Oranga Tamariki has been slammed in an internal review into its attempt to remove a 6-day-old baby boy from his 19-year-old mother at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

The review, released today, found that Oranga Tamariki didn't do enough to build relationships with the family in question, nor did it properly explore placing the baby in the wider family.

The lack of engagement meant the assessment behind the removal order was based on the views of a single Oranga Tamariki employee, and "no clear rationale" was noted for the decision.

"Too much reliance was placed on historical information about the whānau and not enough effort was made to understand their current situation," the review said.


Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss, who is fronting media at 3.30pm, apologised for the mistakes and said new practices would be implemented immediately to avoid history repeating.

"I know we have hurt this whānau - and I am truly sorry. Our work wasn't of a high standard and our usual checks and balances failed," Moss said in a statement.

Moss said that an offer to apologise to the family in person has been made, but legal counsel for the family dispute this.

"This was never specifically offered. We need time to consider the report and provide our clients with advice before receiving her instructions on next steps," Janet Mason, from Phoenix Law, told the Herald.

Punched, struck, kicked: Assaults on Oranga Tamariki staff increase
Andrew Dickens: Finally we are seeing the full story around Oranga Tamariki uplifts
Oranga Tamariki report: More than a hundred children harmed in state care in first three months of year
Oranga Tamariki signs agreement with North Island iwi Tūhoe

The Family Court had ordered the uplift in the Hastings case because the wider family had a background of domestic violence and drug use - a claim disputed by the family.

Grainne Moss, CEO of Oranga Tamariki. Photo / Dean Purcell
Grainne Moss, CEO of Oranga Tamariki. Photo / Dean Purcell

The case put the spotlight on Oranga Tamariki, which uplifts three Māori babies a week on average in cases where it says it is necessary for safety reasons.

The story of this case provoked widespread outrage and several reviews, including Oranga Tamariki's review, and more general reviews by the Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft and the Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier.


The Oranga Tamariki review - led by the Chief Social Worker Grant Bennett - was released this afternoon, though its legitimacy has been questioned because the mother and father declined to participate.

The review found that there were legitimate concerns for the baby's safety, but these concerns have been redacted in the report to protect the family's privacy.

But it slammed Oranga Tamariki for "significant gaps" in trying to understand the family's current situation, and the lack of consultation with parents and whānau.

"Additionally, although some parental and whānau strengths were identified during assessment, these were not used to build engagement with, or an understand of, these parents and their whānau," the review said.

"Nor were the needs of the parents and the wider family and whānau fully explored."

The lack of engagement meant the assessment report that led to the uplift was based on the views of a single Oranga Tamariki employee, and "no clear rationale" was noted in the decision to apply for the uplift.

Police outside Hawke's Bay Hospital during the attempted baby uplift in May. Photo / Warren Buckland
Police outside Hawke's Bay Hospital during the attempted baby uplift in May. Photo / Warren Buckland

The review added that there was "little evidence" of attempts to build relationships with the mother and the father.

"Communication with professionals appears to have been largely 'one way' and concerns and key decisions were not shared with them in an open and timely way."

Consequences for staff involved in the case were being worked through.

Among the changes to be put in place from the review are:

• All interim custody orders - where there is no clear need for urgent action - will be made 'on notice' so families can have a say before a judge makes a final decision.

• If an uplift is necessary without notice - as in the Hastings case - sign-off will be needed by a Regional Legal Manager, a Site Manager and a Practice Leader.


• There will be additional staff training, especially in Hastings, and more supervision for family group conferences

• More focus on planning and assessment around vulnerable mothers for unborn and newborn babies

Minister for Children Tracey Martin is expected to address media later this afternoon.

Becroft's review, which is focused on Māori children aged up to three months, is expected before the end of the year and Boshier's is due at the end of the year.