Oranga Tamariki admits attempted uplift 'wasn’t a good indication of how things should have been done'

Oranga Tamariki has admitted it made mistakes when attempting to uplift a child from its mother in Hastings earlier this year.

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CEO Grainne Moss joined Breakfast to discuss an independent review into the department’s practices. Source: Breakfast

The mother gave birth in early May, with Oranga Tamariki workers arriving one week later in an attempt to uplift the baby.

Earlier, the government department had reported a concern after the pregnancy had been confirmed, noting that her first baby had been removed from her care after birth the previous year.

The attempted uplift was filmed by the mother, other family members and midwives, sparking a national outcry and investigations. The department has since apologised to the family involved.

Yesterday, Oranga Tamariki released its findings of a practice review, where they announced immediate changes following the incident.

Oranga Tamariki CEO Grainne Moss said some of the most significant changes will be the inclusion of families in the decision-making process when uplifting babies.

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Video of the attempted removal in May this year was made public.

“Where they aren’t involved, it will only be because there’s immediate and imminent danger to the baby,” Ms Moss told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning. “When that occurs, we’ve added two additional steps for signoff before it goes to the family court.”

One of two new steps, she said, will include a “very, very senior-level peer review by somebody who isn’t involved in the care, so no emotions.”

“They’ll be able to look at the facts, bring a fresh set of eyes – test, challenge, ask questions – and then at that point, it would go to the family court.”

The second step will include a means for people to challenge claims of bias by Oranga Tamariki. She added that while the review revealed “a practice issue, not a cultural issue” inside the department, they must be open and recognise them so they won't "accidentally be influenced by them in the wrong way".

If the attempted uplift in May had undergone Oranga Tamariki’s new senior peer review, Ms Moss said they “would have asked some challenging questions that may have then resulted in, ‘OK, let’s go back in and engage with the whānau, let’s get them involved and let’s see if there are other options.'”

She said the “really big thing” that she has learned from the review is the nuance involved the decision-making process and the importance of working with others to resolve potential issues.

“Children live in communities, they live with whānau, they live in hapū, they live in iwi and when there are challenges, you need everybody to be around that child to make what are very tough, nuanced decisions.

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The agency’s boss accepted the report with an apology and an admission that Māori families have been let down. Source: 1 NEWS

“When you do it together, the decisions are so much better, the long-term planning is so much better and this report again reinforces the need to do things in partnership with whānau.

"They need to empower whānau to actually make decisions, to acknowledge challenges and help them heal, help them be the parents they want to be.”

She said taking families into consideration during the uplift decision-making process was not looked at before the review as the individual situations are “very complex, and people do get nervous.”

“Nobody wants to make the wrong mistake. Nobody wants to leave a child at risk, but in this case, we absolutely didn’t do the right thing and we didn’t follow all of our processes as well as we could have done.

Ms Moss admitted the video, which was released by the Newsroom website, “wasn’t a good indication of how things should have been done at the time regardless”, resulting in an independent review, partnered with iwi and the Office of the Children’s Commission, into the organisation's practices.

“From the outset, we said, ‘Right, we need to do this differently. We actually need to do this together with people, and that’s the way we’re meant to be doing everything’ – making every decision in partnership.”

Further recommendations from the review are expected at a later date.