Children's Commissioner releases first report on how pēpi Māori can remain in the care of whānau

Thu 18 Jun 2020

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) has released its first report in relation to how pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months can remain in the care of their whānau.


The report, Te Kuku O Te Manawa – Ka puta te riri, ka momori te ngākau, ka heke ngā roimata mo tōku pēpi, shares insights gained so far in the OCC’s review, which aims to answer the question:

What needs to change to enable pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months to remain in the care of their whānau in situations where Oranga Tamariki is notified of care and protection concerns?

The report is the first report of a two-part series.

This report focuses on the experiences of the mothers and whānau of 13 pēpi across 10 iwi, in whose lives the statutory social work system has been involved. The OCC interviewed mums and whānau about their experiences in relation to 13 pēpi (aged 0-3 months) who had either been removed, or were at risk of being removed, from their whānau by Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children or its predecessor Child, Youth and Family.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said:

“They told us their stories – unedited and raw. I wholeheartedly thank them for their willingness and courage to entrust us with their experiences. Their accounts are among the most heart wrenching I have heard in my time in this role.”

The report includes quotes from the mothers and whānau.

The OCC looked at the themes from what they heard from mums and whanau, and wove these together with other strands of evidence: a consideration of the Treaty of Waitangi; a statistical snapshot of pēpi Māori 0-3 months and the care and protection system; a process map of relevant legislation, policies and practice requirements for Oranga Tamariki; and an overview of the rights framework underpinning the statutory care and protection system.

After considering these multiple strands of evidence, the OCC identified six areas for change to explore during stage two of their review. These areas for change are:

  1. “The system needs to recognise the role of mums as te whare tangata and treat them and their pēpi with humanity
  2. Unprofessional statutory social work practice is harming mums, whānau and pēpi
  3. Whānau need the right support from the right people
  4. Pēpi Māori and their whānau are experiencing racism and discrimination  
  5. The organisational culture of the statutory care and protection system needs to support parents and whānau to nurture and care for their pēpi, and       
  6. The system needs to work in partnership with whānau, hapū and iwi so they can exercise tino rangatiratanga.”

The OCC says “This report should be read as an insight into the wider statutory social work system, spanning both the latter years of Child, Youth and Family and the practice of Oranga Tamariki since its establishment on 1 April 2017. The experiences and concerns of those we interviewed appear to have remained the same regardless of the name of the organisation.”

This report does not contain recommendations – recommendations will be made in part two of the review which is expected to be published later in 2020.

The Children’s Commissioner notes this report represents the OCC’s first ever steps to produce a ‘Māori-led’ project within the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (see more information on page 8).

Background information

This report containing personal stories follows the OCC’s release of statistics in January 2020.

The Children’s Commissioner announced in June 2019 that his Office would undertake a thematic review of the policies, processes and practices of Oranga Tamariki relating to care and protection issues for pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months.

The Māori-led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki published its final report and recommendations in March 2020, Ko Te Wā Whakawhiti: It's Time for Change - A Māori Inquiry into Oranga Tamariki (2020).

The Chief Ombudsman is also carrying out a review.

The Waitangi Tribunal is carrying out an urgent inquiry into the policies and practices of Oranga Tamariki.

In November 2019, Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children published the results of its internal practice review.

The reviews were announced following widespread concern about the attempted uplift of a Māori newborn baby at Hawke's Bay Hospital in 2019.

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Image: Isaac Quesada on Unsplash

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