother bit, punched and kicked the father before removing another child from her bed.

As the father had a rape conviction, the children were not allowed unsupervised in his care and the mother said that she "tried to keep an eye on (the children)."

However, she left them alone in his care for months while she travelled.

In complaints laid by the father against the mother, he said she had "spent her money on gambling instead of children's food and clothing and that she physically abused them".

Judge Clarkson said it was "shocking" that the father denied the children had been exposed to significant violence, telling the court they were "safe with the parents".

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"Remember that you have seen cases all over the place where people murdered their child, I don't feel we will ever go that far," the father told the court.

When questioned in court, a CYF supervisor admitted that she was "taken aback" that the agency had a large amount of history on the family and that she "probably would have done things a bit differently".

- Auckland Now

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