Tūwharetoa involvement leads to reduction of tamariki in care

By Kereama Wright

The number of Tūwharetoa children in the care of Oranga Tamariki has dropped.

The reduction has been credited to an agreement between the tribe and the regional office and Tūwharetoa descendants.

Māori protocol followed everyday which is not often seen throughout Oranga Tamariki on a national scale.

Willy Isaacs of Tūwharetoa says, “every day we start with karakia, waiata and I think that’s what started in terms of that whakaaro Māori.”

It was this changing attitude towards things Māori that attracted Willy Isaacs to his role as Kairaranga ā-whānau.

He says, “the kairāranga is a conduit between whānau and then Oranga Tamariki, but also whānau, Oranga Tamariki and the iwi.

He's one of 38 situated around the country. The role was created as a result of the Puao Te Atatu report of 1989.

Moana Eruera says, “the role is to weave and connect tamariki and whanau that Oranga Tamariki are working with to their extended whanau hapū and iwi networks really important specialist role.”

But, when Tūwharetoa data showed they were fourth in line as the iwi with the most children in state care, Sir Tumu Te Heuheu took action, by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Oranga Tamariki. They also co-designed the role specific to the needs of Tūwharetoa.  

Paranapa Otimi of Tūwharetoa says many iwi members are still angry and distrusting of the agency after the loss of their children.

Danny Morehu a representative of Tā Tumu Te Heuheu says “the kairāranga role and the support that goes around that person is the navigator the enabler of hapū and whānau to engage better with the services.”

Although it's only been a year, change has occurred. Of the 90 odd children in care within the Tūwharetoa catchment, just over 50% are of Tūwharetoa descent, a 5% drop in the last year. 

Willy says, “what’s changing iis the whānau are actuially given the tools to say hey we can do this and then coming up with a strategy so we can get better outcomes.”   

There are almost 6,500 children in state care close to 70% are Māori. 

Dr Moana Eruera, Manager Māori Practice Advice says while the role is a success in Tūwharetoa, there is a lot of work to be done to carry that out nationwide.

Moana Eruera says , “there is still lots of work for Oranga Tamariki to do for our for the systems and processes that we use.”

Willy says the key to success is a meaningful and valued relationship between kairaranga, senior management, the local iwi and the whānau on the ground.