Social Work Now, Issue 38, pages 5-10.
Infants are one of the most vulnerable groups of children referred to statutory child welfare systems, a fact research continues to reinforce. The average annual rate of child maltreatment deaths in New Zealand for children under one year is 4.6 deaths per 100,000, more than three times higher than the one to four year old age group, and eight times higher than for children in the five to 14 year age group (CYF & MSD, 2006; Connolly & Doolan, 2007). Further, a child’s early experiences shape almost all aspects of their development (Harbison, Parnes & Macomber, 2007). Reducing infant abuse and neglect is therefore critically important when working with vulnerable infants and their families.
To better understand the needs of vulnerable infants when they come to the notice of Child, Youth and Family (CYF) considering in particular the age and needs of parents, the concerns that formed the basis of the notification, the needs of the infants, and the relationships between family members and interventions, we broadly examined the case files of 171 infants who were notified to CYF in the year 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.
Because of the particular significance of early attachment for these vulnerable babies (Knitzer & Lefkowitz, 2006), it was important that we paid particular attention to those children in the sample who were placed in care. We therefore constructed the sample to evenly represent three groups:
- infants whose notifications resulted in a care placement
- a group where, on receipt of a referral, it was determined that no further action was required
- children where there was intervention following investigation that did not involve care.
As a whole, this sample over-represents cases where we take no further action and those cases where children are taken into care, and under-represents those circumstances where there is intervention that does not involve a care placement.