Lives Cut Short

Archived Article: Trust Newsletter 23/05/10

fatherhood.jpg   This research conducted in 2007 turned book provides a detailed insight and reflective work on the challenges of keeping children safe. It gives us a stark reminder of the toll that child abuse takes on New Zealanders and provokes us all to ask ourselves what part we can play in reducing child abuse.

All children and young people have the right to grow up in families that are supportive and
loving and free from violence, abuse and neglect. "Lives Cut Short" serves as a reminder that for some children and young people this is widespread. ‘For the Sake of Our Children Trust’ hopes to turn the focus toward prevention. In essence, we are talking about leading people away from the cliff rather than the ‘ambulance-at-the-bottom’ approach.

After reading this, you gain a better understanding of child homicide in NZ. It paints a picture of the nature of the abuse, and makes some comments about the responses.
Between 1991-2000, NZ Child Homicide statistics showed 91 children died as a result of homicide and 101 perpetrators were involved in the deaths of these children:
82 children were killed by someone known to them
5 children were killed by strangers
4 children the relationship to the child was not recorded
The 101 perpetrators involved in the deaths of the 91 children, between 1991- 2000 showed more then half the perpetrators were men.
The relationship of the perpetrator to the child:
31% were biological fathers (the largest group)
24% were biological mothers
18% were de facto partners of a Parent
9% were related to the child
9% unrelated but knew the child (including one boarder, two neighbours, four acquaintances, and two nonfamily caregivers.
The remaining group of ten:
6 strangers and 4 people whose relationship to the child was either not known or not recorded.
Note - De facto partners were involved in the deaths of 16
Maori children (34% of all Maori homicide victims) and the death
of only two non-Maori children (6%)
What has been identified in the book is that family violence is a key risk factor, and evidence is starting to show a link between intimate partner violence and violence against children. It also highlights the environments to which the perpetrators/child murderers are breeding within.
Ultimately the responsibility for the homicidal death of a child rest with the person with took that life.
The government needs to seriously conduct a child review to carefully examine family characteristics particularly that of the perpetrator. It’s important to understand the quality and nature of the relationship of the perpetrator to the child. As the majority of child homicides are filicide (i.e., the child is killed by a biological parent), family factors have a major impact on child death.
Common Characteristics Action required
Parental youthfulness Parenting education to begin at schools of realities of having a child at a young age
Low educational attainment Education retention
Relationship instability (de facto, non
cohabitating parents, step parents)
Promote strong marriages create strong families creating
strong children

Married parents who are supported by services

Parenting skills
Spousal violence Social Services support to family
Multiple stressor impacting on adult functioning in the households Accessible social and health services to families
Multiple transitions between home/ family Secure home environment
Regularly unemployed (unemployed at the time of killing Employment benefit and training
Had been in state care Close monitoring and mentoring within youth justice
History of offending as a child Close monitoring and mentoring within youth justice
History of offending as an adult Restorative justice rehabilitation

Above is a table outlining the common characteristics associated to a perpetrator and what action need to be provided to help minimize this negative common behaviour. The family unit is supposed to be the foundation stone of society; it should be the ‘safe’ haven for children in a heartless world. When a child dies within this ‘safe haven’ the foundation is shaken and the haven becomes a place of fragility.
This is the point missed in providing solutions through child advocacy, research public education, political will and community “that the strength of the family unit is ideally the safest place for child to remain alive!’. At the Trust, we believe each child is precious and should be safe from harm and protected by ‘the family’. Ideally this family situation is ‘married parents, a mother and father who love this child unconditionally’
We at the Trust will be doing our best to achieve our goal of educating and advocating the NZ public on child abuse and neglect issues, how to better create and support stronger families, and what social policy changes and requirements are needed to achieve this.
We will use research also done and commissioning new research to provide further evidence for our Government to work towards promoting the actions listed above for a change in the negative common traits associated with our child murderers.
government and community action to better promote the ‘ideal safe family unit – a loving married mother and father who are well supported and encouraged through an affirmative welfare system and social policies.
We know various areas of further research is needed to better assist with achieving this goal. We can’t put a timeframe on this, but we can start the movement by partnering with like-minded organisations. It may take 5 years, it may take longer but it can be done and it must bedone in the memory of the children who have died and for those who continue to live in the ‘shaken haven’ today and for those not yet born.
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