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Kids in the Middle Research

Women’s Refuge has released a first of its kind research report into what children need to feel safe after family violence. Nineteen children aged 5-13 were interviewed by specialist researchers about their experiences of finding safety and support. All of the kids that took part in the research were forthcoming with their thoughts, feelings, and memories of being in Women’s Refuge safe houses or programmes. The children’s reflections of their time at Refuge prompted us to think differently about how kids cope with the aftermath of violence.

Sadly, family violence is a common occurrence in Aotearoa.

Every day in homes throughout the country our kids are seeing, hearing and, in some cases, getting caught in the middle of family violence. In New Zealand, children are present in about half of family violence callouts by police, and in around 70% of those households with violence children are also direct victims of some form of violence. Furthermore, almost two thirds of notifications to Oranga Tamariki are reported to have some family violence component.

Just under half of our clients are kids, so we’re working with and for them every day providing counselling, programs and one-on-one support where we can. Unfortunately we’re not funded for a lot of this work, even though it’s absolutely critical for breaking the cycle of violence and helping the smallest members of our society heal and grow.

Impacts of Family Violence on Children

Exposure to family violence has a significant impact on children’s lives and wellbeing.
Early onset and frequent and long-term exposure to family violence, amongst children, changes the neurological processes in their brains. This means that, without intervention, that violence can change the way children think, act and feel for the rest of their lives.

Breaking the Cycle

We know that loving, stable and secure home environments are the best circumstances for kid’s growth and development. On the other hand, living with violence creates a sense of fear, anxiety and stress. This means that children in homes characterised by frequent violence are constantly living in a state of hypersensitivity, always prepared for fight of flight.

The kids we work with tell us that they just want to be listened to, have their opinions, thoughts and ideas taken seriously. Recently, with a select number of children and their families in the care of Refuge, we have been following the children’s journeys, to better understand from their perspective what would best support their engagement with Refuge.

They need to be told what is going on. We need to be listening to, and supporting children who experience family in the ways that they need. To make this happen we need specialized and skilled child advocates to focus on working for and with them.

The Kids in the Middle project aims to provide every Refuge in New Zealand with a full-time child advocate to work for and with the kids.

The Ultimate Goal

With advocates in EVERY refuge we can:

  • Enhance existing policy and practice and programs we’ve developed and ensure these are aligned with evidence-based best practice research.
  • Support our advocates with the required knowledge, training and support mechanisms to ensure the kids we work with flourish, evaluate, enhance and expand the project, taking on new learnings and feedback to reach more kids that need our help

Click here to download the Kids in the Middle Research

Link to media release