Teachers quick studies on reporting abuse

Child, Youth and Family say their excellent relationship with Taranaki schools is contributing to more suspected child abuse cases being reported in the region.

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

Notifications from schools nationwide rose by 1332 in 2012 while overall the number increased by 1 per cent. CYF central region operations manager Bev Markham said those trends were mirrored in Taranaki, with education sector notifications rising from 150 to 245.

"This is good news as it shows a key part of the community is engaging with Child, Youth and Family to help protect our children," she said.

Mrs Markham said Taranaki referrals came from schools of all deciles and teachers were in a good position to spot problems or identify concerns as they frequently spent time in close contact with children. The sooner suspected abuse was reported to CYF or the police, the sooner it could be addressed and the children kept safe, she said.

"Often it's not about a heavy-handed intervention. It's about helping families deal with their problems and coming up with arrangements that keep children safe while also keeping them connected with their family."

Sometimes the appropriate response was simply to help families get assistance from community agencies.

A government White Paper on Vulnerable Children released last year was intended to bring to the surface new ideas to help communities act on child abuse, she said. "It acknowledged that we don't have all the answers and that parents and communities have a role to play in protecting our children."

Last week Taranaki principals said the White Paper had given schools clear guidelines about action that professionals who work with children should take.

Waitara Central Primary School principal Sharren Read said the local CYF was 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," she said.

Liz Harrison, principal of Ramanui School, in Hawera, said she would like to see further professional development for teachers to recognise the signs of child abuse.

Mrs Markham said new resources had been developed and CYF staff would visit groups of teachers and principals to help improve knowledge of care and protection processes and issues.

Taranaki Daily News