Tag Archives: child abuse

From dental neglect to child abuse?

child-report

Talk about conflicts of  interest!

The article, Children’s Health: Shift focus to care of young – MPs,  in yesterday’s NZ Herald really sparked a response in me: 

It opens with this:

Cross-party inquiry comes up with strong message for change from emphasis on caring for people late in life.

 New Zealand must change its health-care priorities from the last two years of life to the womb if it is to improve its record on child health and child abuse, an inquiry has found.

More than half the Government’s $14 billion health budget goes towards caring for people late in life.

The parliamentary health committee says this is contrary to widely accepted research which shows that it would make more economic and social sense to do the exact reverse by focusing on the period between pre-conception and 3 years of age.”

So here I am – at the stage of life where our government is investing half its health budget. Yet my experience cries out to me that the suggested change of emphasis makes sense – for the good of individuals and society.

Most people agree we have to do something about child poverty, child neglect and child abuse in this country. Re-prioritising social health investment would go a long way to doing that. Surely its a no-brainer – look after the health of our children and we get healthier adults in the future who will be more resistant to health problems – even in old age. Investing in the health of children is an investment in the future of all ages – and the health of society in general.

The report

You can download the report which has the rather long title - here

It is actually a report from the NZ Parliamentary Health Committee. The Committee make specific recommendations in it and the report now goes to the government for consideration.

A sample of the chapter headings gives an idea of the report’s scope:

  • The economics of early intervention with children
  • Pre-conception care and sexual and reproductive health
  • Social economic determinants of health and wellbeing
  • Improving nutrition and reducing obesity and related non-communicable diseases
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and drug harm
  • Maternity care and post-birth monitoring
  • Leadership, whole-of-government approach, and vulnerable children
  • Immunisation
  • Oral health
  • Early childhood education
  • Collaboration, information sharing, and service integration
  • Research on children

I have only read part of the report so far so will just comment here on the Oral Health chapter – being quite relevant at the moment.

It introduces the problem with:

“Oral disease is among the most prevalent chronic diseases in New Zealand and among the most preventable in all age groups. We heard that oral disease and their consequences, such as embarrassment, pain, and self-consciousness, can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life and ability to gain employment. Millions of school and work hours are lost globally to pain and infection from dental disease and the time needed to treat them. Caries can also affect children’s development, school performance, and behaviour, and thus families and society in general. Promoting good oral health benefits children of all
ages.”

True – but I would add the effects of poor oral health in childhood have repercussions right through life – even effecting the quality of one’s life in old age. I see this as a specific example of how investment in children’s health will reduce health costs for the elderly in the future.

Many causes of poor oral health

The report says the “risk factors and indicators for dental caries:”

” include socioeconomic deprivation, suboptimal fluoride exposure, ethnicity, poor oral hygiene, prolonged infant bottle feeding, poor family dental health, enamel defects, and irregular dental care.”

It expresses concern, and frustration, about the situation with availability of fluoridated drinking water:

“At present approximately only 55 percent of New Zealanders receive optimally fluoridated reticulated drinking water and coverage has recently decreased following decisions from the local councils in New Plymouth and Hamilton to cease fluoridating their water supplies. No substantial increases in coverage have occurred for over two decades.”

Its recommendations in this chapter include two about fluoridation:

102 We recommend to the Government that it work with the Ministry of Health to ensure that the addition of fluoride to the drinking water supply is backed by strong scientific evidence and that ongoing monitoring of the scientific evidence is undertaken by, or for, the Ministry of Health, and that the Director-General of Health is required to report periodically to the Minister of Health on the status of the evidence and coverage of community water fluoridation.

This is already happening to an extent with the National Fluoride Information Service and I hope their work continues and possibly expands. Scientific knowledge is always improving so it is important that we keep and eye on research findings and adjust health policies if, and when, necessary.

103 We recommend to the Government that it work with Local Government New Zealand and the Ministry of Health to make district health boards responsible for setting standards around water-quality monitoring and adjustments to meet World Health Organisation standards (or their equivalent), including the optimal level of fluoridation of water supplies. Part of the work programme would be to ensure that costs imposed on councils relating to standards and monitoring, are realistic and affordable. This should be implemented within two years of this report being published.”

It will be interesting to see how the government reacts to this recommendation. Fluoridation has become a bit of a political football for local bodies. This is not good because local body councillors can often have minority viewpoints and tend to be more easily influenced by ideologically motivated political activists. It seems more responsible that such important health issues are handled centrally by bodies with health expertise.

Dental neglect is child neglect

Another recommendation in the Oral Health chapter struck a chord with me:

“109 We recommend to the Government that “dental neglect” be defined as an important category of child neglect and recognised and managed accordingly. Systems must be established for following up children who do not attend scheduled appointments, and therefore risk pain from dental abscesses and untreated decay.”

Considering the consequences of child dental neglect I fully endorse that recommendation. Perhaps I would go even further – my reading having encouraged me to think of child neglect as a form of child abuse.

Perhaps we should admit that child dental neglect is a form of child abuse?

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Education should never validate ignorance

Quite a concise and clear argument from Lawrence Krauss on the silly idea of giving equal time to creationism in a science classes (a big problem in his country – the USA). As he points out – the role of education is to overcome ignorance – not confirm it.

Teaching kids that the earth is 6000 years old, just because (in the USA) half the population believes it, is only validating ignorance. The fact is that half of the US population does not think the earth orbits the sun – they are clearly wrong but should that widespread belief mean that kids must be taught that mistake in their science classes?

Of course not.

That would be validating ignorance and is a form of child abuse.

Lawrence Krauss: Teaching Creationism is Child Abuse

The arrogance of supernatural privilege

I’ve often criticised the arrogance of some of those with a supernatural ideology. Their claims of special access to the “Truth,” to morality, etc. But I get especially angry when this arrogance rides roughshod over the most innocent and vulnerable people in society. Our children.

 Recently the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a Royal Commission to uncover the truth about sexual abuse of children in Australia. This is a response to the public outrage against revelations and accusations of paedophilia and its cover up by a number of institutions with responsibility for care of children  – including Churches. The commission has generally been welcomed across the political spectrum with the strongest concern being that it should get to work and produce results quickly. That it shouldn’t dawdle on for decades and itself contribute to the cover up.

 So I was shocked to see a local blogger, Kereopa at beingfrank, interpret this commission as “persecution” of the Catholic church (see Persecution begins against the Catholic Church in Australia)! Talk about (guilty) paranoia. Gillard made clear that the Catholic Church was not the only institution targeted. That its scope would cover:

 “all institutions, including religious institutions, state-based organisations, schools and not-for-profit groups such as scouts and sporting clubs. It will also look at the response of child services agencies and the police to accusations of abuse.”

 So what does Kereopa want? Exclusion of the Catholic Church from such an inquiry? And how can she/he justify that? Because of its supernatural privilege? That it must be protected from such accusations and investigations because it is “sacred?”

 How else can Kereopa interpret an objective investigation of all bodies as persecution of his/her own organisation?

 Plain supernatural arrogance. Arrogance which is medieval and in this day and age deserves only a laugh. Why should the Catholic Church be exempt from such investigations, immune to even accusations or concerns? Especially as we now know its functionaries have often sexually abused the children in their care. And the organisation has often denied these crimes, protected the criminals and gone to great efforts to cover up the crimes. To the extent of allowing the crimes to continue and usually slandering the victims in the process.

As if to rub the salt into the psychological wounds of the victims of this child abuse, apologists for the Catholic Church have been frantically attempting to defend the supernatural privilege of confessions, the seal of the confessional. To protect this from investigations by the Royal Commission. They think their obligation to protect children in their care can be superseded by mythical supernatural claptrap.  Here’s how blogger Lucia Maria at New Zealand Conservative argues for a privilege of exempting Catholic confessions from the law:

“Confession is where a person is forgiven of their sins so that they are able to enter eternal life (ie not go to Hell). The priest represents our Lord Jesus Christ, and has been given the power to forgive sins.”

So, put a guy in a dress and give him a cross and he can represent a god! And you then claim that such a claim supersedes the rights of the victim? Innocent and defenceless children? Or the rights of society to get justice?

Who do these people think they are fooling – or even talking to? Most of us just don’t share their particular brand of supernaturalism. We are not convinced they have special privileges putting them above the law. Their talk of angels, hell and heaven don’t convince us that they should not have to obey the same laws we do. Especially when it comes to protecting our children.

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Capturing kid’s minds with emotions

I have commented on the problem of religious indoctrination at secular New Zealand schools before (see What really happens in religious instruction classes? and Cynical evangelisation of children.) That’s bad enough but a friend recently described such indoctrination occurring at a day care centre! This was a secular centre, but influenced by a church. So the obvious happened – infants came home asking about gods, devils and hell.

It’s bad enough when they go after children of school age – but it seems they also consider children of preschool age, other people’s children, “fair game” as well.

Unfortunately, the concentration on children is common among evangelical Christians. Consider the document is Evangelisation of Children.” This was prepared several years ago and sees indoctrination of children as part of a general plan of world evangelisation (see my post .

Jerry Coyne has a video showing an even worse side to the evangelisaiton of children – the use of emotional methods (see A Christian brainwashes two-year-olds). These people recognise that bible stories just aren’t enough. Kids go through the intellectual learning procedure and come out the other end without a strong commitment. But emotional experiences can be a lot more powerful than intellectual exercises in getting commitment.

Again, it’s one thing to know that consenting adults take part in happy clapping speaking in tongues to get their kick. But imposing it on children? Even babies? That is what this video shows.

Babies and God

Perhaps parents are a bit naive to think the religious instruction classes in our secular schools are harmless. After all, they might think, it helps kids understand how others think and won’t education in science and reason supersede these myths in the long run. That’s the message of the recent Jesus and Mo cartoon below.


But what if the evangelicals who tend to teach these instruction classes are messing with the kid’s emotions instead?

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Popes cunning straw mannery?

Thanks to DavidD's Blog

One would have thought Pope Bennie would be on his best behaviour during his visit to the UK. After all, it’s not exactly as if the people are keen on squandering such money on an unnecessary “state” visit. Nor is his standing very high at the moment with the role he played in covering up child abuse in his church.

But he is hardly off the plane than he makes extraordinary remarks suggesting that atheism was the key factor in Nazism. Well we all know how that tactic is used in internet discussion, don’t we. Godwin’s Law states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.” Mike Godwin formulated this in his sarcastic observation that, given enough time, all discussions—regardless of topic or scope—inevitably wind up being about Hitler and the Nazis.

But Bennie must be so desperate he actually started by invoking Goodwin’s law!

Of course he is well known for attempting to get a campaign going against the “evil secularism” he sees in Europe. He was helped in this by the Islamic leader King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (see Interfaith dialogue to fight against human rights).

However, perhaps Paul Kirby has a point when she suggests this silly statement is an attempt at a tactical diversion (see Calling all Pope Protestors). After all, Bennie is no fool and he has presumable worked hard, together with the UK government, to limit the embarrassment this visit will cause. Paula says:

“My conclusion is that the Nazi remarks were a deliberate attempt to deflect the anticipated protests about the scandal of the child sex abuse cover-ups in the RCC.

We know from comments made before the visit that both the Vatican and the UK govt were deeply concerned that the visit might be overshadowed by the sex abuse issue; so what could be more natural than that they would have put their heads together to try to find a way to prevent that happening? And what better method could they possibly find than to launch an attack on the likely protestors – an attack of such grotesque obscenity that we would be immediately deflected into protesting about that rather than the real issue?

It is inconceivable to me that the UK government didn’t know exactly what was going to be in the pope’s speech at Holyroodhouse this morning. Not only that, but had that Nazi comparison been made about ANY other group in British society, government officials would have been falling over one another in their rush to distance themselves from it. The fact this hasn’t happened suggests very strongly to me that this was a put-up job, an indicator of their determination to prevent the visit turning into an embarrassment to the pope (and therefore the government), as well as of the depth of their fear that it might.”

Paula is appealing to demonstrators not to be distracted. She warns “If the protests during the rest of his tour focus on his comments about Nazis and valueless secularists, rather than the issue he fears most, then he will be chortling all the way back to the Vatican on Sunday.”

And that issue is child abuse.

Image credit Pope Godwin

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Justifying child abuse

I have always thought that gods and holy scriptures are convenient. They can be used to justify anything. And they can prevent individuals from developing their own moral sense – always relying instead on the “authority” of holy scripture and/or religious leaders.

This can be particularly bad when it comes to how we treat children. That’s why many people are concerned at the role played by fundamental and conservative Christians in New Zealand’s debates on child discipline.

A friend sent me this today from the  Taranaki Daily News (Man cites Bible in child assault prosecution):

“An 80-year-old man believed he was following the Bible when he used an alkathene pipe to punish a child for stealing $1000 from him.

The man, who has interim named suppression, yesterday pleaded guilty in the New Plymouth District Court to two charges of assaulting a child and assault with a blunt instrument between November 1 and December 7.

When arrested, the man told police that he was frustrated by the child’s behaviour and had been “seeking to correct him in the manner described in the Bible”.

His lawyer, Paul Keegan, said the incident was out of character for the man.

“He is a Christian man and believes firmly in traditional methods of discipline,” he said.”

Well – we know what “traditional methods of discipline” can be “justified” by reference to holy scriptures and religious leaders, don’t we?

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Remove support for child abuse

This doesn’t affect me directly, being a horrible heathen, but some readers might be interested. Some might even want to take action.

The article  Absolve This: Put The Catholic Church Out Of Its Misery appeared recently. It’s written by a “lapsed” Catholic disgusted by recent revelations of child abuse by the church in Ireland. It makes the point that one still gets counted by the church as a member – thus inflating the statistics. That to actually stop this it’s no good just being “lapsed” – one has to make it official. One has to actually defect.

The writer is encouraging this course for other Catholics who are “lapsed” or otherwise disgusted with the church. Here’s his advice:

“The genius’s at Count Me Out have compiled all the information you’ll need to complete this easy process on one website. Not Irish but still want to defect? No problem, the form is universal, so just fill this out and send it to the parochial house or bishop’s office of the diocese in which you were baptised. If you haven’t defected yet, then the church is using your membership to show that they have support. . .

Any other organisation would have been torn down after the first evidence of child abuse came to light. How many more horror stories do we need before the Church is put out of its evil misery?”

So – for all you “lapsed” Catholics out there. Here’s a practical step you can take to end this abuse.

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That ‘no’ vote

smackMedia reporting around the “child discipline” referendum has been atrocious. However,  the NZ Herald yesterday did provide some interesting information.

They brought to our attention the fact that some of the groups campaigning for the referendum have been receiving funds from conservative US religious groups (see US funding for ‘no’ vote). the article gave information for Focus on the Family but I am sure that US fundamentalist largess extends to other NZ groups.

Take, for instance, the United church of God – New Zealand. In 2008 it received 40% of its revenue from its parent organisation based in the US. I suspect these sort of subsidies are widespread amongst religious groups.

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“Smacking not an offence”

I was interested to read the recent (July 10) NZ Police review relating to the operation of the 2007 amendment of the Crimes Act (see 4th review of police activity since enactment of the Crimes (substituted section 59) Amendment Act 2007). It really does show that this current referendum is a pointless farce. Some conclusions form the report:

1: “Smacking” in itself is not an offence. The report had to consider offence codes which weren’t “smacking” but most likely to include “smacking” type incidents.

2:The legislation has had “minimal impact on police activity.”

3: During the review period “police attended 279 child assault events, 39 involved ‘minor acts of physical discipline’ and 8 involved smacking.”

4: There has been a decrease in ‘smacking events’ and ‘minor acts of physical discipline.’

5: There has been an increase (36) of ‘other child assault’ events. (We should be concerned about these).

6: “No prosecutions were made for ‘smacking’ events during this period.”

No wonder polls indicate that most people think this referendum is a waste of time and money. Quite rightly, the government will ignore the result – except possibly making changes to the Citizens Initiated Referenda legislation to prevent future waste of money.

The whole area of normal child upbringing methods has always been an issue of contention and debate. It always will be. The state should not intervene or express an attitude unless children are being harmed, or are in danger of being harmed. Psychologically or physically.

Currently, this referendum seem to be supported mostly by those with a fundamentalist and/or conservative religious agenda.

Thanks to The Standard for the link to the report (see Section 59 and child abuse).

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Hand of God

Paul_Cultrera_2

Paul Cultrera

I watched the documentary Hand of God the other night. It left me deeply angry.

The film was made by Joe Cultrera and documents the sexual abuse suffered by his brother Paul as a child. The abuser was the Catholic priest  Joseph Birmingham. Paul was abused as an alter boy in the 1960s and told no one, including his family, for 30 years. Meanwhile the priest, despite other allegation of sexual abuse, was promoted by the diocesan (seems to be a common way for the church to ignore the problems it creates).

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