Teachers need more information about vulnerable or abused children who often require special attention at school, a Western Bay principal says.
"We get some children who have been sexually abused [and] physically abused that we just don't know about," Tahatai Coast School principal Jenny Griggs said.
"If the schools who have got those children don't know, it's really hard. Anything to help better co-ordination between agencies and people is good."
A database designed to identify the country's most vulnerable children and families was one of the key initiatives announced in the Government's White Paper, released yesterday.
Community organisations, teachers, doctors and Child, Youth and Family workers will have access to the database, which will register between 20,000 and 30,000 vulnerable people.
Users will be able to view a child's case and compare their own notes with those of other professionals working with that child.
Mrs Griggs said teachers would definitely find the database useful.
"It is essential that we have open lines of communication. And if schools are aware of children's emotional needs, then they'll be able to cater for them," she said.
The database is part of a raft of legal reforms planned to tackle child cruelty in New Zealand over the next five years.
It was developed by the University of Auckland, which assessed 52,000 children over a five-year period whose parent or parents were on a benefit.
New Zealand Medical Association chairman Paul Ockelford said the information-sharing system was a step in the right direction.
"I think we see the focus on better information sharing ... to capture information on neglected, abused, at-risk children as a real positive. It should provide an early alert system to be able to detect those who are most at risk."
Plans to red-flag child abusers were included in the paper. Measures such as protection orders for potential abusers and alerts for high-risk adults who move into homes with children were outlined.
However, the initiatives stopped short of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse cases.
"[Social Development Minister Paula Bennett] obviously shied away from mandatory reporting because of some potential concerns in some countries of what that has been, both from the point of view of under-reporting and possibly over-reporting the ... false-positives," Dr Ockelford said.
Progress checks on the new database and information sharing system would be crucial to measuring its success, he said.
Use of the database will be strictly monitored, with penalties for any inappropriate use.
The White Paper plan
- Database of 30,000 vulnerable children and families. Available to teachers, social workers and health workers.
- Child Abusers: protection orders preventing them from accessing children. Alerts across agencies if potential abusers move into a home with a child.
- Local Children's Teams which can award contracts for services targeting children.
- Extra training for people working with children to assist in identifying vulnerable children.
- Legislation formalising the screening process of people who work with children.
- Register of pre-approved iwi caregivers who can take in children of the same tribe.
- Added financial assistance for grandparents raising grandchildren and other next-of-kin carers.