Celebrating the theme that parenting is like navigating waters…

Becoming a parent has been an incredible ride, and nothing prepares you for it, that intense love you feel for the little creature you have created and the patience you have (at times). There are times when it is overwhelming, and when the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is so very true. Knowing when you need a break or to simply walk away, this takes supreme inner strength – and having the support to do it, is the most empowering thing in the world.  But unfortunately, not all parents have the luxury of wisdom and strength to know when to walk away, nor support on hand to be able to get away for their sanity.

In 2014 the New Zealand government introduced the Children’s Act. This act made sweeping changes to how the New Zealand government would protect vulnerable children, and help them to thrive, flourish and belong.

For me, this meant some changes, but it wasn’t just me. I’m a paramedic working on the ambulance front line. These changes affected everyone that comes into contact with children in the health, education, justice sectors and local and central governments. All these people had to be security vetted again. Training on how to identify vulnerable children and how to report such concerns were given.

New Zealand has horrific child abuse and child death rates. There is always something in the news about a child who has been taken to hospital with non-accidental injuries. It makes me so sad, and it makes me think how can one human do this to a defenceless child?

I have come to find that in an emergency, in the heat of the moment, the focus is on saving a life, and the finer details of what has happened are not shared, or they are withheld willingly.

Thankfully in all my years of prehospital work, I have only been involved in one serious case of inflicted injury on a baby. I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on with this baby at the time, but subconsciously I must have known. During the transport of this wee boy, I felt this overwhelming need to speak to him all the way to hospital, and shower him with love, reassurance and calming words. I was now his advocate, and his protector, and I would deliver him safe to my colleagues at the hospital emergency department so they could do all that they could do to keep him alive.

Thinking about what he had endured helped me find the strength and courage to attend court later when I was called as a witness in the accused’s trial. If this baby could have survived months of hate and abuse at the hands of the perpetrator, I could definitely give a day of my life to speak for him.

I am grateful for the opportunity that we as paramedics have – what I see as a special role. We make up a group of only a few outsiders who get to glimpse into the home when it hasn’t been prepared to be scrutinised. If my colleagues and their observations of a child can save them from abuse or worse, you can count on us.

Rebecca Gilroy

Visit the National Child Protection Week website

Right photo by Asad Photo Maldives obtained from Pexels. Used with permission.
Left photo by andres chaparro obtained from Pexels. Used with permission.