NEW ZEALAND OPINION
Put parents into care, says educator
A frontline parent educator says parents and not their
children should be removed from their homes when things go wrong.
Louise Belcher, manager of Papakura's Kelvin Rd Whanau Centre, says the
current practice of taking children into the care of Child, Youth and
Family Services when they are at risk through violence or neglect too
often leaves the parents unscathed.
"Say there are five children in a family, which is not uncommon. Those
five children are put out to various homes, and the parents stay home
with the same drug and alcohol problems," she says.
"They get a slap on the hand. They are told to go to a parenting
programme. But there is no follow-up.
"I personally believe the children should not be uplifted from their
"The parents should be uplifted and put in a place where they undergo a
compulsory parenting programme and where if they are on drugs they are
detoxified, and that we put in place a family worker who monitors those
parents very closely while they are reunited with their family."
In earlier times, when people lived in extended families in the same
village, such problems were not public issues. Young people learned how
to live with partners and look after children from observing their own
parents and looking after their younger siblings and cousins.
But they have become political issues because families are breaking up.
By the age of 20, 35 per cent of Pakeha children, 49 per cent of Pacific
children and 57 per cent of Maori children have lived in homes with only
one parent. Grandparents and other extended family may be in another
town or another country.
"How do we, at that beginning point, talk to people about being family,
what does family look like, really teach people to be families?" asks
Ruby Duncan, chief executive of Baptist Action Community Services in
"They have kind of lost the art. They don't know what it is any more.
"We need to teach people to live together faithfully, what to do when
the hard times come. It's basic relationship stuff that young people
She says many parents no longer know how to talk to their children.
"How many families sit around the dinner table and have a conversation?"
"I see all these problems when I look at my kids and their friends -
young people who just don't talk to their parents and their parents
don't talk to them. These kids are going through huge stuff, but really
don't have anyone to talk to."
She supports a Government scheme called "Strategies with Kids -
Information for Parents" (Skip) which funds community groups to run
parenting programmes, and says schools need more focus on parenting and
Parents Centres chief executive Viv Gurrey says education on childbirth
and parenting needs to be available everywhere, not just in the 54 towns
that have Parents Centres.
This is one area where all political parties agree that more resources
Without even waiting for a pilot study due to start next year, Labour's
Social Development Minister Steve Maharey announced yesterday that
Labour would fund "one-stop-shop" family centres based on existing
services such as Plunket around the country.
National spokeswoman Judith Collins takes a harder line, arguing that
parents of children involved in offending, antisocial behaviour or
truancy should have to attend parenting courses by court order.
6 September 2005