Abuse referrals show trust

Waitara Central Primary Principal, Sharren Read.
Waitara Central Primary Principal, Sharren Read.

Taranaki schools are becoming more confident in reporting suspected child abuse cases, principals say.

Nationally more than 150,000 cases of child abuse were reported to Child, Youth and Family last year.

Teachers and social workers in schools made 9447 notifications to CYF out of a total of 152,800. More than 61,000 required follow-up.

Notifications from schools rose by 1332 in 2012 while overall the number increased by 1 per cent.

Waitara Central Primary School principal Sharren Read said two referrals a year used to be normal for the school but they were now making one every two months.

"We've had nine referrals in the last 18 months," Mrs Read said.

She said it was important to understand that although referrals had increased it did not mean the problem was getting worse.

"We are becoming more aware and more confident about making referrals. The Government's White Paper on vulnerable children gives very clear guidelines on action that professionals who work with children should take."

Mrs Read said the local CYF were prompt at responding and worked very closely with families to help resolve problems.

"It is the confidence in this happening that encourages us to make prompt referrals - we know action will happen."

Mrs Read said there had been a recent increase in violent behaviour.

"Some of that is from children who have witnessed or been the victim of domestic violence."

She said the problems were not always about violence. They also included truancy, children coming to school not fed, going home where there were no adults to care for them, and skin diseases.

Liz Harrison, principal of Ramanui School, in Hawera, agreed schools were becoming more confident in making referrals.

"The paper that came out certainly opened people's eyes up," Mrs Harrison said.

However Mrs Harrison said she would like to see further professional development for teachers about how to recognise the signs of child abuse - "those little pointers that you think oh, that's not quite right, I need to do something about that."

She said the school had not had an increase in referrals.

"We are a low decile school and often people always think that we have problems but we don't.

"We have a very well developed open door policy with our families and also we have a very good relationship with CYF."

Denise Hendren, principal of Stratford's Avon School, said the school was always on the lookout for children who might be being abused. "Our school has always been very vigilant on taking care of our children and making sure that children we think are at risk are reported."

Taranaki Daily News