Source: (2006) Social Policy Journal of New Zealand. 27:57-76.

This paper describes some approaches to addressing maltreatment of children in OECD countries and explores whether these approaches could be used to improve outcomes in New Zealand. Comparisons are made between the Anglo-American model of child protection, which New Zealand uses, and the Continental European model of family services. The child protection model is based on the adversarial legal approach, where social workers’ focus is on removing the child from potentially harmful family situations and gathering evidence for legal proceedings. The family services model is focused on maintaining the family unit wherever possible, and the social workers work with families to sort out their problems. This model uses the inquisitorial legal approach, where specially trained judges lead teams of social workers to help the child by enabling changes in family circumstances to equip parents to meet their obligations to their children. New Zealand’s use of Family Group Conferences, which is developed from an indigenous Mäori structure, is more akin to the family services approach. This is because it encourages early intervention, with a wide whänau/family focus, without the need for gathering legally admissible evidence. However, if New Zealand wanted to adopt a more holistic family services approach to child protection, there would need to be a substantial theoretical and procedural shift from seeking to punish “unsafe” families to ensuring parents are assisted to meet their obligations regarding the wellbeing and safety of their children. (author's abstract)

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