The following describes a unresolved Human Rights situation in New Zealand.
I never wanted our story to be discussed in a public arena but it appears I have exhausted every avenue to be heard. My daughter deserves better than what the New Zealand Government has dished out to her so here is our story.
In 1993 *Sarah was born at National Women’s Hospital. I had been told 4 weeks before that her head appeared very small on a late scan (lowest 3%- microcephaly). I was also told that this meant she might die at birth so on my due date I was booked into Waitakere Hospital for an induction, so that Sarah would not be further compromised by the birth. Short and sweet it was to be.
I had a history of long latent phases, so I had my GP and Dr. Belgrave both write letters to say that I was not to go any longer than 6 hours in labour without intervention. My first child took 4 days to be born, and my second took nearly 19 hours and was born only after the waters were broken artificially (ARM).
My second child was born at only 2500 (5 1/2 pounds) and he had no fat at all on him. His head and body were small and I was told by Waitakere Hospital that he was 1 ounce too heavy for an incubator so they would wrap him in a helmet, gloves and booties then in an extra blanket in his hospital crib so he wouldn’t lose body heat. The only inkling that there was anything wrong had been my GP’s comment a week before he was born that my blood pressure was now so high that he’d have to put me in hospital if I didn’t immediately go home for bedrest. Once my son was born the GP said nothing. Instead 2 concerned nurses came into my room and asked me if the GP had discussed “placental insufficiency” with me. They commented on my son’s small size and tiny dryish creases. When I told them the GP hadn’t said anything, they left. We went home at 8 days. I later discovered the birth file said that the hospital knew my son was too tired and wasn’t sucking well, but they let him go home thinking they’d see if we coped. No-one discussed this with me. My son cried for nearly 6 months. My new GP didn’t realise why.
I began contractions at midnight 11 July 1993. at 2 pm the next afternoon Waitakere Hospital decided that I should be sent into National Women’s Hospital. Sarah’s heart rate was 170 at the time of admission. The latent phase was allowed to continue from midnight on 11 July 1993 until about 1.10 am the next morning (25 hours) without any intervention at all. I asked for ARM and told them I had a history of long labours and that there were two letters on file saying I was to have intervention after 6 hours. Staff at about 9 pm on the 11th discussed this at a staff change over meeting. It was reported back to me that the baby was still so high up that there might be a risk of a cord prolapse if they did an ARM so they would not do one. (I told them I was definitely in labour and that my son had remained high up UNTIL the ARM was done. He had then descended within about ¾ of an hour and was born.) After this I was sent to a ward because although the contractions were regular the head was not applied so staff thought I wasn’t in enough pain to be in labour. I was given sleeping tablets but did not sleep due to pain. I have a high pain threshold.
A few hours later I was brought back to the delivery suite and given an epidural because of pain. Sarah was finally born at 2.40am on 12 July 1993, after waiting some 27 hours to get out. A CTG had been taken which showed that her heart rate had got to below 80 and it had not recovered from that at the end of the labour. When she was born the Hospital had to suction her out to get her to breathe and then do it once more in the first hour because she had mucous in her mouth and airway. Her Apgars were 9 and 10. She breathed at ¼ of a minute. When she was finally given to me she went really red and screwed up her face and cried. She grabbed the steel suctioning instrument out of the doctor’s hand and threw it across the room. The doctors were amazed that a newborn could do that. They said they’d never seen a baby do that. The Hospital file has codes on it to say that Sarah had fetal distress of indeterminate duration (but the 170 heart rate at 2pm the previous day hints that it was of long duration), meconium staining of the fetal waters and microcephaly as well as ‘apnoeas”. My blood pressure had been variable throughout the pregnancy ranging from 120/65 to 100/100 and was high at the time of admission. During the labour it was high. After Sarah was born I was kept on the epidural for 2 hours to keep it down because when Sarah was born it was 160/110. I spent about 4 days in a darkened room to ensure I didn’t have seizures myself. My blood pressure had not been managed with medication at all during the pregnancy. In fact the doctors seemed to believe that” toxaemia’ is normal, it’s eclampsia we need to constantly check for”.
At about 20 hours old Sarah turned bright red then blue and went rigid. She had froth coming out of clenched gums.
I have realised that what National Woman’s Hospital wrote up as ‘apnoeas’ was more likely to have been seizures and Dr. Knight has written to me accepting that this is possible.(None of their staff ever saw one).Sarah had about 8 attacks like this over a period of about 2 days so was put in the SCBU for 24 hours. She did not have one while in the incubator so was sent home at about 5or 6 days old. Hospital staff measured all our head sizes and took the TORCH tests for toxoplasmosis, Cytomegalovirus, rubella etc, but none of these were the cause and no firm diagnosis was made. Sarah was not discussed thoroughly at a discharge meeting with me as far as I remember although I was told she’d be followed up by Dr. Rowley at his 3 monthly clinics. I now know that if a baby suffers seizures within 24 hours of birth (in the case of full-term infants) in about 90 % of cases the baby has suffered some degree of anoxia during the delivery. It is very rare for a baby to go on to have seizures for no apparent reason. Only about 1 child per thousand has a seizure for any reason including a family tendency.
I went home with Sarah who that very night had another ‘apnoea’ and was sent by the after hours doctor to Starship Hospital. They did more blood tests as well as a lumbar puncture. Although I was not told at the time, their file says that Sarah had an apnoea when they did the lumbar puncture. She didn’t breathe for 10 seconds and turned ‘purple’ and was ‘stimulated to breathe”. She was put in an observation room and I was told not to help her if she stopped breathing. Instead, I was to press a red button on the wall and staff would come to observe her. After a few days we returned home without the ‘apnoeas/seizures” being seen because I had no-one to look after my son and the hospital wouldn’t arrange any care for him while I was expected to remain in hospital with Sarah. The hospital wrote this up as my having ‘social difficulties”. They did however, arrange for Dr. Tonkin their cot death expert to interview me and provide Sarah with a cot death monitor. She was on it for 6 months. It went off during that time.
At 2 months old Sarah caught chicken pox from her brother who was at school. She was seen at Dunedin hospital. Professor Holdaway wrote in 1994 that Sarah had a ‘long seizure” at the time. By now Sarah had developed projectile vomiting of most feeds too. I was having to feed her 3 times at each feed to keep one feed down. I was exhausted. There was still no discussion with me about why Sarah was having seizures when one or two other family members had small heads but none of them had ever had seizures or apnoeas associated with this.
At 3 months Sarah was seen at Dr. Rowley’s clinic by a locum named Dr. Maisie Wong. Despite the information she was given about Sarah she decided to dump her off the paediatric list at 3 months old after one check-up. This wasn’t even talked over with me. This was not normal practice. I told her about the vomiting and asked if Sarah could have a surgical repair. She told me that even if I had to feed Sarah 3 times for each feed so long as she was putting weight on they wouldn’t do anything. I argued with her that this was unreasonable but she ignored me.
I moved to Dunedin to be near my family and the University. I was completely unaware of why ‘placental insufficiency’ or ‘microcephaly” might significantly affect two of my children, because no-one warned me. Sarah continued to have seizures until finally her Dunedin hospital file said that she had a history of epilepsy. After one seizure she had Todd’s Paralysis for two hours down her left side and developed a stammer and on some days she would rhyme what you said to her instead of repeating it. She tells me she still has days when she cannot hear properly although her hearing is normal. Later it was decided that she probably had an auditory processing disorder which affects how her brain interprets what she hears. Some days at Kindergarten she was unintelligible.
Sarah was referred to Professor Holdaway when she was having seizures and her GP Dr. Wayne Morris thought her weight gains were a bit low. She had a milk allergy so that was sorted quite well, but she continued to have seizures. Dunedin Hospital did not realise for some time that they had given Sarah TWO Health Numbers so they didn’t have all of Sarah’s information in one place. Things became confusing.
Sarah had grommets and a tonsillectomy once her GP realised she was having high fevers (a family trait) about once a fortnight, to prevent seizures.
I asked Dr. Holdaway if he would request Sarah’s birth file from Auckland because I had spoken to his registrar of 14 years Dr. Giles Bates. Dr. Bates had filled in for Dr. Holdaway several times. He had said to me one day that I was lucky. I asked him what he was talking about. He told me that parents with epileptic children whose epilepsy ran in the family had to rely upon Social Welfare for assistance. He said I was lucky because ACC would pay for Sarah because of the birth. He asked me why I should be so lucky. I told him that I didn’t stuff up the birth (my birth plan was totally ignored) the hospital did. I don’t feel “lucky’ over this.
I asked Professor Holdaway to make an ACC claim for Sarah. He said he wouldn’t cause trouble for another hospital. He told me that if I was ever concerned about Sarah’s development I could refer her to the Child Development Clinic, but he didn’t tell me what to watch for or how to make a referral. He told me that he’d make sure she’d now get the best of medical care. I believe he probably thought you can trade off an ACC claim. In any case it was soon obvious that she was never going to get the best of medical care from Dunedin Hospital. In November 1996 Sarah was referred by Dr. Bates to a psychologist. However they did nothing until January 1998 when they finally assessed her. Even the non-urgent waiting list was only meant to be one month long.
Sarah attended home based care through Origin’s
Daycare for about 2-21/2 years while I attended University.
I intended to become an Educational Psychologist
and passed my degree rather well. Sometimes she clung
to my legs when I left her at the day-carer’s
house and sometimes she told me she didn’t
want to go. I was told to drop her off and not make
a big deal of it because all pre-schoolers do that.
The day-carer wasn’t pleased if parents turned
up early and despite the Home Based Care order etc,
she once told me that an ERO inspector named Jane,
who was a friend of hers was doing a spot-check,
so she said you’ll have to keep Sarah home
that day or I’ll have too many children. Sarah
had also said the carer kept a pot of pepper in her
car for the twins at day-care who habitually bit
the other children. Sarah had been bitten on one
occasion and had come home from day-care on one occasion
with a toenail completely ripped off after the carer
opened a playhouse door on Sarah’s foot. The
carer didn’t mention the injury. Sarah was
glued to her socks with blood when I got her home.
I rang Sue at Origins because they do not have a
street address for complaints (breaches the H.B.C.order).
I told her it was unacceptable that Sarah had been
bitten and that sick children still attended… She
said it was acceptable to her because the twins should
be allowed to practice their ‘social skills’ on
the other children! I said, not on my daughter they
don’t. The day-carer was a respite carer for
Dunedin hospital and she once had Sarah for 8 days
and nights respite care.
In June 1997 Sarah had been at day-care in the morning and kindergarten that afternoon Three of us were in the car with her as we took her up town that night to buy her some new shoes. She began screaming in the car that her arm hurt. She told us that it probably hurt because the bun that the day-carer had force-fed her earlier must have travelled to her arm. We took her to the After Hours Doctors who confirmed that Sarah had two blood blisters inside her throat consistent with force-feeding. She never went back to day-care.
I had lectures the next day so Sarah’s father looked after her. He received two phone calls, one from Sue at Origins and the other from the day-carer. Both wanted to know why Sarah wasn’t coming back. That evening when he told me the day-carer claimed the twins had held Sarah down and forced hot chips down Sarah’s throat, Sarah screamed over and over again she’s lying mummy.
I reported the physical abuse to Dr. Clarkson who had taken over from Professor Holdaway and who had rapidly diagnosed Sarah as suffering from severe ADHD.I told him that the day-carer was a hospital respite carer. For the next 4 months the CAFS Social worker rang me up every now and then to ask for the name of the abuser. I asked whether the Hospital would do anything about the Bates referral which I had never heard anything about. The social worker laughed and told me they dealt with suicidal teenagers. She said YOUR children are a really low priority, so I refused to give the abuser’s name. The day-carer was not vetted before doing respite care for the hospital as far as I know so if Sarah went to her house without knowing that and was abused, the Hospital is partly to blame. But they took no responsibility. At about this time, Dr. Trevor Silverstone had an interview with me after I had repeatedly asked for assistance and a diagnosis for Sarah. He told me ‘we all know” you’re making this up to get back at the hospital for leaving Sarah so long on the waiting list. I told him no decent parent would do such a thing. It turned out that Dr. Holdaway’s promises of the best of medical care had been replaced by a letter to the Child Psychiatrist suggesting that ‘I have a feeling we may be over-treating this child”. He had denied us a diagnosis or an ACC claim as well as appropriate follow up for Sarah then hinted that I was making everything up.
I had requested Sarah’s birth files for him to review and he had failed to do anything.
On about 16 october we made a formal complaint to Dunedin hospital about the referrals and sarah’s strange behaviour. Referrals were made by the hospital to Social Worker Judy Firestone at the Vera Hayward Child Development Clinic and to Ms. Maryanne Pease at specialist Education services, finally. Judy firestone interviewed us then told us Sarah looked as if she had good fine and gross motor skills so Sarah didn’t need the clinic. It was never her job to do this. Normally occupational therapists and physiotherapists do these assessments. We complained and Dunedin Hospital ignored us. I believe she was told to refuse the service to Sarah because they believed Sarah “only’ had severe ADHD.Ms. pease took 2 months to action this urgent referral. She observed Sarah at Kelsey Yaralla Kindergarten and realised she was eligible for Early Intervention but decided to deny her access to it. This may have been because with the introduction of Population Based Funding SES lost $750,000 per annum so the paediatrician didn’t diagnose so as to avoid placing pressure on SES funding. This breaches doctor’s ethics as well as patients rights. Ms. Pease told me years later that Sarah ‘didn’t look too different to the other children”, so she didn’t include her. Remember the birth? The contract SES had covered children just like Sarah. So as usual nothing at all happened.
In October 1997, Sarah finally felt safe after being away from the carer for 4 months and asking if she would ever go back, to tell us about being forced to watch pornography ( women biting each others breasts and moaning and men and women licking all sorts of things). She also told us she’d had toys put inside her front and back, then been forced to play with them. She told us the abuser told her that her parents knew about the abuse and sent her to the woman’s house for it to happen. She undressed Sarah and tongue kissed her. She told her that she took naked photos of Sarah because her friends liked that sort of thing. She talked of force-feeding when not hungry alternated with starving when she was. She has repeatedly told us of being forced to eat an orange with the skin on and being humiliated and fearing the abuser would kill her. At one point she did a bit of a pole dance when out in public. She also regressed into nappies. When either parent changed her we were “flashed’ and we had to avoid having our faces licked or Sarah’s attempts to tongue kiss us. She was traumatised and began defecating in cupboards and under tables.
We reported the verbal allegations Sarah had made about the day-carer to Dr.Clarkson. He made a notification to CYFS asking for a ‘diagnostic interview’ rather than a single evidential interview as would be normal practice when a child has named the abuser and clearly described the abuse. He also mentioned developmental delay (as if it was a symptom of abuse from home rather than the direct result of the birth and Dunedin Hospital’s refusal to do anything at all for Sarah).
CYFS corresponded with Mr.Gerrard Kenny, the Hospital’s care and protection co-ordinator. Brian Mouncey wrote to him saying that CYFS were understaffed (due to branch overspending in the 1996-97 year which resulted in staff reductions and illegally ‘raising the thresholds” of which notifications CYFS would deal with). Mr. Mouncey asked Mr. Kenny if it would be alright for Sarah to be a 28 day priority (the lowest- she should have had evidential interviews within 24-48 hours) and then wait at least 12 weeks for her case to be allocated to a social worker. Mr. Kenny’s comment to Dr. Clarkson was that this wasn’t acceptable. I don’t understand why neither CYFS nor Dunedin Hospital would a) correctly prioritise Sarah and b) refer her case on to the police once they realised she faced huge delays. If an adult was assaulted or raped they wouldn’t be told that they’re safe now so go home and wait 4-5 months before we begin an investigation. We were told to write down every allegation while trying not to look shocked. A social worker eventually told me they simply hadn’t got around to Sarah. I contacted CYFS a few times asking for interviews sooner. Eventually, the last great Children’s Commissioner Mr. Laurie O’Reilly told CYFS to get on with Sarah’s investigation.
During the 4-5 month wait, CYFS posted me out
research consent and information forms in case
I was interested
in Sarah participating in Thelma Gay Patterson’s
Ph.D research into the best ways to interview children
who ‘may’ have been abused. The agreement
between CYFS interviewer Ms. Penny Salmond and Ms.
Patterson was that if a parent had already signed
a research consent form or had clearly expressed
interest in their child participating in this research
and was known to be about to sign up then Ms. Salmond
would invite Ms. Patterson along to that child’s
interviews at CYFS.
Ignoring my obvious disinterest, CYFS must have invited the researcher to Sarah’s interviews anyway. I took Sarah to CYFS Elliott Street branch for interviews in February and March 1998. When we arrived the researcher was already there with the CYFS interviewer. The interviewer introduced me to the researcher. I realised who she was since she was standing there with a large T.V. type camera and immediately said to her what are you doing here? She told me that someone else that was interviewed that day had given permission for their child to participate, so she’d decided to wait for us. This breached the CYFS and Otago University agreement and the Research Protocols about how the research was to be conducted.
I told her that I had not returned the forms and she admitted knowing this but she would not leave. Instead she tried for the next hour or so to convince and persuade me to sign the research consent for Sarah when I had no intention to do so. First, the CYFS interviewer told me that I must sign the consent because it would show how well she interviewed the children. I refused, then. the researcher Thelma Gay Patterson tried to talk me around by asking what specific concerns I had. I mentioned Sarah’s privacy and told her about a friend of mine whose boyfriend suffered a head injury while studying at Teacher’s College in Dunedin. He had been interviewed by a head injury expert on video. His girlfriend was later sitting in a Psychology lecture where this tape was played. In it he mentioned that since the injury he was no longer sure of his feelings for my friend. I thought it significant that the same Department now wanted to videotape my daughter after such long delays by CYFS anyway. In my opinion crime is such a personal issue that Universities should always consider fully what will happen to the victim before interfering in their chance to give evidence. Penny Salmond had spoken to me at the beginning of the notification process. She had told me she was an Evidential interviewer. Although I didn’t know at the time that there was also a Diagnostic category of interviews that CYFS conduct when a child is not doing well but has made no verbal allegation about abuse. My expectation was that when we went to CYFS that day Sarah was going to give evidence. Ms. Salmond never told me anything different.
I also had my own concerns on the day. The only reason CYFS had finally interviewed Sarah after 5 months was because the Children’s Commissioner forced them to do so after I complained to him that CYFS had ignored my requests to interview Sarah sooner. We had listened to allegations by Sarah for all those months with no support so on the day of Sarah’s interviews I asked if I could sit in on the interviews to support her. Ms. Salmond had already shown me the interview room, monitor’s room and the clock which had to be shown for the whole interview. She had not explained why the researcher was there without our prior knowledge or consent. She was intent on getting a research participant. When I asked about supporting Sarah she told me I would not be able to be seen or speak to Sarah if I was in the room. I agreed to this, then the process completely fell apart because the interviewer and the researcher; realising that after caring for Sarah as she suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder over the abuse, I was desperate to support her on the day of the interviews and listen to what Sarah told them so that I could support her recovery after the evidence was given; told me that I would only know what went on in the interview room if I signed the research consent forms. The researcher said that if I did so she would let me see Sarah’s videotaped interviews ‘anytime”. I argued with them, asking the CYFS interviewer why as Sarah’s mother I was not allowed to be in the room to support her while they were going to let the researcher, a total stranger to Sarah, sit in on her interviews anyway. There is no way after they both heard me say that, that they could possibly believe I wanted my daughter to participate in research.
We reached an impasse. The CYFS interviewer and the University of Otago researcher were, it turns out, well aware of the Evidence (Videotaping of Child Complainants) Regulations 1990 and the Joint agreement between the Police and CYFS which clearly regulates how these interviews are to be run. At no stage was I told anything about them though. The regulations say that CYFS may, in the case of children with disabilities, trauma or second languages be supplied with a support person once the CYFS interviewer agrees upon this with their Supervisor. I had requested to be Sarah’s support person. If CYFS had a valid reason why I couldn’t do it why didn’t they tell me they had the power to appoint one? The Joint Agreement clearly states that ALL evidential AND diagnostic interviews MUST be VIDEOTAPED, UNLESS it is IMPOSSIBLE to do so, in which case transcripts and audiotapes are to be kept instead. Did the presence of the researcher make Ms. Penny Salmond think that in Sarah’s case these regulations ceased to apply? Section 10 of the regulations gives Sarah and her legal representative the RIGHT to see the videotaped interviews ‘anytime”. CYFS and the researcher both failed to advise me of information that I would consider significant before telling me that the only way I would ever know what Sarah disclosed was by agreeing to the researcher being there. As Sarah’s parent, I am her legal representative. The Joint Agreement agrees that the local Police Commander and the local CYFS Manager are jointly responsible to interview child victim’s of abuse in the correct (and timely) way.
After the misrepresentations about my being unable to be a support person for my daughter and the inducement that was offered that I would be able to see the tapes after the interviews, I signed the research consent. At this point, the two women had spent about an hour trying to convince me. The researcher, as far as I know, did not amend the form to reflect the fact that I was induced to sign it with lies and pressure. It was in no way voluntary or an informed consent. I had not had a full explanation of what I signed and thought at that point that the researcher was telling me she was going to video Sarah for a few minutes before her interviews with Ms. Salmond, then compare those videos with whatever Sarah disclosed. My daughter claims to this day that the researcher was in the actual interview room with her and Ms. Salmond. She tells me that she tried to tell Ms.Salmond about the day-carer, but was repeatedly told she would be allowed to talk about her next time. Sarah says next time never came despite her having about 3 hours of ‘diagnostic interviews”. Instead she was subjected to repeated questioning about whether Mum, Dad or her brother had abused her. I don’t think Ms.Salmond could accept that a female day-carer could abuse a child.
After the third interview Ms. Salmond had a very aggressive interview with me at which she made wild accusations that she bet I was a ‘basher’ and her father was a ‘sexual abuser”. She told me Sarah had said I hit her with a bobbled (studded) belt. Since I have never owned one I said so. Remember this was in 1998 and the CYFS interviewer thought then that smacking a child made you an abuser. In the context of the repeal of section 59 New Zealand parents will be jailed for smacking if CYFS reaction back then is anything to go by. She went on to tell me that Sarah could not possibly have ‘severe ADHD’ because she dealt with children like that all the time and they were climbing the walls. She said Sarah wasn’t so she didn’t believe she had ADHD.I told her that it was diagnosed by a Paediatrician (Dr. Clarkson) so she had no right to decide otherwise. So Ms. Salmond would never have thought to herself that Sarah might need a support person because she treated parents as if they were liars. She also read out part of the interview transcripts. I was shocked to hear that she had repeatedly asked Sarah whether daddy does rude things to you. Ms. Salmond claimed that when Sarah turned her back to her and scribbled on the blackboard she asked Sarah what she was doing. Sarah’s reply was that she was ‘writing’ I love my Dad. Ms. Salmond’s response was to tell me that this meant her father HAD abused her. I find that a leap of fancy. Best practice I have since found out is not to ask about who does rude things because ‘rude” could mean swearing, raising one’s voice or anything.
Once outside the last interview,
me she never wanted to speak to Ms. Penny Salmond
She said she’d tried to tell but was told “next
time’ but next time never came. She told me
Ms. Salmond kept asking did Mum or Dad or your brother
do it until Sarah got sick of it. She also said that
she was afraid because the abuser was a female and
she was being interviewed by two women either of
whom could have told the abuser what she said (she
was afraid of being killed) so she decided to clam
up. She also told me that because of her stammer
(from the seizures) she had made a mistake when trying
to say that the abuser (whose name began with M)
had smacked her with a bobbled belt. She said it
had come out wrong and she’d said M-m-Mum instead
of the person’s name.
Sarah had 4 years of play therapy. CYFS delays and the browbeating they had given her and the illegal interference in her opportunity to give evidence and have a prosecution, as well as Sarah’s ongoing trauma had made it almost impossible to now get evidence that could stand up in Court. I think it is reasonable to say that when the CYFS interviewer decided to invite the researcher to Sarah’s interviews without any consent prior to the day she abused the information she had about us to give a third party an advantage (especially since the researcher was awarded her Ph.D after this debacle).This in itself breaches the Crimes Act 1961.The researcher also took advantage of us by the torts of deceit and misrepresentation as well as breach of privacy.
For the next 8 years I have awaited results to my complaints to nearly all of the Commissioners and a communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee that they admit a staff member trashed because he didn’t understand it. I have even petitioned parliament who sent it to the Social Services Select Committee (after I requested that it go to the Justice Select Committee). The Committee claimed I have exhausted all domestic remedies, but Mr. Schmidt at the U.N. office in Geneva has denied this so he can continue to ignore my communication. I have had several lawyers, who have requested that they or I be allowed to view CYFS videotaped interviews of Sarah so that a court can review CYFS wrong decisions. They have been obstructed by CYFS who claim to have destroyed Sarah’s tapes and transcripts illegally (since they MUST be kept for at least 7 years).The University of Otago claims to have videotaped all of Sarah’s interviews and claim they own them. They told the Privacy Commissioner that it would not be in Sarah’s best interests if I was allowed as her parent, to ask a court to review how a crime could be committed against her then no-one did their job to gain evidence to prosecute the perpetrator. The university took a complaint from me about the researchers misconduct but ignored their own policy on dealing with such issues by appointing 3 lawyers for a preliminary investigation, failing to allow me to know the researchers response to the complaint, failing to give me a copy of the misconduct policy, then writing to me to say that ‘while it was preferable to get my consent well prior’ to the interview day, since the research protocols did not specifically exclude what she did it must be okay. Silly me, I thought with vulnerable participants the protocols would prescribe what the researcher was allowed to do, not give her carte blanche to do whatever she liked. I note that despite numerous requests to view these amazing research protocols I have been ignored. This is not a fair process.
I also requested a copy of the thesis which someone else finally gave me at the end of 2005. It clearly documents the decision to keep 7 children in the research once it was realised they needed evidential interviews because the researcher thought it would be interesting to see if they disclosed again in the research situation. Sarah had a doctor’s report of physical abuse, had disclosed verbally naming the abuser and I had been told to write down allegations she made while waiting on CYFS. Sarah was deliberately made a low priority to become a research participant. It discusses the poor technique of the CYFS interviewer and the ‘rude’ line of questioning and bemoans the sad fact that in a 2 year period the researcher only managed to get 26 children to participate. I wonder how many did so voluntarily? She also admits that ‘background reports” were made up on each child and their family ( probably in our case this came from the Kindergarten and Dunedin Hospital) The researcher admits asking the CYFS interviewer whether it was likely that the child was abused or not on the basis of what was in those reports. I suspect that this was what caused Ms.Salmond to “go off on a tangent.” Dr. Clarkson should have told me if a background report on us was going to CYFS because he knew full well that Sarah had said her day-carer had abused her. There was no need to spread tentacles into all of our lives. After the wrong things Dunedin Hospital had done to Sarah, this presented perhaps an opportunity to cause trouble for us and muddy the waters around the issue of abuse occurring while Sarah was at respite care for 8 days at the abuser’s house because of her ADHD. There are comments on CYFS file about my always “splitting and complaining” to Dr. Clarkson. Another doctor told me once that Dr. Clarkson told them I spoke quickly when upset so he’d written me off as ‘mental”. I have since had my daughter’s case reviewed and she was wrongly diagnosed as ‘severe ADHD’. She is 13 now with the comprehension of a 16 year old and the spelling/ reading levels of an 8 year old. She didn’t get decent needs assessments of any early intervention or other special education assistance because the Hospital seem to have agreed with SES to do nothing. For several years Sarah had pica which meant trips to hospital for seizures as well as overdoses. I was blamed by the hospital because they would not go back and look at all the birth information again. In 6 % of people a small head can be normal, but it can also result from severe untreated blood pressure problems that remain untreated during pregnancy in a tiny number of cases. Seizures do not normally occur in those children but are common in anoxia at birth. These children need follow up because 30-40% of them go on to have Specific Learning Disabilities caused by the neurological accident. Sarah is one of them. Special Education 2000 has excluded all of these children as have the hospitals. How can the Government continue to tell the UNCROC Committee that no child under 16 pays for disability support when this happens to children? It is the same for Autistic children who are not IHC also. SE2000 was decided to be unlawful so why is this still happening to children like Sarah? After 4 years at school it was discovered she had learnt only 6 months of learning. Dr. Clarkson and Holdaway missed it all. Yesterday I was told by a hospital social worker that the Hospital will not assist Sarah. The man claimed it will take years to go through the Courts and the hospital will only settle once they’re subpoened. After speaking to me like that, I doubt their chances of ‘settling”.
The police tell me I cannot complain to them about CYFS because they must keep working with CYFS under the Joint Agreement. They have told me however, that about the time my daughter’s notification was received, police had realised that the evidential interviews done by CYFS were so poorly done that they were being laughed out of court so ‘about” that time, Ms. Salmond was told not to do any more evidential ones. If this affected Sarah’s priority however, I would have expected the police to ask for serious notifications to be referred directly to them instead. The police only do about 2 videotaped children’s interviews per month.
The most interesting experience I have had with lawyers over this was one in Invercargill who spent $4,000 of my money then told me he usually represents sexual abusers so he did not want me to succeed in any case where I could prove that CYFS were incompetent. He plaintively asked what defence will my other clients have then? The local Law Society agreed with him.
I have visited CYFS head office in Wellington
and made local complaints which were never
allowed to go through the normal complaints
O’Neill and Ms. Jackie Pivac both told me things
that turned out to be untrue, while forgetting to
mention the existence of the Evidence Regulations
and the Joint Agreement.
As for Sarah she is going off to high school next year. I have been given the name of a lawyer who understands the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and who would be appalled to think that any child was stripped of their right to give evidence about a serious crime committed against them because CYFS, the University of Otago and Dunedin Hospital all wanted academic glory or to save money.
If you have any comments, please email me.