Māori babies taken from whānau more than others

By Jessica Tyson

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft has today released statistics showing there are persistent and intergenerational inequities in the removal of pēpi Māori into State custody.

The data shows that in June 2019, there were 6,429 children in State custody and 69 per cent of them were Māori. Five times more Māori babies than non-Māori were taken in state custody.

“I am providing this information now due to the multiple, intersecting reviews going on into aspects of Oranga Tamariki practice following the attempted removal of a newborn pēpi Māori from their whanau in Hawkes Bay last year,” says Becroft.

The urgency of decisions to take babies into state custody has also increased for pēpi Māori.

“The rate of urgent entries into State custody approximately doubled from 2010 to 2019 for pēpi Māori aged 0-3 months, but stayed the same for non-Māori babies aged 0-3 months.”

Data also found that 48 percent of pregnant women whose pēpi Māori were taken into State care before birth had been in State care themselves.

Becroft says there is an increasing trend towards making decisions before birth to take babies into custody after they have been born, and this trend is greater for Māori than non-Māori.

Meanwhile, assessments and removals of pēpi Māori are happening earlier with decisions to remove unborn pēpi Māori increased from 36 in 2010 to a peak of 93 in 2017.

Commissioner Becroft says to identify what needs to change, we first needed to know what currently happens.

“I hope the information we have produced will be useful for those other reviews and for members of the public seeking to understand what is currently happening.  I also hope these will be useful resources for whānau currently navigating the care and protection system, and those who work with them,” he says.

“The analysis of Oranga Tamariki data does not seek to explain why these trends have occurred, nor does it yet identify areas for change or make recommendations for improvement. This information is descriptive only. Answers to these questions are part of the next steps in our review.”

Insights from whānau, areas for change, and detailed recommendations will come in the commissioner's substantive reports which will be published later in 2020, he says.

The first substantive report arising from the Office’s review will be published in March and will include whānau voices, a literature review, and further care and protection data.