Editorial: We all have a role in protecting children
MICHAEL CUMMINGS EDITOR
OPINION: While revelations that two Palmerston North children were left in the care of a convicted child-sex offender - despite Child, Youth and Family being told of the situation - are deeply troubling, we must keep our eyes on the broader issues fueling child abuse in this country.
Yesterday, the Manawatu Standard reported the mother of the two kids alerted CYF in June last year that their paternal grandfather, who had been jailed for serious child sex offences, was living with and caring for them. However, CYF intervened only last month and, to its credit, has acknowledged that it should have done a more "thorough assessment of the children's care arrangements" when the concerns first came to light.
In its response to inquiries from the Standard, CYF said that, despite being made aware that the children were being cared for by a child-sex offender, their mother also told the agency more than once that she didn't think the man's history was an issue. And that is where CYF's processes seem to have fallen down.
While clearly this family's situation was a mess, and the mother's credibility questionable, the agency should have looked past the chaos and focused solely on whether the children were at risk of harm. The mother's apparently fickle view on whether there was a problem should not have influenced CYF's response in any way.
Let's be clear: the family had the primary responsibility to protect those children from danger, and their father's decision to allow a child-sex offender into their home defies any notion of parental duty.
If this case tells us nothing else, it's that the first line of defence against physical and sexual abuse against children is the people with a moral responsibility to protect them from danger. While it's easy to point the finger at CYF, we mustn't lose sight of the obligation we all have to look out for the most vulnerable members of our community.
The government agency dropped the ball in this case, but child abuse is not just a CYF problem - it's a societal one. The father of those two Palmerston North children failed them, and you can be sure he wasn't the only one who knew they were being exposed to undue risk. Absolutely, CYF should have done more but, if we expect that agency to be the only solution to the problem, it will never be solved.
ONE MORE THING: Thursday's editorial suggested Manawatu District Council directly funded Feilding's annual fireworks display, which has been cancelled this year. To be clear, the council funds one of the event's organisers, Feilding Promotion, which has pulled out of the fireworks display because of funding issues.
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