Children in care are benefiting from a life-changing government initiative to ensure health, mental health and educational needs are addressed.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the $43.7 million Children in Care package has been well justified.
Children come into State care because they have been seriously abused or neglected and their life experiences often include exposure to domestic violence, drug abuse, gang culture and criminal behaviour.
“If you add unmet mental health or health needs to that toxic background you can see the odds are really stacked against these children unless we do something to help,” says Mrs Bennett.
More than 1,200 children and young people have been through the Gateway Assessment service managed with District Health Boards since 2011.
“Every single child has presented with significant health issues (three issues on average) including heart murmurs, dental problems and hearing loss.”
Mental health issues described as emotional or behavioural needs have been identified in 53 per cent of children and young people assessed.
Developmental delay has been found among 16 per cent of children, hearing problems with 17 per cent and 14 per cent were found to have speech problems.
Other issues included incomplete immunisations, skin problems, dental issues and parental mental health, drug addiction, alcoholism or a combination.
“This is what research said we’d find and illustrates why this is such a valuable investment for children who’ve had a rough start to life.”
“These children are the most vulnerable in New Zealand and I’m incredibly proud of this package which has picked up serious health, mental health and educational problems, which can now be addressed,” says Ms Bennett.
“We know that if these health and mental health needs go unmet, these children grow up disadvantaged and at greater risk,” says Ms Bennett.
This initiative is a first for children in care and will be implemented in all the DHB’s by February 2013.
“The Government invested a significant sum of money despite a tight fiscal environment in these children and it’s making a real difference.”
There are more than 4,000 children in care at any one time and more than 2,000 children go into care every year – all are eligible for this support.
It’s also available for 1,500 children attending Family Group Conferences.
The Children in Care package also includes:
More than 300 extra children in care are receiving ECE as a result of this initiative and parenting support programmes continue to roll out across the entire country.