Helping children overcome the anxiety and phobias that keep them from attending class is the new focus for West Auckland agencies and schools.
Marinoto West child and adolescent mental health service, the Waitakere Improving School Attendance Programme (ISAP) and schools have developed a way to work as a team.
Marinoto West psychologist Dr Sarah Watson says it could come down to a child being too afraid to leave home.
"Or they might have had a particularly negative experience," she says.
"A lot of the time when kids have anxiety related school refusal, the families also experience anxiety or depression."
Under the current system, a school might refer a non-attending child to ISAP.
It's a system that fails to see the mental health side of non-attendance, ISAP attendance officer Sarah Leota says.
"There's still a bit of stigma about this, and parents might not be comfortable about opening up to the school," she says.
Other issues that arise when a GP refers a child to Marinoto West because of a phantom physical illness, which the school thought was genuine.
The psychologists could work with the child but don't have the resources to take the child to school, or support them while they are there.
Dr Watson approached ISAP about developing a new process that would combine the powers of both Marinoto, ISAP and the schools.
"They said yes, we would really like mutual support," she says.
The West Auckland Principals Association quickly got on board too.
The new plan sets out how to assess children and when to refer them to ISAP or Marinoto West, and to other agencies.
It provides a platform for developing joint plans to help children and their families," Dr Watson says.
"Once we fully understand the issue, we can work out the best intervention."
Green Bay High School guidance counsellor Selwyn Irwin says he's using the three-pronged system with one of his students.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should the Auckland Council invest in building another swimming pool out West?