Reviews and Inquiries

Getting the care and protection system right

The care and protection of our tamariki is an area of significant interest and scrutiny.

Since Puao-Te-Ata-Tu, Māori have been calling on the Crown to do better for Māori in the areas of child protection and youth justice. We have been mindful of the legacy of this and other reports as we engage with the recent reviews.

Our response to recent reviews

In May 2019, our attempt to bring a new-born pēpi Māori (Māori baby) into care in Hastings attracted media and public scrutiny.

This event also led to several reviews and inquiries into the way we work, including the legislation we work under, our policies and practice. These are:

We’re listening

Oranga Tamariki was established to overhaul the care and protection system and particularly to improve outcomes for tamariki, rangatahi and whānau Māori. The changes we are trying to achieve are overdue and significant. The reviews shine a light on how much more work there is to do and help us chart our future direction. We’re listening.

We’ve heard:

  • Māori want their tamariki at home and supported by their whānau, hapū and iwi.
  • Parents and whānau Māori aren’t getting the right support, in a way that works for them from us or other agencies.
  • Our staff don’t always show respect and understanding of tikanga Māori. Our cultural competency needs work and bias still exists in the care and protection system.

While system change takes time, the reviews have told us change is not happening fast enough and we are not always working in the right way for Māori. We have already made changes and will keep making them in response to the reviews.

father holding child at marae

The Hawkes Bay Practice Review

The Hawkes Bay Practice Review found that although safety concerns for the baby meant Oranga Tamariki did the right thing to get involved, mistakes were made in how it worked with the family and other partners. We didn’t try hard enough to build good relationships with whānau members or to explore options to place the baby with wider family, and the systems in place to check decisions didn’t work as intended. Additionally, too much reliance was placed on historical information about the whānau and not enough effort was made to understand their current situation.

We accepted all the findings and recommendations and apologised to the whānau at the heart of the case.

We also made immediate changes to social work practice and to strengthen how we work with others.

These include:

  • Providing the right planning and support for parents and whānau at the earliest opportunity.
  • Making sure whānau are more involved. Unless there is a clear need to protect a child from immediate and imminent danger, all custody applications are made ‘on notice’, so whānau know what’s happening and involved in the court’s decision.
  • Better training and greater supervision for FGCs.
  • When staff need to act faster to keep a child safe, every Section 78 ‘without notice’ application will go through additional checks.

Ko te Wā Whakawhiti - The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Report

Ko te Wā Whakawhiti is a significant and comprehensive report focusing on historical and current cases of state removal of tamariki Māori from their whānau.

While the events in Hastings in May 2019 prompted the start of the Māori inquiry, we acknowledge Ko te Wā Whakawhiti describes issues that have been felt by whānau Māori for generations.

The key themes, messages and findings of the report are:

  • whānau want “by Māori, for Māori, with Māori” services and solutions, with an emphasis on the need for these services and solutions to be collectively, and locally, driven
  • a stronger commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi is needed
  • whānau need better, more robust support from the government (including adequate funding) to thrive as whānau, best demonstrated through whānau-centred wrap-around support. Some of the whānau interviewed in the inquiry noted Māori service providers were better positioned to give them the support they needed
  • hapū and iwi connections to whānau are critical for supporting whānau to thrive.

Te Kuku o te Manawa - The Office of the Children’s Commissioner Report

Following events in Hastings in May 2019, the Children’s Commissioner announced a review to answer the question: “What needs to change to enable pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months to remain in the care of their whānau in situations where Oranga Tamariki is notified of care and protection concerns?”

The Children’s Commissioner has released the first part of his report primarily based on interviews with mothers and whānau of 13 pēpi across 10 iwi, who have come into contact with the statutory care and protection system. We acknowledge the courage and mamae of those who contributed to the report. The second part, including recommendations for change, is expected in late August.

Ombudsman Inquiry

The Chief Ombudsman is currently investigating the following two areas of practice when a new-born baby is removed from their parents, whānau or other caregivers:

  • decision making around applying to the Family Court for a without notice interim custody order, including the evidence used by Oranga Tamariki to seek this order.
  • practices around the removal of a baby when an order is granted. This will include looking at how Oranga Tamariki works with other parties involved, such as district health boards, iwi and Police.

The Chief Ombudsman is scheduled to release the outcome of his investigation in early August 2020.

Waitangi Tribunal Inquiry: WAI 2915

The Waitangi Tribunal is undertaking an urgent inquiry into the consistency of Oranga Tamariki policies and practice with the Treaty of Waitangi. It is considering the following three key questions with a particular focus from 2015 to the present:

(a) Why has there been such a significant and consistent disparity between the number of tamariki Māori and non-Māori children being taken into state care under the auspices of Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors?

(b) To what extent will the legislative policy and practise changes introduced since 2017, and currently being implemented, change this disparity for the better?

(c) What (if any) additional changes to Crown legislation, policy or practice might be required in order to secure outcomes consistent with Te Tiriti/the Treaty and its principles?

We are working with the claimants and the Waitangi Tribunal to support this inquiry.

More information about the Waitangi Tribunal

We’ll keep making changes

We are making changes from the reviews, including undertaking work that is consistent with the actions recommended by the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency. For example we continue to design a new intensive intervention service with our partners that focuses on prevention and providing more whānau with the support they need to care for their tamariki.

The Waitangi Tribunal urgent inquiry is likely to also make recommendations about improving the system for Māori. We want to hear what these recommendations are so we can continue to achieve better outcomes for tamariki Māori.

The reviews also suggest big system changes that we can’t and shouldn’t make alone.

Working harder and faster

We’ll continue to work with our partners to ensure whānau, hapū and iwi are involved in decision-making about their tamariki to develop new ways of working together.

 

Published: July 30, 2020