Thursday, 1 September 2016

“Vulnerable Children”: What’s in a name?


The word “vulnerable” comes from the Latin vulnerabilis meaning ‘to wound.’ It means, or meant until coopted by the State, something that was in danger of damage, exposed to attack, in peril against some specific harm.

These days however the thing that’s most “in peril” is a child in danger of an interference of social workers descending upon them. So pity the poor child (and his parents) who attract the attention of the now-renamed Ministry for Vulnerable Children.

The very name just sounds Kafkaesque, doesn’t it. A whole Ministry of State to deal with (deal to?) children it identifies as “vulnerable.”

When formerly used “vulnerable” meant something exposed to some specific danger. But dangers now are just general, anything attracting the attention or redefinition of today’s social worker. So I was surprised to see welfare campaigner Lindsay Mitchell supporting the rewording, and I confess I’m not sure of her reasoning.

But she has done a powerful job of translating the other name by which the commentariat would like to call it: Oranga Tamariki. This translates as … well, something you’ll have to head to Lindsay’s post to find out. (But it’s well worth the trip.)



  1. PC said: "When formerly used “vulnerable” meant something exposed to some specific danger."

    That's my understanding of it. Thousands of children are exposed to specific danger - many even before they are born. The specific danger of fetal alcohol syndrome, exposure to P (though that is less understood) and extraneous physical violence to the mother. From birth, to the specific danger of being willfully shaken to death. Once ambulant, to the specific danger of being physically caught up in physical inter-'parental' (used loosely) violence (not to mention the psychological harm in witnessing it).

    (Optimistically?) I see the renaming as a stated intention to hone in on those actually vulnerable children who represent only a very small percentage.

    Out of interest, in the absence of parent and wider family ability, who would a libertarian task the protection of children to?

    1. Hi Lindsay. libertarians believe that people should be free to do whatever they like providing it doesn't have a harmful affect on others and it is the legitimate function of gov't to create laws that protect our individual rights and protect us from those that want to inflict harm on us whether we are adults or children.


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