Most children harmed in State care are Māori – Oranga Tamariki report

By Talisa Kupenga

Oranga Tamariki's Deputy Chief Executive for the Voices of Children, Hoani Lambert says if he didn’t think he was doing right by Māori he should leave his role at the agency.

Lambert’s comments follow the release of the third Oranga Tamariki Safety of Children in Care quarterly report that shows 103 children under State care were harmed in the three months to March– three quarters of them Māori.

"[As a Māori] I have to think that otherwise I should move on.  I believe that I can make a difference from within Oranga Tamariki but also I'm not alone, we've got a lot of talented Māori staff and the reason why they're here is that they want to see things change."

The report shows a total 154 findings of harm; 54 findings of physical harm, 33 findings of emotional harm, 19 findings of sexual harm and 16 findings of neglect.  Some children were harmed more than once.

Lambert says, "It's a concern for everyone that children, particularly Māori children, are in situations where they're unsafe.  What this report though starts to say to us is that when we are thinking about keeping children with their parents or returning them back to their parents that we need to put the right support around them.”

National’s Alfred Ngaro says, "No harm should be happening.  That's the reason why [it's] a State care responsibility to take children from a harmful situation of vulnerability."

Those responsible for the harm include parents, caregivers, other children, and Oranga Tamariki staff.

The findings show most cases of physical harm were caused by parents and caregivers, that parents were responsible for most cases of emotional harm and neglect and that these two groups were not found to have sexually harmed children in their care.  

Minister for Children Tracey Martin says, "This is the first time that a child protection service has been this open to what is happening to children in our care and I also think we need to note that the power that this gives us is actually to invest better in those areas where we need to provide more support."

The first quarterly report to September 2018 it showed 130 children and young people in care had findings of harm.

In the second quarter to December there were 97 children and young people in care who had findings of harm.

Lambert says, "One of the things that will change is a greater focus on intensive intervention.  The government has invested in a new intensive intervention service which we'll be starting to roll out over this financial year."

There are four inquiries underway into Oranga Tamariki.