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New Zealand: Government must set targets to reduce child poverty

New Zealand needs a cross-party, whole of government strategy, supported by robust monitoring and evaluation, to address child poverty levels, which despite some recent improvement, are still unacceptable, the NZ College of Public Health Medicine says. The College of Public Health Medicine commends the government on its commitment to reducing child poverty however it is calling for specific targets to reduce child poverty, which set an expectation of equity, and are supported by robust definitions and measures of child poverty, and a monitoring /reporting framework. “A strategy should focus on poverty particularly in relation to Maori, Pasifika children and refugee children, and children with disabilities,” said College spokesperson, Dr Amanda D’Souza. She said the government strategy should be embedded in legislation. “It’s critical that a very transparent and robust monitoring and reporting framework is established so we can better measure and manage this issue, which affects so many thousands of Kiwi families and children.” In this policy statement, the College also calls for the government to honour New Zealand’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG1 to end poverty in all its forms everywhere with a target of halving poverty by 2030.

Caseworker turnover still a concern for kids in Nebraska foster care

An annual report on foster care by a legislative reviewoffice showed nearly 17 percent of the youth in out-of-home care had five or more caseworker changes. Additionally, nearly 37 percent had three to four caseworker changes. "If we don't have a stable workforce for child welfare, it is very hard to make sure that children are getting what they need, that families can stay together and children and youth can stay safe," said Nebraska Inspector General for Child Welfare Julie Rogers. Caseworker turnover has been one of her office's biggest concerns, she said. It affects caseloads and morale, she added. "Caseworkers have a very hard job the way it is in working with struggling families and making sure children are safe," she said. The Foster Care Review Office, a part of the Legislature, recommended the Department of Health and Human Services provide funding for adequate numbers of caseworkers and supervisors, ensure compliance with caseload standards, and develop adequate supports, training and mentoring for caseworkers. Case management is critical to ensuring children’s safety while in out-of-home care, and is critical for children to achieve timely and appropriate permanency, the Foster Care Review report said. Effective case management is based on the creation of relationships and trust, which take time. The report, released Friday, said worker changes can result in gaps in case information transfers and documentation, including accurate histories of parents' reactions during visits and parents' use of services.

UK: More than 30 child protection departments in special measures 

The children’s services departments of more than 30 councils in England are in special measures, an Observer analysis has revealed. The survey comes amid claims that the child protection sector is experiencing a funding crisis similar to the one that engulfed adult social care two years ago. Of the record 31 authorities currently under some form of intervention, 21 – including Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Norfolk and Tower Hamlets – are subject to statutory directions in which the education secretary legally requires an authority to take action. The remainder – which include Manchester and Surrey – have been issued with improvement notices. Richard Watts, chair of the children and young people board of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “Across the sector there is basically no dispute that there is a larger number of councils struggling to cope than anyone is comfortable with. Pretty much every council in the country now considers children’s social care to be their biggest headache, not adult social care. A couple of years ago adult social care was under enormous pressure and the government found more money but now councils are saying that children’s social care is the biggest single funding pressure that local government faces at the moment.” A combination of rising demand and shrinking budgets has conspired to place children’s services under acute pressure. Since the Baby P scandal in Haringey in 2007 there has been an almost doubling of demand for children’s social care as councils adopt a more cautious approach to child protection. There has also been a rise in the number of children who have joined gangs being cared for. Austerity, too, has proved a major factor. “Families are really struggling at the moment. There has been a noticeable increase in neglect cases and I think there is a link between that and the financial pressures that many families are under,” said Watts.

Economist's work in global child development manual 

A child’s first three years of life are crucial to lifelong health, but to make a lasting difference, global child development must focus on the first 21 years. That’s a key argument in a new book the World Bank publishes today which features research by a leading economist at Brunel Business School. Aimed at helping children in some of the world’s poorest countries, Disease Control Priorities has a chapter from Senior Economics Lecturer Dr Andreas Georgiadis. Launched this week by World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and The Lancet Editor, Richard Horton, the book is for doctors and medics in poorer countries, governments and aid organisations. With Disease Control Priorities now in its third edition, this is the first time the book has looked at the link between child health and cognitive and other kinds of development. Introducing it, former Prime Minister, and now United Nations special envoy for global education, Gordon Brown calls for world investment across education, health during childhood and adolescence. “Children who are in good health and appropriately nourished are more likely to participate in school and to learn while there,” he said. “In human development, education and health are two sides of the same coin.” Dr Georgiadis’ said: “it highlights the need for a shift of focus of interventions to promote child health and development from the first 1000 days of life to the 8000 days of childhood and adolescence. Focus on the first 1000 days is an essential but insufficient investment.”



Scotland: Child and adolescent mental health services study to be guided by young people

Between 15 and 20 people aged 14 and 22 will be recruited, from a variety of backgrounds, as part of the new youth commission on mental health services. It comes as mental health minister Maureen Watt announced £95,000 to establish the working group, which will report back to ministers with recommendations. She said: “The youth commission is an opportunity for us to better understand the current picture of support for children and adolescents across Scotland. “These young people will do their own research, identify issues that are important to them and speak to experts, policymakers and service providers to look at areas for improvement.” Half of all mental health problems in adulthood start by mid-teens and three-quarters by mid-20s, according to the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). Ms Watt called on those who have experienced the care system, are disabled or faced discrimination because of race or sexual orientation to take part. The new project will last for 15 months and launch during the Year of Young People 2018. Those interested in taking part can email to register.

USA: Bill providing hearing screenings to children becomes law

With the 24-hour news cycle dominated by sweeping legislative proposals or large-scale policy reforms, such as ever-evolving health care discussions, lesser-known bills often are left out of the national spotlight. Although these bills may be narrower in scope, their impact on children’s health can be wide-reaching, and the Academy continues to advocate for their advancement despite congressional gridlock on other pressing issues. One such bill is the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act, which was signed into law in mid-October. It reauthorizes a federal program that provides hearing screenings for newborns, infants and young children, and ensures those diagnosed with hearing loss can access appropriate follow-up and intervention services. The EHDI Act becoming law may not have garnered national news headlines, but as AAP President Fernando Stein, M.D., FAAP, said in a press statement, it is “a legislative victory for the youngest among us” and has been championed by the Academy since its beginning. “The act is so important because it enables states to continue to build on the work that they have done to universally screen and detect hearing loss in newborns, at the age when we know that we can ensure the best possible developmental outcomes for kids,” said Dennis Z. Kuo, M.D., M.H.S., FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Children with Disabilities Executive Committee.

South Africa failing its children, study shows

More than a third of children in South Africa have experienced some form of maltreatment including sexual, physical and emotional abuse, according to a latest survey. The South African Child Gauge 2017 also indicated over half of children could not read fluently and with comprehension at the end of Grade 4. Almost a third of South Africa’s estimated population of 55.7 million are children under the age of 15 years. The Child Gauge is published annually by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to monitor progress towards realising children’s rights and this year’s focus was on measuring progress or lack of towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under the theme "Survive, Thrive and Transform". However, the report also noted progress achieved in realising children’s rights. These included the reductions in infant and child mortality, mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aids, as well as improvements in the legal and policy frameworks to combat violence against children. Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe acknowledged that, despite democratic and economic reforms since the attainment of democracy, many children were still trapped in poverty and excluded from important aspects of social, economic and political life.Radebe added that to achieve the SDGs and create an enabling environment for children to thrive, government needed to invest in programmes that boosted the capabilities of caregivers and build a capable and committed public service that was able to implement strategies. Co-author of the report Lucy Jamieson, echoed that South Africa still had a long way to go to create an enabling environment in which children not only survived, but also thrived.

UK: DfE scales back social work accreditation introduction

Initial plans, unveiled last year, were for practice supervisors and frontline child and family practitioners at 31 volunteer councils to be assessed during a "first phase" rollout between 2017 and 2019, prior to national rollout. But there were concerns that the plans could potentially destabilise the workforce, and create a two-tier system based on those who had passed the exam and those who had not. The DfE said the plan is now for phase one to begin from mid-2018 in Bury, Leeds, Manchester, Oldham and Wigan. A second phase, involving up to 20 authorities is then expected to get under way in early 2019. The DfE has also said it is not imposing time limits on when accreditation will get under way, abandoning its commitment that all child and family social workers would be assessed by 2020 at the latest. "We will listen to the local authorities with whom we work, to ensure they are ready and have the right structures in place," the government response to the consultation on its original plans states. The DfE added that accreditation will not be mandatory at this stage, with a decision to be taken on the appropriateness of mandatory assessment "in the future", based on findings from the testing phases.  

USA: Boston Rep.Farley-Bouvier files legislation to improve foster child permanency and stability

Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, has filed legislation to improve child permanency and placement stability for youth in the Department of Children and Families foster care system. The bill holds the department accountable to search for every possible family member and/or significant adult relationship with which a child could be placed. “Permanency is something that many people never have to think about, or even know what it means. For children and youth in state custody, finding a permanent family arrangement is a difficult and trying process that can go on for years,” stated Farley-Bouvier Tuesday at a public hearing for the bill at the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. Provisions of the bill include bringing each child into the conversation about their permanency plan to express their preferred custody placement. Additionally, when any child or young adult has experienced more than two placements in a single foster-care episode, a clinical team will review their physical, mental and emotional effects experienced and recommend services to mitigate those effects. Finally, this bill will increase court oversight of DCF’s performance of its obligation to make reasonable efforts to keep children in their own homes or new permanent homes. “The current system removes children and keeps them in foster care for unnecessarily long periods of time, which traumatizes children and disrupts families. Many family situations can be addressed by earlier intervention and services,” said Susan Elsen, director of the Child Welfare Reform Project at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. “Ensuring reasonable efforts not only prevents unnecessary state intrusion into family life, but it is also the lynchpin of any well-functioning child welfare system.”



Canada:Child Advocate wins battle for mandatory reporting of deaths, critical injuries

Two departments of the Newfoundland and Labrador government are being told to report all child deaths and critical injuries to the province's child and youth advocate. The advocate's office has lobbied for years to have mandatory reporting, saying it now waits too long to find out, and sometimes hears about deaths through the media. On Tuesday, the government announced it will amend the Child and Youth Advocate Act as it applies to the Department of Children, Seniors and Social Development and the Department of Justice and Public Safety. The mandatory reporting of deaths and injuries applies to children receiving services from those departments – within the past year. It will apply to children and youth in care, protective intervention, kinship, youth services, and youth corrections programs, as well as children and youth at the Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Centre, or temporarily housed in correctional holding facilities. "This has been a long time coming," said Jackie Lake Kavanagh, the current child and youth advocate, who called the move a "significant development." Children in care may not have families to support them or be an advocate, she said, so they need increased oversight to protect their rights. 

Nearly 200 people held in UK-wide online child abuse operation 

Nearly 200 suspected paedophiles were arrested in one week, investigators have said, as they warned of a rise in the use of live streaming to sexually abuse children. The National Crime Agency (NCA) said a UK-wide operation in October had saved 245 children from harm and 192 people were detained. Nearly a third (30%) of the cases involved the most serious offences including live streaming, blackmail and grooming and 18 of those arrested were said to be in a position of trust, working in areas such as teaching, healthcare and criminal justice. Police believe dangerous suspects are using live streaming to bombard their targets with comments, using dares, threats or the offer of rewards such as “game points”, to try to manipulate them into nudity on a webcam. Chief Constable Simon Bailey, lead for child protection at the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said: “We need internet companies to help us stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms. We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online.” 

New Zealand: Parenting programme for Maori reduces behaviour problems

A culturally-adapted parenting programme for Maori families has increased parents’ confidence, reduced conflict between partners and improved children’s behaviour. These results followed participation by the families in a four-hour programme. The Ministry of Health-funded study, released today, was conducted by the University of Auckland and the Ngati Hine Health Trust in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland), one of the largest Maori health providers in the country. The programme, Te Whanau Pou Toru, was adapted from the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program and ran over two weeks. The United Nations (UN) has rated Triple P as the No. 1 parenting programme in the world based on the extent of research evidence. Parents took part in two parenting discussion groups where they learned a variety of positive parenting techniques. Te Whanau Pou Toru encouraged families to share ideas about whanau/parenting and learn from other whanau about how they interact with their tamariki/children. Gwen Tepania-Palmer, Board Chair of Ngati Hine Health Trust, says the Trust’s vision to enhance the wellbeing of whanau had been realised for many taking part in the programme. “Recommendations are currently being considered about how this exciting and valuable project can be integrated into Ngati Hine Health Trust’s Whanau Ora culture of maximising positive outcomes for whanau,’’ says Mrs Tepania-Palmer.  



Ireland: Supports urged for young people leaving care 

Social worker research has indicated that the lives of young people leaving care at 18 could be improved if more supports were in place to help them through “a distinct life phase” rather than assuming they became an adult on turning 18. The study, entitled The Transition to Adulthood, was conducted by a Tusla social work team leader, Alison Browne, as part of a programme within the agency encouraging practitioners to incorporate research into their daily practice. Ms Browne reviewed literature looking at the issues children in care experience as they transition to adulthood and found that while many people are happy to be leaving the care system at 18, the “emerging adulthood” phase sometimes brought uncertainty and setbacks. Ms Browne said young people leaving residential care do not have the advantage of the gradual transitions to adulthood that the majority of young people experience, including the chance to stay longer in school and leave home later and return if financial or relationship problems arise. Protective factors such as planning in advance for these challenges and reliable and consistent social attachments can help, and Ms Browne referred to the obligation on Tusla to provide aftercare, which she said was part of the “social scaffolding” that could help young people ageing out of care. “The big piece that I got from the research is to consider that phase as a distinct phase,” she said. “The more services start to think of this as a distinct phase the better they will be catered for.” 

UK: Government pledges £300m to provide mental health support in schools 

Under proposals set to be outlined in a green paper tomorrow (Monday), every school and college in England will be "incentivised" to appoint a designated senior lead for mental health to co-ordinate existing school-based support as well as helping children to access specialist therapies and other NHS treatments. Supported by a training package of up to £95m from 2019, the senior leads will also be responsible for developing a "whole-school approach" to mental health and wellbeing. This will include making sure pastoral support is available for all pupils and that strong policies are in place to reduce bullying and other behaviours that can cause mental distress. A further £215m will be available to create new "mental health support teams" which will aim to improve joint working working between schools and the NHS. The teams will provide a wider range of support and treatments in or near schools and colleges, to improve early intervention so mental health problems can be addressed before they become more serious. 

USA: Massachusetts juvenile justice reform could shield 18-year-olds from adult courts

Massachusetts could soon become the first state in the union to raise the age of jurisdiction above 18. The state’s House of Representatives this week, and Senate last month, passed by wide margins different versions of a criminal justice reform bill. Only the Senate proposal included the so-called raise-the-age provision, as well as a similar provision raising the age at which kids can be sent to juvenile court from 7 to 10. The bills now must be reconciled before heading to the governor’s desk. Both bills would make it easier for some juvenile offenders to get parts of their offense records expunged. Raising the age of jurisdiction for state juvenile justice systems has been a priority for reform advocates nationwide. Since 2005, 36 states and Washington, D.C., have passed dozens of pieces of legislation that move young adults out of the adult criminal justice system, as documented in a report released last month by the advocacy group Campaign for Youth Justice. In 2007, there were 14 states that still counted certain minors as adults without exception. By 2013, it was down to 10. There are now just five states without laws in place that set the age of jurisdiction at 18: Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin. All five have legislative bills in the hopper to raise the age of jurisdiction to 18. Massachusetts would be the first state to consider 18-year-olds, writ large, to be juveniles in the eyes of the law.  

India sexual abuse: 'Four child victims every hour'

In India, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes, according to the latest government figures. The National Crime Records Bureau report, released on Thursday, shows a steady rise in incidents of offences against children. Child sexual abuse has been in focus in recent months after the case of a 10-year-old rape victim who was forced to give birth hit the headlines. Two of her uncles were sentenced to life in jail for raping her. According to the report on crimes in India for 2016, released by Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi, 106,958 cases of crimes against children were recorded in 2016. Of these, 36,022 cases were recorded under Pocso (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi says India is home to the largest number of sexually abused children in the world, but there is general reluctance to talk about the topic so the real number of cases could be much higher. According to a 2007 study conducted by India's ministry of women and child development, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse. Campaigners say most of the abusers are people known to the victims, like parents, relatives and schoolteachers.



UK: Council spending rises on children in need of help

Research commissioned by the Department for Education found that average local council spend per child in need – where a child is identified as needing support services, such as early intervention family support or disability services – increased by 10 per cent, from £9,780 per year in 2010/11 to £10,780 per year in 2015/16. However, researchers, who analysed local authority finance data found that spend per looked-after child by the average local council decreased by two per cent over the same period, from £46,740 per year in 2010/11 to £45,650 per year in 2015/16. Overall, between 2010/11 and 2015/16 total spending by local councils on children's services was found to have decreased by nine per cent. England's councils spent £9.24m on children's services in 2010/11 but this fell to £9.01m by 2015/16. Earlier this month a survey by the Greater London regional branch of the Association of Directors of Children's Services found that councils in the capital are overspending on children's services by almost 10 per cent. This year the Local Government Association has warned that councils face a £2bn spending gap in children's services by 2020 due to rising demand and cuts to central government grants. Government data released in September revealed that the number of children in care is rising at its fastest rate in five years

Australia: Doctors, lawyers join call to raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14

Doctors and Aboriginal legal groups are leading a push to convince all state and territory governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years old. On average about 600 children under the age of 14 serve sentences in youth detention each year – 70 per cent are Indigenous children. The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children recommended raising criminal responsibility to 12 and said children under 14 should only be jailed for serious and violent crimes. Dr Mick Creati, a senior fellow at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, said it was a change that should be implemented Australia-wide. "We fully support the call from the commission to raise the age of criminal responsibility," Dr Creati said. "Regardless of the other horrible things we saw in Don Dale, removing children from family, school and positive peer connection is damaging." Dr Creati, a paediatrician who specialises in adolescent health, said children under the age of 14 had minimal impulse control. "We're seeing children incarcerated for what we think are developmentally normal actions," he said. "Now, we know that these actions are sometimes violent, but we don't believe that the response to these actions is to commit these children to the youth justice system, these children need support. "If they're removed from positive influences and their development is shaped by the youth justice system, that is very damaging to their adult identity." The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child strongly recommends the age of criminal responsibility be raised.

New Zealand: Being online as a girl – new report

“This new report shows how girls experience online harm differently than boys, and tailored prevention approaches are needed,” Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said today as she launched the Ministry for Women’s report Insights into digital harm: The online lives of New Zealand girls and boys. The report covers young people’s experiences with digital harm and draws on insights from 12 focus groups from schools across New Zealand. “My message to young people is that ‘You deserve to be safe, and you deserve support to get safe’. Every single young person in this report knew of someone badly affected by things happening online. Young people’s behaviour online can lead to further harm in their offline relationships. We have to understand more about how to prevent harm online, about how to keep safe, and what to do when it is not safe. I encourage parents to educate themselves about young people’s online environments, to talk about healthy relationships, and to discuss online risks and safety with their children,” says Ms Genter. The full report Insights into digital harm: The online lives of New Zealand girls and boys is available at Resources for parents, teachers and young people are available online at

South Africa: Temporary reprieve for foster child grant beneficiaries 

The high court in Pretoria has issued a court order aimed at alleviating the crisis in South Africa’s foster care system. According to Zita Mulambo Hansungule, senior project coordinator for the Centre for Child Law, the SA foster care system is currently providing for 460 000 children but is designed to care for only 100 000. This discrepancy has come about as relatives caring for orphaned children have been accessing the foster child grant, which pays out R920 a month, instead of the child support grant, which pays out R380 a month. “This has caused the system to be overburdened and social workers to be overworked and not able to adequately provide services to other vulnerable children,” she said. The centre, which is based at the University of Pretoria, first noticed the problem in 2011 when over 100 000 foster care orders lapsed due to the system being overburdened. This placed the payment of grants at risk and the centre urgently approached the court at that time. With the national department of social development’s (DSD) support they got a court order that allowed for administrative extension of foster care orders. This arrangement was intended to last for only three years while a comprehensive legal solution was sought, but in 2014 the system was still unable to cope with the large number of children in foster care and DSD sought and was granted an extension for a further three years, during which amendments to the Children’s Act were to be made to resolve the crisis. With the three year extended deadline looming at the end of 2017, the Centre for Child Law and the DSD have held several meetings in an attempt to develop a comprehensive legal solution to the foster care crisis. “The order by agreement handed down in court today declares the current situation of the overburdened foster care system to be unconstitutional. The order also ensures that children whose foster care orders have lapsed or are due to lapse are reinstated or extended,” Zita Mulambo Hansungule said.


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