Posts Tagged msd

SKIP: What it is and why it works

May 19, 2010

The Ministry of Social Development have recently published this attractive and readable report called SKIP: What it is and why it works based on research into the SKIP (Strategies with Kids: Information for Parents) initiative.

The report is a valuable source of information about community based delivery of positive parenting messages utilising a variety of approaches with an emphasis on relationships, innovation, universality and community development. It identifies factors contributing to the effectiveness of the SKIP approach as well as the impact it has on children, parents and caregivers, communities and organisations.

In 2001 Cabinet agreed that there was a need of public education about alternatives to the use of physical discipline with children. Originally a public education campaign was envisaged but the strategy was revised and SKIP was born in 2003. It had three components:

  • The development of national parenting resources
  • Partnerships with national organisations delivering positive parenting messages
  • A contestable Local Initiative Fund (LIF) that supported local community projects.

SKIP has been a very successful initiative and the LIF has enabled the development of many creative, innovative and locally inspired success stories.

Read more about SKIP at www.skip.org.nz, or download the report (PDF).

The child discipline law six months after the referendum

February 24, 2010

Six months have passed since the August 2009 postal referendum on “a smack”. The 2007 amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 that essentially bans the use of force for correction remains intact despite the referendum and extensive lobbying of politicians and the public by “pro-smacking” activists. Since the referendum two reviews have indicated that the law is being implemented sensibly:

Leading politicians have not wavered on their decision to not to reintroduce a statutory defence

However, it is possible that the public are confused about what the law actually means, because it is confusing, because of the emphasis there has been on protecting “good” parents from prosecution and a mixed message in the media about the acceptability of minor physical discipline .

The 2007 law means that if an adult hits a child hard enough to end up being prosecuted he or she will no longer have a statutory defence to call on. Technically any assault, however light, is against the law (just as a minor assault on an adult is) but the reviews indicate that minor assaults are not being prosecuted. This is not because mild physical punishment is good for children but rather because prosecution is not a constructive option in such cases. It would be unfortunate if the two reviews held since the law change and associated political reassurances are regarded as support for smacking or seen to imply that smacking is a necessary part of child discipline.

It is also clear from the second review that claims made by some parents that they are investigated inappropriately are one sided and short on detail.

New Zealand would be moving more rapidly towards becoming a place where everyone believed that it is not acceptable to smack and hit children if its leaders across many spheres were clear and consistent in their support for positive, non violent discipline. This is not the same as advocating that all parents who transgress the law are punished.

We don’t really know what proportion of the public wants to smack and hit children. The outcome of the referendum based on a confusing question is not an indicator of relevant public attitudes. The limited research we have available seems to indicate that attitudes are trending in the right direction but that there is still some way to go before a majority of the population can move on from a belief that hitting and smacking children is ok, even necessary.

ACT MP John Boscawen, is convinced that children cannot be guided to behave well without being smacked and that use of implements might be appropriate when keeping children safe. Where does he get his information about child rearing from? Does it come from his own experience as a child, has he observed other people parenting or is he simply taking a punt at what he thinks will be a popular cause? His background is in the accounting and finance world which will not have exposed him to modern child development theory or experience with managing children. He makes no reference to credible research in justifying his claim that physical punishment is a necessary part of child discipline and a parent’s right.

And what of children’s rights? It is illegal to hit wives, prisoners and service men and women in New Zealand, fundamentally because such assaults are regarded as an infringement of their human rights (regardless of whether or not hitting might make them behave better). The same is true for children.

Mr Boscawen’s bill has been drawn from the ballot but it has not had its first reading in Parliament because Mr Boscawen has delayed this, as he is entitled to do. It appears likely that he will continue to delay the first hearing because he does not have support from any party in Parliament other than ACT. Mr Boscawen has held a series of public meetings around the country to support his bill and it is likely that his supporters will hold further meetings. Whose interests will the meetings serve? Certainly not the interests of children.

International research continues to indicate that children that are hit have poorer outcomes than those who are never, or only occasionally, exposed to physical punishment. (See also other research on this site).

Recently pro-smackers around the world made much of a US study that claimed to have found that young children spanked by their parents may perform better at school later on and grow up to be happier. Marjorie Gunnoe, psychology professor at Michigan’s Calvin College is the author of this unpublished research and has used it to caution against governments changing laws to ban use of physical discipline. The research been rejected for publication by at last two respected journals and there has been considerable criticism of its methodology.

2010 will be good year for children if:

  • political leaders stay strong in their resolve not revisit the 2007 law
  • politicians and other leaders encourage greater use of positive non-physical discipline by supporting the law and not excusing physical discipline.
  • increased funding is made available for parent support and education with a particular emphasis on supporting local communities to lead their own changes in the way children are regarded and treated
  • the law is presented in a positive and reassuring manner as being a good law for children and families and one that is being implemented sensibly
  • the media continue to loose interest in the so-called “anti-smacking debate”.
  • the pro-smacking activists let the issue go and move on.

Beth Wood

Free Booklet: A Theology of Children

November 23, 2009

theology-of-children1A Theology of Children is a new 24-page booklet aimed at supporting and strengthening parents, grandparents, and caregivers with strategies for non-physical discipline of children within a theological context.  You can download A Theology of Children for free.

A Theology of Children was produced with the support of the Ministry of Social Development initiative SKIP (Strategies with Kids/ Information for Parents), and written by Reverend Nove Vailaau, who is very passionate about clarifying the issue of physical discipline in Christian theology. It also has an forward by Bishop Richard Randerson and a summary by Dr Elizabeth Clements.

The booklet has a broad perspective, but also focuses on the Pacific peoples of New Zealand. It provides an opportunity for discussion about parenting practices in Pacific communities and within New Zealand in general.

A Theology of Children aims to help guide parents and caregivers through the six principles of effective discipline: love and warmth, talking and listening, guidance and understanding, limits and boundaries, consistency and consequences, and a structured and secure world.

Download A Theology of Children.

Physical punishment of children and the Child Discipline Law

November 16, 2009

Support for the 2007 law remains strong among those that understand how well children in New Zealand will be served in the long term by the repeal of the old section 59 Crimes Act 1961.  As the recent report from the Ministry of Social Development has shown there has been no increase in prosecutions for minor assaults on children since the law change but there seems an increased willingness to report more serious assaults on children.

It is also likely that the law is already contributing (along with information about positive parenting) to a social change away from use of smacking and hitting,    International evidence against the use of physical punishment continues to grow.   Calls from activities opposed to the 2007 law change do not reflect such evidence and the “March for Democracy” is their latest expensive move to apply pressure on politicians to turn back clock and send a message intentionally or unintentionally that physical punishment is a acceptable form of child discipline.

EPOCH NZ have produced a paper reviewing the law in light of recent research and the referendum.

The paper asks:

  • what is the evidence against use of physical punishment?
  • how is the 2007 law working?
  • who supports the 2007 law and who opposes it?
  • how will the safety and wellbeing of New Zealand children be best served now?

The answers to these questions form the basis for the following recommendations:

1.    Keep the law as it is: Children in New Zealand will be very well served over time if the Government stays strong in its resolve not to re-introduce a statutory defence into section 59 Crimes Act 1961.

2.    Provide information about the law and positive, non-violent discipline of children: There is an ongoing need for the dissemination of well-researched and supportive information about:

  • the law and its value
  • how the law is working in practice
  • positive non-physical discipline of children.

3.    Monitor the law and research its effects: The application of the child discipline law should continue to be monitored both to ensure that parents are not investigated and/or prosecuted when these actions are unhelpful and to track attitudinal and behavioural changes and the safety and wellbeing of children over time.

4.    Deal with any changes needed through policy and procedures: If inadequacies are found in the way the law is being applied then further protections should be developed without changing the law.  Such protections should support family functioning but at the same time not encourage the use of physical discipline by implying that it is okay.

Download the paper, Physical Punishment of Children and the Child Discipline Law.

Latest Section 59 review says the law is working well

November 11, 2009

Yet another review of the Child Discipline Law confirms that the law is working well.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennet says in her media release:

“The review has found no evidence to show that parents are being subject to unnecessary state intervention for occasionally lightly smacking their children.
“I think this review goes some way to comforting parents that the law is being interpreted in the way it was intended.”

So if report after monotonous report confirms that the Child Discipline Law is working to protect children without putting parents at risk, one might ask some hard questions about the true agenda of the Orwellianly-named “March for Democracy” as they march by this weekend.

Read the full MSD report.

John Key announces Section 59 review terms of reference

September 7, 2009

Prime Minister John Key today released Terms of Reference for a review of policies and procedures used by the New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family around the issue of smacking.

The review stems from Cabinet decisions a fortnight ago introducing safeguards to give parents comfort they will not be criminalised for lightly smacking their children.

“This review will look at the policies and procedures of the Police and CYF, including the referral process between the two agencies, to identify any changes needed to ensure good parents are treated as Parliament intended,” Mr Key says.

“The Government does not want to see good parents criminalised for a light smack and the recent referendum reinforces that New Zealanders don’t either.

“I believe the law is working as intended but I can assure parents the National-led Government will continue to monitor the way the law is being implemented.”

The review will be conducted by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development, Peter Hughes, the Commissioner of Police Howard Broad, and well known clinical psychologist Nigel Latta.

Mr Latta has significant experience working with young people and their families and Mr Key says his independent perspective will be useful.

“I am pleased that Nigel has agreed to take part in the review and I’m sure he will bring a direct and honest approach to the table,” Mr Key says.

“The reviewers will be able to make recommendations and consider any other matters they think will help to ensure that parents are treated as Parliament intended.”

The review team will report to the Prime Minister, Minister of Police and Minister of Social Development by December 1.

Introduction

A citizens-initiated referendum was held between 31 July and 21 August 2009 on the question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Eighty-seven per cent of those who voted, responded ‘no’ to this question.

The Government does not want to see good parents criminalised for a light smack and does not believe the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 intends for this to occur. It wants safeguards to be put in place to give parents comfort that this will not happen. Cabinet [CAB Min (09) 30/23] has agreed to a number of measures to provide such safeguards. These include this review of New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family policies and procedures.

Terms of Reference

To review New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family policies and procedures, including the referral process between the two agencies, in order to identify any changes that are necessary or desirable in the interest of ensuring that:

1. good parents are treated as Parliament intended under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007

2. provisions of the law (both criminal and under the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989) are applied to those who abuse children.

To consider any other matters which, in the reviewers’ opinion, will assist in ensuring that parents are treated as Parliament intended under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007.

To make recommendations concerning these matters.

Reviewers
Peter Hughes, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development
Howard Broad, Commissioner of Police
Nigel Latta, Clinical Psychologist.

Timing

The reviewers will provide a report and make recommendations to the Prime Minister and Ministers of Police and Social Development and Employment by 1 December 2009.

Nigel Latta says in a press release,

I have been approached by the Prime Minister and asked if I would consider participating in a review of the Police and CYF processes around S 59 to see if the law is working as intended. I have agreed to participate in this review on the basis that it was understood that my role was independent and that I was able to speak freely about both the process of the review, and my opinions regarding its findings.

For the record, and this is something I have commented on publically in a number of contexts, my personal view on S59 is that I did not agree with the original law change. I also voted no in the referendum. I do not believe that a parent smacking their child, in the ‘common sense’ understanding of what that means, should be subject to criminal prosecution or investigation. It would be my view that the “anti-smacking debate” has become needlessly polarised from the very beginning into a position whereby you are either “for child abuse”, or you are “against child abuse”. This tendency of both sides of the debate to reduce a complex social/moral issue into rather simplistic extremes has resulted in our being plunged into an argument that has consumed a great deal of time, energy, and money, when ultimately everyone agrees with that we need to do more to protect children from abuse and neglect.

The terms of reference for this review are very clear. I see my role as first and foremost to look at the evidence and to ensure that the law does not result in good parents either being criminalised, or being needlessly subjected to investigations that are intrusive and/or traumatic. This is a responsibility I hold directly to the everyday mums and dads of New Zealand, and one that I take very seriously.

Because this issue has been dealt with to date in largely emotive and ideological rhetoric, I am interested solely in looking at the data, and in forming an opinion on the actual impact of the law change on that basis. For that reason I will not be meeting with, corresponding with, or entering into discussions with, any lobby groups from either end of the debate.

I will also not be engaging in any media interviews on this matter until after the review process has been completed. At that time the findings will be presented to the public in as transparent a manner as possible so that the Kiwi parents can make up their own minds based on the actual data.

Video: John Key’s press conference on the Child Discipline Law

August 24, 2009

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/kP2b3DFEFaE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Key points:

  • Parents will not be criminalised for lightly smacking their children
  • Police and MSD Chief Execs will lead a review of policies to identify any changes necessary or desirable to ensure that good parents are treated as parliament intended, to report back by 1 December 2009.
  • The official review of the Child Discipline Law will be moved forward to late September or early October
  • Police will continue to report on the law for the next three years, and specifically include data on where the parents believed that the force used was reasonable in the circumstances.  If parents are truly being criminalised for lightly smacking their children, Parliament will have to look at changing the law.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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