Dr Nicola Atwool, a senior lecturer in social work at the
University of Otago, reflects on planned child protection
changes. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Hundreds more children from vulnerable families are
likely to be taken into care unless sufficient resources are
provided to ensure that changes in child protection law are
successful, Dr Nicola Atwool says.
She is a senior lecturer in the University of Otago
department of sociology, gender and social work, and a former
principal adviser in the Office of the Children's
Dr Atwool said that, despite several positive features, the
proposed Vulnerable Children's Bill was likely to generate
many extra costs, and failed to address wider poverty issues
that were adversely affecting many children and their
If enough resources and time were provided, social workers
could help transform the lives of affected families.
But ''insufficient funding'' was available, and it was hard
to see how more could be achieved without further investment.
She was worried New Zealand did not have the funded services
needed to engage in the ''long-term work'' some families
needed if they were ''to make and sustain the changes
required'' to ensure children's needs were met.
''Without these services, children will come into care
because the change may not be able to be achieved without an
intensive multi-agency strategy,'' she said in an interview.
In some quarters, the solution was seen to be ''moving
children into permanent placements at a much earlier stage''.
This helped children achieve ''greater stability'' in
alternative care, but this outcome was not guaranteed and
research had shown ''poor outcomes'' for many children raised
Children who had experienced early trauma often had a
''challenging time'' in adolescence and some placements could
end up as failures. The birth family remained significant for
children, even if they had experienced earlier abuse within
Where possible, it was preferable if change could be achieved
within the family, and this also reduced the risk of
subsequent children having to be removed at a later stage,