Fewer Māori children taken into care, state agency says

By Te Ao - Māori News

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Hoani Lambert says that for the first time in years, the state child welfare agency is seeing a reduction of Māori children in care.

Lambert was commenting on Oranga Tamariki's first Section 7AA report under the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989. The agency is required to report on progress in reducing disparities for tamariki and rangatahi Māori.

“That shows we are moving in the right direction, but we know change takes time and there is still a huge amount of work to be done. Working alongside our partners is how we will get there, and we are working more closely than ever before with iwi, hapū and whānau as we know the best place for tamariki is with safe whānau.”

He says new partnerships with iwi and Māori providers are both driving and supporting the organisation to work differently.

Alongside the four strategic partnerships signed with iwi, Oranga Tamariki has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the NZ Māori Council and will soon sign another three strategic partnerships

Tribunal scrutinises agency

This has led to the creation of 42 kairanga-a-whānau roles to ensure that tamariki Māori and their whānau are supported as early as possible, including help to identify whakapapa connections. Around 75 per cent of tamariki Māori and rangatahi placed with caregivers are being looked after by their own whānau or Māori caregivers.

“There has also been a 30 per cent increase in funding over the past two years into iwi Māori community providers, as we know that the best way to turn around outcomes for tamariki Māori is co-designing a for-Māori, by-Māori approach,” Mr Lambert says.

The legislation is the first of its kind for any Crown entity, requiring Oranga Tamariki to report publicly on practical commitments to the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) relating specifically to tamariki Māori.

The report can be found at S7AA Improving outcomes for tamariki Māori.

As the report was being released today, the Waitangi Tribunal began an urgent hearing into Oranga Tamariki actions that meant a disproportionate number of Māori compared to non-Māori children taken into state care.

National Urban Māori Authority chair Lady Tureiti Moxon told the tribunal Oranga Tamariki uplifts of babies were reminiscent of the Native Schools Act and the Tohunga Supression Act, as a tool for colonisation.

Moxon called for an independent, fully funded, legislatively protected tamariki-mokopuna authority, that could implement a by-Māori, for-Māori approach. The hearing at the Waitangi Tribunal is looking at why there is a disparity between the number of Māori and non-Māori children being taken, whether legislative changes made in 2017 had changed the disparity for the better, and what policy and practices were required to secure outcomes consistent with the Treaty and its principles.