Oranga Tamariki uplift practices: media, advocacy, reviews
Fri 28 Jun 2019
Many calls for change to the Ministry of Children - Oranga Tamariki's practice have come following Newsroom's coverage of an attempted uplift ...
Many calls for change to the Ministry of Children - Oranga Tamariki's practice have come following Newsroom's coverage of an attempted uplift of a Māori newborn baby at Hawke's Bay Hospital.
Oranga Tamariki stated their concerns in the Hawke's Bay case were: family violence by the father against the mother, cannabis/drug use by the father, "lack of parenting skills" and transient home environments. The mother's family dispute that evidence.
Newsroom reported the baby's mother is 19 years old and the father 17 years old. The mother had a previous baby with the same father removed from her when she was 17. That child is in the temporary care of a British couple. Newsroom understood Oranga Tamariki was planning to place her newborn baby with the same couple.
The Government has announced three separate reviews, to be conducted by Oranga Tamariki, the Children's Commissioner and the Chief Ombudsman.
North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has announced a Māori-led inquiry into the Ministry of Children - Oranga Tamariki. Further detail on all the inquiries is below.
Calls by advocates
Te Ao Pēpi, a group borne out of the Hawke's Bay uplift attempt which includes a number of prominent Māori leaders, has called for a number of actions including:
- An inquiry by independent persons to look into the Hawke's Bay case, with the persons appointed and Terms of Reference to be agreed by the Prime Minister’s Office, representatives of the mother, and the Children’s Commissioner
- An inquiry by independent persons and/or a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the overall processes, policies and conduct of the Ministry (noting the two current inquiries before the Waitangi Tribunal, for Māori)
- A discussion on resourcing to address the flood of "dozens of calls and emails, all from desperate, desperate women wanting help in relation to their situations" members are Te Ao Pēpi are receiving
- A review of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, with the objective of an overhaul of the entire system: "Māori are to design their own system of support and intervention for their own people."
The lawyer who acted for the mother in Hawke's Bay, Janet Mason, has expressed her view that the making of many orders to uplift newborn babies ex parte (i.e. without notice to the mother or whānau) are not justified and she expects court action.
Lawyer David Stone has written an article describing some of the stories he has been told. He is preparing an application for an urgent hearing to the Waitangi Tribunal about this issue.
- not one child is removed by the State from their whakapapa context of whānau, hapū, iwi
- the current system overseen by the Ministry of Children be "restructured in line with Kaupapa Māori and strengths based approaches that ensure tamariki remain connected to their whānau"
- during the restructuring, a Māori transition panel be put in place to oversee all of the Ministry’s activities in regards to tamariki Māori.
The group has also organised a rally for Tuesday 30 July 2019 at Parliament.
Chair of the Māori Council and Ngā Ngaru, Matthew Tukaki, called for a number of actions including:
• A jointly develop service delivery model
• A jointly developed workforce development plan
• A jointly developed community and Māori engagement plan
The Backbone Collective of survivors of violence against women states it fully supports and endorses the open letter from Te Ao Pēpi and calls for:
- The urgent establishment of interim measures to keep women and children safe in family violence and child protection cases being brought before the Family Court.
- The urgent establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the processes, procedures, conduct and culture of the Family Court and Oranga Tamariki in relation to cases of family violence and child protection, with powers to subpoena witnesses, interview judges and officials and review case files.
Co-founder Ruth Herbert has also written a piece about patterns the Backbone Collective has observed in the hundreds of stories they have heard from women about how the state funded system responds to family violence.
Further analyses and comments are available in the media list below.
Internal review by Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children
Minister for Children Tracey Martin announced an internal review of Oranga Tamariki. The review will focus only on the case in Hawke's Bay. The terms of reference for the review state: "The review will be led by senior staff from the Oranga Tamariki Practice Advice and Māori Practice Advice teams (the PPG reviewers) with the oversight of the Chief Social Worker/Deputy Chief Executive Professional Practice." The Children’s Commissioner will also provide input into the design, progress and findings.
Tracey Martin said "A person appointed by Ngāti Kahungunu and with the relevant expertise, mana and connection will provide independent oversight. The Ministry is waiting for Ngāti Kahungunu to confirm who they wish to take on that role."
For more information listen to a Radio NZ interview with Tracey Martin.
Children's Commissioner review
The Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft has announced that his Office will conduct a thematic review of Oranga Tamariki’s policies, processes and practice relating to care and protection issues for tamariki Māori aged 0-3 months. The review will not consider the recent case in Hawke's Bay.
Update: The Office of the Children's Commissioner has published details about the scope of the review.
Investigation by the Chief Ombudsman
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has announced that he will conduct an investigation into the steps Oranga Tamariki takes when any newborn babies are removed (not only Māori babies). The Supplementary information attached to the media release provides an overview of the investigation purpose and process.
The Government recently announced changes to oversight for the child care and protection system. This included additional powers for the Chief Ombudsman to provide enhanced complaints oversight and investigations relating to Oranga Tamariki. In his full media release, the Ombudsman noted that these powers come into effect on 1 July 2019 and he felt it was important to start looking at this issue immediately. The Ombudsman anticipates the investigation will be completed and reported back to Parliament this year.
Comments by the Prime Minister
Responses to the government reviews
After Minister Tracey Martin announced the first internal review by Oranga Tamariki, the mother's lawyer, Janet Mason, said the whānau was unhappy as they had sought an independent review. She said, "It is akin to leaving Dracula in charge of the blood bank."
Backbone Collective co-founder Ruth Herbert also raised concerns about the limitations of the Children's Commissioner and Ombudsman reviews.
The North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency's Māori-led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki is driven and supported by Māori leaders including Dame Tariana Turia, Emeritus Professor Sir Mason Durie, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Sir Toby Curtis, Sir Wira Gardiner, Dame Naida Glavish, and Dame June Mariu. In relation to the government reviews, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said:
"... that's all very fine, but it's not by Māori for Māori - which is the difference between the hui we're calling. I can assure you that when we set our terms of reference, believe me the Family Court will not be something we are going to leave out. It’s vital. It really is a crucial part of uplifting and taking the children. So we'll be looking at all areas to do with uplifting the children and that has to be one of them."
The inquiry will be launched at a national hui on 13 July 2019 at Ngā Whare Waatea Marae, Māngere. Māori organisations or individuals wanting to attend can RSVP by email to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.
On 28 June 2019, in response to the significant recent public interest, Oranga Tamariki published a range of information and data about babies and children being taken into state care.
For further updates, see the Media list below.
There has been ongoing attention on the high and increasing number of Māori children being taken into state care. A Stuff investigation in 2018 reported the number of Māori newborns being removed by the state has significantly increased since 2015 while the number of non-Māori newborns removed has not changed. Stuff reported on average five babies per week are uplifted by Oranga Tamariki, the majority of who are Māori.
Under changes in effect since 2016, "subsequent child" sections (s18A-s18D) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 mean that when parents have had previous children permanently removed due to abuse or neglect, or have been convicted of causing the death of a child they cared for, it is assumed any subsequent child these parents are caring for is in need of care or protection. The burden of proof then falls on the parent to satisfy the social worker that they are unlikely to allow harm to come to the subsequent child. Advocates have noted this provision applied to the Hastings case. Advocates have also previously discussed problems it presents for children, families and whānau and linked it to the rising numbers of children in care.
In April 2019, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced changes to government oversight of the children’s system including oversight of Oranga Tamariki.
Oranga Tamariki has previously announced three "strategic partnerships" with iwi (Te Rūnanga ō Ngāi Tahu, Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi and Waikato-Tainui).
A number of changes will come into effect on 1 July 2019 under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. These include imposing a range of specific duties on the chief executive "in order to recognise and provide a practical commitment to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (te Tiriti o Waitangi)." (new section 7AA)
Liz Beddoe: What took so long? Time to right some wrongs, Newsroom, 20.06.2019
(see also the full original article, The spotlight is on us- an apology is due on the Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand blog)
Ombudsman unveils inquiry into Oranga Tamariki newborn uplifts, NZ Herald, 19.06.2019
(includes interview with Professor Tracey McIntosh)
Image: Harakeke by Michael JasonSmith on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)