The co-location of Child Youth and Family and the Eastern Bay of Plenty Police Child Protection Team and Family Violence unit will help ensure the best possible outcomes for the victims of serious child abuse and their families in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
The co-location site – Te Äwhiti – was officially opened in Pyne Street, Whakatane, by the Minister for Police, Hon. Judith Collins, this morning (Monday 21 November, 2011). Te Äwhiti means to be "ever-vigilant" and "watchful".
Ultimately the co-location will ensure co-ordinated and effective response to serious child abuse, with the goal of ensuring that children are kept safe, offenders are held to account wherever possible and that child victimisation is reduced.
"Child Youth and Family share a common goal of keeping children and young people safe in the community and the two organisations work together very closely," says Greg Versalko, the Regional Director for Child, Youth and Family.
"The co-location site in Whakatane will strengthen our working relationships, but also help us work together more effectively under the Child Protection Protocol to improve the management of cases involving serious child abuse.
"The co-location brings the principals of the Child Protection Protocol to life, which is about working together from the first notification of a case under the protocol, and having a better understanding of each other's roles and how decisions are made.
"Being in the same place means we can be more responsive, as we have all the information and people right here, resulting in face-to-face, timely, well-informed decision-making about the investigation of reports of concern," says Mr Versalko.
Under the Child Protection Protocol, "reports of concern" are classified as those which involve serious physical abuse, sexual abuse, serious neglect and/or being exposed to serious family violence incidents.
The Eastern Bay of Plenty Police Area Commander, Inspector Sandra Venables, agrees, and says the physical environment of the co-location facility has also been specifically designed for victims and their families.
"Tragically, serious child abuse is a sad reality across the Eastern Bay of Plenty, and the physical co-location ensures we have the right people in the same place to help address this issue.
"Just as importantly, the co-location facility has specifically been designed as a safe environment for victims and their families. Significantly, it is not a Police Station and there are never any offenders here. We only deal with victims and their families here and so the facility has been set up specifically for their needs."
Inspector Venables says the co-location site includes facilities for interviews and medical examinations, combined with the support of Police and CYF staff.
"This means victims are receiving the best care and service in one place. Our focus is on putting the victim first and we have created a safe and caring environment to allow that to happen."
Between October 2010 and October 2011, the EBOP Police Child Protection Team and Whakatane CYF Office investigated 225 reports of concern under the Child Protection Protocol.