Immediate changes are being made to the way children are removed from their families, after a damning report into Oranga Tamariki’s actions in attempting to take a newborn baby from its mother in May.
Video of the attempted uplift in Hastings was made public and the subsequent outrage led to five inquiries being launched. Police were involved when social workers tried to take the baby from its mother and the hospital was put into lockdown.
Oranga Tamariki today released its report specifically into its dealings with the Hastings whānau and the attempted removal of the newborn baby. It doesn’t look at wider care and protection issues.
The report details a litany of mistakes made in how social workers dealt with the family and finds systems simply didn’t work.
It also relied too heavily on historical information about the whānau and failed to make enough effort to understand their current situation. Social workers didn’t consult with wider family members appropriately or take their needs into account.
The report was carried out by the chief social worker with independent oversight from the Children’s Commissioner and a representative from Ngati Kahungunu.
Chief executive Graine Moss says she’s deeply saddened by the findings.
“I know we have hurt this whānau and I’m truly sorry. Our work here wasn’t of a high standard and our usual checks and balances also failed.”
The report says there were legitimate safety concerns for the baby and the family had had previous dealings with the agency, including having an older child removed from their care.
But it failed to recognise values of significance to whānau Māori and culture, and it should have more fully explored the options of placing the baby with extended whānau, hapu and iwi networks.
Oranga Tamariki has apologised to the family through their lawyer and also offered to meet in person, but the family has declined the offer.
From today, the following changes will be made to the agency's practices:
- Unless there are clear signs of immediate and imminent danger, all interim custody order applications will be made ‘on notice’ to ensure the family is given a say before a judge makes a final decision
- There’ll be additional checks if a ‘without notice’ application is required
- Additional investment will be made into staff training and greater supervision for family group conferences, including introducing 19 new positions.
- More resources and training will also be provided to staff in Hastings