Jun 3, 2014

Protecting children from harm rant.

Trigger Warning: horrible childhood stuff and sexual assault is mentioned in this post, please take care of yourself. 

Recently, in Coffs Harbour a 2 year girl was sexually assaulted and killed by her stepfather. The community was understandably outraged and horrified. The step father was 23years old. 
This has left me pondering many questions. The first being this: just say you are a 23 year old male and you are experiencing sexual feelings towards a child or children? What could you do? There is pretty much no treatment options and who would honestly step forward and admit it? As a community we are, rightly, horrified by sexual crimes against children- yet we offer no place for someone to say they have these thoughts and they want help ? If this person did disclose these thoughts to anyone what course of action would they take? Probably they would call the police. 

Secondly, I find it hard to believe that no one noticed this child. The community as a whole need to respond to children at risk. If you see something that doesn't feel right, you need to report it. If you are in a shopping centre and you see a child being abused by a parent- I mean berated and or hit, sworn at etc RING THE POLICE! If you hear violence in your neighbourhood RING THE POLICE. You don't have to approach anyone if you feel nervous, but don't just walk away, don't ignore it. It is your responsibility as an adult to do something. If you have concerns a child is living in a household where there is violence this is a reason to get involved. A child living in a household where they see or hear violence is just as much a victim as anyone living in the house. If you know of a child you have concerns about, say one of your child's friends, just check in with them, just ask them if they are ok? I'm not saying investigate the family I'm saying just make sure the child feels like they can talk to you if they need too. If you have concerns about a child but don't think it's a police matter ring child protective services and have a discussion with them, tell them what your concerns are, they need to make a case, they may already have had reports on the child but not enough to act- you might have the final peice of the puzzle. You can remain anonymous when giving information. You will remain anonymous to the family involved even if you do give your name to child protection services.

Thirdly, stop blaming child protection services. Yes children known to child services have died. Yes this is a tragedy, a horrific tragedy, but the blame lies with the perpetrator not a government department. What about all of the thousands of children child protection services have saved from harm?  What about all the people who have seen a child being abused and done nothing? "But I rang child services and they did nothing" I hear some of you say. How do you know what they did or didn't do? If you feel like the situation is not resolved then keep ringing and keep reporting. Keep track of things you see and report them. Ringing once and saying "well nothing happened I won't bother ringing back" where does that leave the child? 

Child protection services are dammed if they do and damned if they don't. If they don't immediately swoop in and remove the child they are accused of doing nothing yet often people don't report suspected abuse because they fear the child will be removed. If you want to blame someone for failing to protect our children blame the government- not just this one.  Child services are continually cut, workers caseloads are ridiculously large, expectations from the community are overwhelming huge, children fall through the cracks because excellent early intervention program's that work are not funded beyond a pilot project. The system is flawed but not reporting children at risk is not helping the system. It's not great but it's the only one we have at the moment so we need to use it. We need to send a message that we will not tolerate violence towards children and we are concerned enough to act on it. 

I personally feel when a child is killed we all need to ask ourselves what could I have done? How can I make sure this doesn't happen again? If we truly care about the safety of children we will act when we see something and stop muttering ... I don't want to get involved. 


  1. Just awful isn't it, when children are harmed and especially by those entrusted to care for them. There was a case here (UK) recently where a 2 year olds 'stepfather' aged 19, kicked her so hard her liver split in two. And he has the nerve to plead manslaughter? Turns out the child had a whole load of older injuries... broken arm, bite marks. My parents are retired social workers and dealt with all sorts of terrible cases. My mum even had to give evidence in court after a child disclosed abuse to her. Just breaks your heart doesn't it.

  2. Well said, and it's truly shocking. Each and every time, we are all gobsmacked and horrified. You're right a flawed system is better than none. As adults we need to ensure all little poppets are OK. Be the annoying squeaky wheel if required. I worked in the social welfare system and the things I saw broke my heart. Some poor kids really struggle, they're courageous little beings, makes you want to save them all

  3. many years ago in another life I did work with those kids in that system. IT IS HARD.

  4. Absolutely.

    In one of my many previous work roles I was in a position where I was reading court documents in regards to the custody arrangements for children. I was pregnant with O. at the time and a case that particularly hit home for me was one where a single mother with five children left her children unattended as she went to the hospital to give birth. To give BIRTH!!! Not to go to the pub or the casino... to give BIRTH! Anyway, this incident was reported to child services by her neighbour. Rather than reaching out and offering to help out the neighbour phoned child services to let them know. What the??? This woman was isolated in the world, had no extended family, no partner and was giving birth on her own. Where was her community to support her? Rather than offering to mind the children, offering to help out, the do-gooder-neighbour opted to dob her in! There were so many notes about how this woman was a good mother, how she was trying to hard to care for her family, so many observations in the documents about how she was isolated and alone. In the end she voluntarily surrendered her children to foster care because she just couldn't do it any more. The notes were clear that the children would be best placed in her care but she just couldn't do it on her own anymore. Heartbreaking. I am still so angry at that neighbour - couldn't spare a couple of hours to mind the kids? To help her out while she laboured? Clearly in the neighbour's mind it wasn't her problem. It was DOCs. This mindset does my head in, but more than that it breaks my heart.

      Why didn't the neighbour ask her how she could help? Find out what services could help??

  5. Hi Cath, I'm a regular reader but not a commenter, but had to say, great post, my thoughts exactly.


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