Keep our children safe

Helping to keep our children safe KOS (Keeping Ourselves Safe) is a positive personal safety programme aimed at giving children and young people the skills to cope with situations that might entail abuse. It will help them keep children safe when they meet other people. KOS was developed in response to an increased awareness and concern among teachers and Police for young people to be protected from abuse.

The programme was written by the New Zealand Police and teachers, in consultation with many community groups. KOS is for school children from junior primary to senior secondary. Different programmes have been prepared so that at each level of their schooling students learn new skills to keep safe with other people. A local Police education officer introduces KOS to your school and helps teachers prepare for teaching. The Police provide all the teaching materials the school needs.

The teacher then takes the lessons in class. This teacher is the person most likely to notice a student who needs help. The Police education officer might be invited to come in for some lessons. What happens if a young person discloses abuse? The school should have a policy setting out how reports of abuse will be handled. You should ask to see this policy so that you know what will happen if information about abuse comes to notice in your school.

If you want more information about how to keep children safe with KOS your child’s school will hold a parents’ meeting to consult and inform you about the programme. The Police education officer will probably attend this meeting. You will see an introductory video and the resources that are used as part of the programme. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions you have. You could also contact the school principal if you want to talk further. Additional pamphlets about child abuse will also be available from the school. The success of Keeping Ourselves Safe in your school requires the full participation of young people, teachers, parents and whanau.

Keep children safe from sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is someone touching you or making you touch them in a way that makes you feel “yucky”. It could be when someone older than you touches your private parts (genitals) in a way that makes you feel uneasy. It could also be when someone older than you makes you touch their genitals, or when they show you pictures or movies that make you feel uncomfortable. If you are in danger, phone the Police on 111.

Remember to give the operator exact address details of where you are or where the abuse is occurring – that’s crucial. The law protects children from abuse. There are lots of things that you can do if someone is touching you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. One of the most powerful things you can do is tell an adult you trust about what is happening. Remember – if the person you first tell doesn’t do anything keep on telling until someone else does. Sometimes it is hard to tell someone in your family if it is also a family member who is touching you. The law protects you from sexual abuse by people in your family, as well as from everyone else.

It is not OK for someone in your family to touch you sexually. Here is a list of people you could tell: your mum; an aunty, your teacher, a health nurse, your best friend’s mother; your school social worker, school counsellor, the Police (phone 111), your doctor, Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, somebody at Rape Crisis. Remember, you might need to tell more than one of these people if the person you tell doesn’t do anything.

The adults you tell should help by trying to make the abuse stop. It is their job to protect you. Adults can phone Rape Crisis or any other help agency to find out what they can do about it. Report it to the Police It is against the law to rape, sexually abuse, sexually assault or even to attempt to rape any man or woman. You have the right to report sexual assault to the Police. 23 In New Zealand there is no statute of limitations.

That means you can tell the Police about what happened to you straight away or many years later. If you report the assault later rather than sooner, the Police sometimes have a hard time finding evidence (physical evidence or witnesses testimonies). If the Police don’t have enough evidence to support your case in court, they might be unable to take the offender to court. Sometimes that might seem as if the Police don’t believe you.

For this and other reasons you might like to have a support person from a sexual assault agency with you when reporting the crime (both straight after the assault or months/years later). These people know all about the Police procedures and can help support you through the reporting and court processes. If you have concerns about the effect of the rape or sexual abuse on your body, it can be helpful to have a physical check-up to set your mind at rest.

There is a group of doctors throughout New Zealand called Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC). They have had training working with survivors of rape and sexual abuse. These doctors are available to people who have recently been raped/sexually abused, as well as to people who have been raped or abused a long time ago. DSAC doctors also do the medical examinations for the Police to gather any evidence left on the victim after the assault.

Our bodies hold all sorts of evidence after a sexual assault, and this evidence is often able to be collected up to seven days after the rape/abuse. If the offender used a condom during the rape, other evidence is still often available. If you report rape/abuse to the Police within seven days of the attack they will organise for you to visit a DSAC doctor. During any physical examination you can stop it, even if just for a break. The doctor should explain everything to you at the beginning of the consultation. If you have any questions, the doctor should stop and answer them for you in a way that you can understand.

Helping families before it’s too late.

So often the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is all that’s left to pick up the casualties of violent warfare in the home. Since the early 1990s, governments and various research and social agencies have realised that a better approach to breaking the violence cycle – in which violence passes from generation to generation – is to show families a better way and keep children safe. The Family Start early intervention programme is one such effort, and might prove to make a lasting difference.

It is funded by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, Ministry of Health and the Early Childhood Development Service, and is part of the wider Strengthening Families programme. It is home-based, free and confidential. It provides each family/whanau with a support worker who helps members to work out how to meet goals and needs unique to them. Family Start is aimed at improving the health, the ability to learn and the well-being of children and whanau/families.

It promotes family strengths, confidence and independence. The programme is not a “solution-buster” – in other words, the support worker doesn’t ride in with all the bright ideas and take over. Family Start includes the Parents as First Teachers “Born to learn” parent education programme, and it focuses on strengthening family supports, including access to other services to keep children safe. Family Start is offered to a mother in the second six months of her pregnancy, and until her baby is six months old.

If the family accepts Family Start help, then the support worker will be with them for three to five years. Families can be referred for Family Start by doctors, lead maternity carers such as midwives, child health services, Plunket Society or hospital maternity services. The family/whanau must consent to the referral first. The programme is aimed at:

  • solo or otherwise unsupported parents;
  • mothers who have had little or no care during their pregnancy;
  • young mums;
  • those with mental ill-health;
  • substance abusers;
  • families with a history of abuse;
  • people and families with relationship problems;
  • people and families on a low income;
  • people and families without essential resources;
  • those who frequently change addresses;
  • women who, for various reasons, know little about motherhood;
  • families with sudden infant death syndrome factors – eg., smoking during pregnancy, little or no breast-feeding, babies with a low birth weight.

The Family Start programme was established in 1998 as part of a wider strategy to strengthen families and keep children safe. Family Start was first tried out in Whangarei, west Auckland and Rotorua, starting in December 1998. Thirteen more providers of the service were being added in 2000-2001. They are at Hamilton, Hastings, Kaitaia, Gisborne, Nelson, Masterton, Invercargill, Dunedin, Whakatane, Kawerau, Horowhenua, Wanganui and Porirua.

In Whangarei, Te Hau Ora o te Tai Tokerau and the Plunket Society combined to form Ma Te Whanau Timata Trust. Trust workers found that at first whanau members often didn’t want to be referred to Family Start because they thought that it was just another monitoring agency. It often wasn’t until the third visit that families began to see that Family Start might be different for them. At the first visit to a whanau, trust workers talk about the programme and do an assessment based on the history, needs and agencies’ involvement with the family. This helps to match whanau worker and family. At the second visit the selected whanau worker meets the family.

By the third visit the worker is analysing the family’s needs and helping them work out how they can best be met. Not “solution-busters”, whanau workers help the family to recognise their strength, and to build on those, so that eventually the family can take responsibility for their own development and stand on their own feet. 20 Whanau workers have experience and skills in such areas as family violence, financial management, education, and relationship counselling.

The trust also helps groups of families, bringing them together for education and awareness workshops. Gatherings before Christmas help families to make cheap or no-cost gifts and food.  It provides intensive, home-based support services for families with high needs, to ensure that their children have the best possible start in life.

Family Start aims to improve:

  • health, education and social outcomes for children;
  • parents’ parenting capability and practice;
  • children and parents’ personal and family circumstances.

It is funded and managed by the ministries of Education and Social Development. The programme is delivered by contracted service providers. Family Start complements the work undertaken by agencies throughout New Zealand such as Plunket and Well Child Tamariki Ora. The Family Start programme is aimed at the 15 percent of the population most at risk of poor life outcomes.

In each location the aim is to ensure that at least the 5 percent at highest risk participate in the programme. Designated community agencies refer families to Family Start. Families can be accepted onto the programme from six months before the birth of a child up to one year after. Participation in the programme is voluntary.