Up to 50 people have responded to Hawke's Bay iwi Ngati Kahungunu's call for foster and whāngai caregivers in a bid to prevent baby uplifts by Oranga Tamariki in the region.
Ngati Kahungunu put out the call for whanau help two weeks ago and chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said the response had been overwhelming.
The move comes after an attempted baby uplift incident in May, which resulted in the lockdown of Hawke's Bay Hospital as social workers tried to take a newborn from its mother.
The incident sparked widespread complaints about Oranga Tamariki practices, and led to calls for the name Oranga Tamariki to be stripped from the department, and several reviews into the removal of children.
"We want our tamariki to flourish in a safe, stable and loving home that connects them to their whānau and whakapapa," Tomoana said.
"The current system ignores the whanau, iwi and hapu."
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Tomoana said the iwi had been approached by whanau from Wairoa to Wairarapa wanting to help, and was now in the process of interviewing people.
"We have 30 to 50 sponsors to be interviewed who will be put under scrutiny and provided with training in the next month or so."
Oranga Tamariki was approached for comment, but referred Hawke's Bay Today questions to Ngati Kahungunu as it was the lead agency.
Tomoana said the premise behind advertising for caregivers was "not one more baby will be uplifted".
But it was not shunning Oranga Tamariki, and would prefer to work in conjunction with them, he said.
"The preferred caregiver of a vulnerable child is the extended whanau and if they can't look after the child then it's the iwi.
"If they were going to be uplifted we wanted them to stay within their whanau.
"The sponsors will need to meet the benchmarks set by both the Iwi and OT.
"The training will not be one off, and will be provided on a regular basis."
In an unprecedented move, the iwi also interviewed 30 whanau who had their children "taken off them by OT".
"We found that their main feeling was relief to have told their story of trauma following the uplift," Tomoana said.
"The common thread amongst them was there was no recourse, and they had no say. We don't want that to happen."
He said having iwi caregivers meant alternatives would be offered to the child, the Mum and extended whanau to ensure a better outcome.
"We want to ensure the cultural and physical safety of the Mum and the child.
"We want to have support systems and security around them both, and ideally we would have the Mum and baby uplifted at the same time.
"We will not be ripping the Mum and child apart."
He said that one in every five whanau were vulnerable, leaving four who were not and could offer support "more than adequately".
The Iwi will also be working with wraparound social services like Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, a family-focused organisation.
"We have been in talks with Minister Tracey Martin and Hawke's Bay DHB and they agreed with the approach. There is widespread support for it."
Tomoana said he would be meeting with Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran to talk about the importance of cultural assessments before any judgements are made on families.