Māori babies were five times more likely to be placed into Oranga Tamariki custody in 2019 than non-Māori babies, a newly released Children's Commissioner report shows.
The report was published on Thursday following widespread outrage at the attempted removal of a newborn Māori baby from its whānau at Hawke's Bay Hospital in May.
It's a rate that has been gradually increasing over time. In 2010 Māori babies aged 0-3 months were just over twice as likely to be placed into state custody.
The 0-3 month age group was selected because that was where the statistics showed there were problems, and because it was a crucial bonding time for mother and child.
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Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft in his report said there were 'persistent' and 'intergenerational inequities' in the removal of pēpi Māori into state custody.
"There is an increasing trend towards making decisions before birth to take babies into custody after they have been born, and this trend is greater for Māori than non-Māori," Becroft said.
Jean Te Huia, the midwife of the mother whose baby Oranga Tamariki tried to take in Hastings early last year, said she believes being born 'brown' was a disadvantage in Hawke's Bay.
"The stats [in the report] indicate 69 per cent of Maori babies are taken at birth, under section 78 without notice. What it doesn't say is that the rest of the babies being taken are brown ... they are not Pakeha babies being taken."
The report found that 43 per cent of the mothers whose babies were taken, were themselves children of state care.
"State Intervention is supposed to ensure positive changes for the lives of people, but child welfare policy and practice does not provide positive support for babies or children in care," Te Huia said.
She said trying to 'fix' Oranga Tamariki was futile.
"$2.2 billion dollars a year is poured into a service that can't be fixed and doesn't work for Māori.
She said State child apprehension and state intervention did not work.
"Supporting parents and supporting families to keep their children is the only possible solution that governments and agencies should focus on."
Ngāti Kahungunu kaumatua Des Ratima, who was also in the hospital room at the time, said the report confirmed what for Māori was a daily reality.
"Their cries of unfair, or 'not listening' or mistrust are not being heard.
"Hopefully from this report processes and not just tools are changed and they actually include whanau in the solutions and not adopt an approach that places entire blame on the mother, or father or both.
"Let Māori and our processes take the lead."
Oranga Tamariki Chief Social Worker Grant Bennett said there were a number of factors involved in decisions to remove tamariki from whānau which could contribute to the differences between Māori and non-Māori whānau.
"There has been a growing awareness of the impacts of family violence, drug abuse and poverty on tamariki.
"What we do know is that tamariki Māori are more likely to witness family violence as well as being the victims of intentional injury requiring hospitalisation."
Bennett said OT was transforming the way it worked including the intention to strengthen the current approach to prevention and working with whānau earlier to reduce the need to intervene at a statutory level.
"Through this review and others, we'll better understand the drivers of harm so we can better support whānau Maori to reduce the need for tamariki to come into State care.
"We can't do this alone, it will require a response from across the sector and within communities."