Child neglect grows bigger and bigger

Dealing with the whole family, not just the problems of individuals within a family will go a long way toward preventing and redressing child neglect

The Families Commission welcomes and strongly supports the recommendations contained in a report on child neglect released by the Commissioner for Children.

Preventing Child Neglect in New Zealand highlights just how pervasive, harmful, yet often invisible, child neglect is in New Zealand.

The impact on children and society can be serious and long lasting.

Families Commission’s research supports the findings of the Children’s Commissioner Report. Our report, Healthy Families Young Minds and Developing Brains’ shows that experience of sustained neglect, especially in their early years, has a direct impact on the way a child’s brain physically develops. This can lead to a failure to pick up basic language and social skills, severely impact their education and employment prospects and lead to mental illness, violence, criminal behaviour and alcohol and drug abuse.

The Commission supports the recommendations for improved systems for sharing information across agencies; and for improved training so that service, health, education and enforcement agencies can better recognise and deal with child neglect.

We would add to that a recommendation that agencies develop a whole-of-family focus. Often our helping services are focused on particular challenges for individuals, such as alcohol and drug abuse, poor mental health, problem debt, and so on.

Our research shows that when agencies take a wider whole-of-family view, it not only helps them deal more effectively with the problems faced by individuals within that family; it can reveal other harm that is occurring, such as child neglect and allow it to be dealt with more effectively.

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