This story was first published on Sunday September 16.
More than 6000 children are in the care of Oranga Tamaraki – a 22 per cent increase from six years ago.
Source: 1 NEWS
Health professionals say women whose children have been taken by social services are refusing to seek prenatal care when they fall pregnant for fear of having their newborns taken, too.
One Kaitaia couple, Mary and Warren, had their first child taken into care by social services because of domestic violence and mental health problems.
Mary believes social services' decision to remove their child from their care was fair at the time, but she claims they "also said that I'd be able to get him back and that I'd get a house in six months".
When Mary became pregnant for a second time, it was six months before she sought prenatal care.
Mary and Warren's fears were realised when their second child was taken from them at birth, with Oranga Tamariki saying their baby was at risk.
"I just cried and wouldn't give her to them. The nurse actually had to take her off me," she said.
The couple's children are among more than 6000 New Zealand kids under the care of Oranga Tamariki this year – a 22 per cent increase on the number of children in care six years ago.
The agency says it only takes such drastic action when there are concerns of a serious nature, and only when all other options have been explored.
However, Northland midwife Colleen Brown is concerned the move is putting pregnant mothers off seeking help.
"There is no way, unless you are gonna go bush and have your pepe (baby), that you are gonna keep that pepe," Ms Brown said.
1 NEWS has spoken to several pregnant mothers who are considered at risk.
Some are expecting mothers who would like help with their drug and alcohol abuse but have not reached out for help out of fear of losing their children. Some have children who have already been removed from their care.
But Oranga Tamariki says those who do not seek help are putting their babies at further risk.
Deanne 'Dee' McManus-Emery, the regional manager for Oranga Tamariki South Auckland, says, "We are hearing stories from our families that we do know, but we're also hearing it from our community organisations, colleagues and also our health providers".
"What we're trying to do is work in partnership with those providers, ensuring that there is a jointed approach to ensure the right support services are wrapped around them," Ms McManus-Emery explained.
"We certainly would want families to be accessing their prenatal care because that gives children the best start in life."
Ms Brown is urging mothers with fears of losing their child "to take ownership of it" and get the help they need.
"They need to come forward because there is help available for them," she said.
Mary and Warren visit their children twice a week and are working with social agencies to get them back permanently.
"I'd like our kids back. I’d like to be given a chance," Warren said.