No one wants to hear about babies being taken from their mothers.

So, when these stories make the headlines it's understandable that Oranga Tamariki are put under the microscope.

The system needs to be better.


As someone who works closely with Oranga Tamariki daily, I will be among the first to admit that.

In fact, I know very few, including those within the organisation, who would disagree with this.

But, in all the angst it is easy to forget the social workers on the frontline. This is not an easy job. And anyone who thinks that social worker's enjoy taking babies from their families needs to imagine themselves in their shoes.

READ MORE: Oranga Tamariki under fire: 'They have made my life hell'

Social workers begin this work to help families, not tear them apart.

The reality is that these people are making impossible decisions, in impossible situations.

How do you decide that a baby is no longer safe enough to stay with their whanau?

How would you weigh up the risks?


On one side you have a baby who could die if something doesn't change?

On the other, a mother who desperately wants her child, yet doesn't seem to have the ability to keep her safe?

What would you do?

Impossible questions, with impossible answers.

Do they always get it right? No.

And when they make mistakes, they must own them, and be kept to account.

But, this current outpouring of outrage ignores the real issue.

Everyone has a part to play in the care for our most vulnerable, a youth development worker writes. Photo / File
Everyone has a part to play in the care for our most vulnerable, a youth development worker writes. Photo / File

We have babies that are not safe. We have young parents, who do not have enough support to keep their pepi safe.

Making the decision to uplift a baby is not made on a whim. It is made because there are real concerns for the child's safety.

Oranga Tamariki did not create the unsafe environments these children were born in to.

To ignore that reality, is to ignore how we got here in the first place.

Violence, addiction, poverty and abuse lie at the root of the problem.

The solutions will involve us all.

We can address child abuse, by acknowledging that family violence is often rooted in mental illness, addiction or unaddressed trauma.

We can address this countries lack of suitable housing and keep landlords accountable for ensuring they provide suitable homes.

And we can create communities that hold those who struggle, support young parents, and be willing to foster their children when necessary.

If you want change, it will cost you.

Perhaps more of your dollar goes to tax to addressing inequality, definitely more of your life spent in service to your community.

No one wants babies to be taken away from their whanau, but to prevent that from happening we must be willing to provide solutions.

Your anger is justified, but do not leave it at empty words. Turn it into action.

We should demand better from our Government. But, if we want real change, the question will always fall back on us.

What are we willing to do to make things right?

Aaron Hendry is a youth development worker in Auckland, where he lives with his wife and new born son. A theology graduate of Laidlaw College, he writes about the intersection of theology and social justice at;