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Several positive features can be seen in the Government's approach to child protection services but more focus on countering poverty and social inequalities is needed.
That is the view of University of Otago social work senior lecturer Emily Keddell, who has undertaken one of the first academic and independent reviews of the Government's direction on child protection services.
Her commentary on the Government's Child Youth and Family Review was commissioned by AUT's Policy Observatory, which undertakes research on economic, social and environmental issues.
Dr Keddell acknowledged some positive changes, including moving towards a more ``systems'' approach, and some extension to the Family Start home visiting programme.
But the aims of the reforms needed to be broadened from the ``economically oriented'' to ``a more holistic goal of child and family wellbeing''.
She examined the Vulnerable Child Reforms of 2011-14, and more recently, the creation of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki.
Child abuse and neglect had ``well-established relationships'' with social inequalities, poverty and community factors, which were ``not addressed in the policy proposals'', her report said.
She also questioned the Government's ``faith in market mechanisms'' and a move to deliver prevention services through third party contractors.
Market approaches were ``unlikely to be responsive to the range and complexity'' of human problems and left some of the state's key responsibilities for ``contractors to deliver''.
Families who found themselves without services might ``proceed rapidly to child removal'', reducing chances for support and change.
The Review of Child Youth and Family showed a ``stronger imperative'' to ``remove children earlier and place them in permanent care''.
Removing children was necessary at times, but foster care was ``not a panacea''.
The ``reality of parenting within resource-poor contexts'' had not been taken into account and ``the damage of removal to children acknowledged''.