UNICEF HIGHLIGHTS CHILDREN AT RISK
The latest UNICEF report, An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries, highlights some unpalatable facts about New Zealand children and families. In particular, it reveals a very disturbing truth; across the 24 nations surveyed, New Zealand's children are the second most likely to die before the age of 19.
The report also shows that New Zealand is generally ranked 16th out of 24 nations for outcomes such as overall material well-being for children. This is not that surprising given New Zealand's economy is not as wealthy as other OCED countries, such as the USA and many western European states. What we should not expect, however, is that our children are most at risk for physical harm compared to other OECD nations.
The report also makes a striking connection; children are most likely to be at risk of injury, death or abuse under certain conditions, including single parenthood, poverty, low maternal wage at birth, and weak family ties. These factors are all closely related to each other, and they remind us that parents who raise children alone need our attention and support. In addition, they should remind us of the importance of strong families in promoting the well-being of our children.
Several child advocates have used this latest report to urge for greater intervention from the government. Certainly, government is important; it sets the legal and in some sense the moral environment in which people live. But, ultimately, it is parents who are responsible for the health and safety of their children. If we want to reverse the shocking statistics featured in the report, we need to begin, not with government and law, but with parents, families and communities.