Children's Minister Kelvin Davis says he is disturbed by reports of Māori foster children being removed from families which they thought were permanent placements.
The newly-appointed minister said he had called in Oranga Tamariki officials this morning and was getting a further briefing this afternoon.
Newsroom this morning reported that four Māori children who were removed from a violent home by Oranga Tamariki in 2018 and placed with a non-Māori foster family were again removed in September, back to their extended whānau.
The children had been led to believe they had found a permanent foster home, only to be re-traumatised by being uplifted again. It was part of Oranga Tamariki's reversal of its controversial uplifts policy.
"I was disturbed by what I saw," Davis told the Herald.
"It was absolutely heartbreaking. I called Oranga Tamariki in this morning for a 'please explain' and I still have questions so I have requested an urgent briefing which I should get in a couple of hours."
After widespread criticism of its uplifts of predominantly Māori children, Oranga Tamariki changed its approach last year.
It has reduced the number of "without notice" uplifts and introduced additional checks. It also redoubled efforts to make sure any Māori children who were removed from their parents were rehomed within their extended whānau or hapū.
The minister said the case showed the importance of building a genuine partnership between the Crown and Māori, which was his top priority in the new portfolio.
"We just can't react to stuff. We've got to have a plan and we've got to do it right and it's got to be better than what we've had previously."
Oranga Tamariki has already been under intense scrutiny this week, with chief executive Grainne Moss yesterday dismissing speculation she was about to resign.
That speculation was partly fuelled by Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare, who told Māori Television on Tuesday night that Moss could be stepping down "in a couple of hours".
Davis, who Moss reports to, reprimanded Henare over his comments.
"Peeni and I are whanaunga, closely related, we are mates, we're colleagues," he said. "It's only appropriate we have the discussion [that] I'm the Minister for Children, so it's me that speaks on those issues."
However, Davis himself is yet to publicly back Moss, who has led Oranga Tamariki since it was created in 2016.
"There are issues with the leadership and I'm handling them," the minister said.
"But let's be clear, the changes we need to make in Oranga Tamariki are bigger than the leadership.
"I'm not her employer, I'm not in the habit of discussing people's performance in public. I don't think it's either fair or appropriate."
Asked what needed to occur before he backed Moss, he said he needed evidence of a "real, genuine partnership" between Oranga Tamariki and Māori.
"It needs to be determined with Māori. And that's the direction that I want to see. Everything has to be centred around children. We need to look at prevention and early intervention rather than reacting to events.
"And the workforce needs to be supported. That's the leadership I want to see."
In a historic moment, Moss yesterday made significant concessions about the ways in which Oranga Tamariki and its predecessor had failed Māori families.
She said structural racism was "a feature" of the care and protection system, and that it should have been tackled head-on when Oranga Tamariki was established.