Family frustrated by lack of action over neglected children

Two children were taken in to a Christchurch home to be showered and fed when they were found in a shocking condition.
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

Two children were taken in to a Christchurch home to be showered and fed when they were found in a shocking condition.

Those close to two children found neglected in Christchurch are at a loss over what to do next.

Christchurch woman Kelsey Lourie was horrified when she found two young children she had previously cared for underweight with severe head lice and boils.

Lourie had not been in contact with the children for about a year, but was asked by their grandparent in December if she could pick them up from school. 

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The 8-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy had been removed from their mother's home when they were babies and put into the care of their grandparent.

READ MORE: Christchurch woman shocked by condition of two children with sores and lice

Their mother, who could not be named to protect her children's identities, said she had been battling to get them back into her care for years. 

"As scary as it sounds, I don't think my kids will make the age of 10," she said.

When the children stayed with her before Christmas, her daughter would run out at night "crying and screaming".

The children had since returned to their grandparent's house. 

A family friend said she feared for the children's lives. 

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"My concerns are that [the situation] is just going to get worse and worse and they are going to end up dead. You see it so much on the TV and I can see it happening.

"It's worse than you think it is . . . those poor kids."

She was frustrated nothing had been done to help the children and said she had "no faith". 

UNICEF national advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers said institutions dealing with children's issues needed more resources.

"A number of our institutions . . . are under high levels of pressure when it comes to responding to the demand for support for families and intervention on behalf of children." 

The principal of the children's school said it was difficult to take action on cases without seeing specific signs of neglect.

"It's easy for people to say the school should have noticed but actually we don't weigh children. How are we able to determine the weight of the child. In the past we were able to send children home if they had head lice. Well, we can't do that anymore."

The principal said the children's boils and impetigo would have been covered by their uniforms. He said their clothing also would have helped conceal their weight.

Head lice was a known concern at the school. The principal said it was actively dealt with but became difficult when parents would not communicate and give consent to treatment.

Child Matters chief executive Anthea Simcock said many people did not have enough knowledge and training to identify child abuse and neglect.

Sometimes a situation became normalised and issues were not dealt with, she said.

People needed courage to persevere with authorities and keep making contact because "things can slip through the gaps". 

"Don't just let it slide because it may be that a child's life is at risk."  

When contacted on Tuesday, Child, Youth and Family said it had nothing to add to its previous statement, which said it would not confirm its involvement in the children's case.

 - Stuff

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