Māori babies five times more likely to end up in state care

Māori babies were five times more likely to end up in state care than non-Māori last year and their rate of urgent entries into state care has doubled since 2010, official figures show.


In that same period, 61 Māori babies were ordered into state care before they were born, compared to just 21 non-Māori.

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft released the statistics this morning as part of a widescale inquiry into the removal of Māori babies, aged up to three months old, by the state.

That age group had been selected because that was where the statistics showed there were problems, and because it was a crucial bonding time for mother and child.

Judge Becroft said the figures raised clear questions about racism and bias within the state care sector.

"I've said previously that it's impossible to factor out the enduring legacy of colonisation... or modern day systemic bias," he said.

"Now that, to some extent, will obviously be at play here as it is across all decision-making and all government departments."

The inequities for Māori had grown over time and continued to worsen, Judge Becroft said.

In 2018, the rate of state custody for Māori under the age of 18 was almost seven times higher than non-Māori, up from five times higher in 2014.

Judge Becroft said another concerning statistic was that the rate of urgent entries into state care for Māori babies had doubled since 2010.

In comparison, the rate for non-Māori had not changed.

Urgent entries were most often made without notice or family knowledge, for what were considered to be serious safety concerns.

Judge Becroft said the fact urgent applications were being made at such a high rate was something his office would examine closely.

"These stats reveal clearly, I think for the first time to the whole country, what is really going on and how concerning the problem is," he said.

"The question as to why, is one that is occupying the minds of all those involved in three different inquiries."

"We are really committed to drilling down as to why these stats are continuing, in almost all cases, to get worse, and why the inequities are so profound,"

"But the first step for us was to ask what is actually happening? What do the stats really show?"

The first full report is due to be released later this year.

RNZ is seeking comment from Oranga Tamariki.