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Oranga Tamariki not solely to blame for child uplift, says Māori advocate

A leading Māori advocate says Oranga Tamariki isn't solely to blame for children being taken from whānau.

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Tommy Wilson says families also need to take responsibility for children being taken into care. Source: 1 NEWS

Tommy Wilson of Te Tuinga Whanau Services is speaking out because he says families need to take responsibility and fix the harm caused by addiction which is tearing families apart.

Mr Wilson says whānau need to take responsibility.

"The taniwha, the elephant in the room for us is P - let's start talking about what happens if you don't uplift those children and that's the other half of the conversation that's not been had,” says Mr Wilson.

He says two kilograms of methamphetamine is being consumed in Tauranga every week.

Nationally - more than a tonne a year. He says unless agencies all work together marae and whānau will continue to be torn apart by P.

In a recent report Oranga Tamariki was slammed for the way it's carried out uplifts.

The ombudsman identified a swathe of recommendations to improve procedures but those working on the frontline say the use of P is a common factor in all uplifts.

"We have children with broken femurs, we have children with multiple fractures, we have children suffering serious neglect and some who have been sexually abused," says Oranga Tamariki Chief Social Worker Grant Bennett

Oranga Tamariki says a third of babies in their care came from families with meth history, in 75 per cent of those cases the mother was using P.

"So we're certainly seeing a rise in addiction and the devastating impact of P and that's reflected in our work and it's now one of the primary reasons we become involved with whanau,” says Mr Bennett.

Oranga Tamariki says it also examined why children were taken into care - a random sample of babies under 30 days old showed common themes of historical concerns, family violence, maternal alcohol and drug use.

“We have sunglass Mondays here where mums are wearing sunglasses on a Monday because they've been beaten up on the weekend, that has nothing to do with tikanga or colonisation or what's happened with them. It's a lot to do with this insidious drug that is tearing families apart, and we aren't equipped to handle it,” says Mr Wilson.

He says a collaborative approach including Oranga Tamariki is the best way forward to help protect our most vulnerable.