A mother whose baby was taken into state care because of child abuse concerns says she first found out about the planned uplift when she was on the birthing table.

The unnamed mother, whose story is told in a new report, said she had done everything to convince authorities that she would be a good parent.

"My whole pregnancy was pretty good, like no issues," she said.

"Everything was up to date, never missed, did everything possible like parenting courses, the whole shebang.

Advertisement

"I did everything possible to make sure that I was proving to [Child Youth and Family] that I'm doing right for my unborn. It wasn't 'til I was halfway through labour I found out there was already an automatic uplift and then it went to s*** straight up."

Her account is published in a report by the Office of the Children's Commissioner, released today.

One of four investigations into Oranga Tamariki's uplift practices, the report was based on interviews with mothers and families of 13 Māori pēpi, all of whom were either removed or at risk of removal by Oranga Tamariki or its predecessor Child, Youth and Family (CYF). Of this group, five eventually had their children removed.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the stories highlighted "deep systemic issues" in the state care and protection system.

"Each of them was determined that no other mother should go through what they did," he said.

"They all said that they knew why Child, Youth and Family and/or Oranga Tamariki had originally become involved. They were very honest about this.

"Equally, they were clear as to what good social work looks like and why it is sometimes needed.

"But all were firm that they seldom experienced this through either Child, Youth and Family or its successor, Oranga Tamariki."

Advertisement
Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said personal accounts from Maori mothers highlighted
Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said personal accounts from Maori mothers highlighted "deep systemic issues" in the state care and protection system. Photo / Duncan Brown

Even when babies were not uplifted, families spoke of poor social work practices, racism, absence of support and inhumane treatment of mothers and babies, Becroft said.

Their stories revealed "a profound loss of faith and trust in the state care and protection system over many years".

"Paradoxically, they who most needed assistance and support said they received it least."

Several key themes emerged from the personal accounts.

Mothers said they did not feel respected by Oranga Tamariki, especially when they had made significant changes to their lives.

They said the state care system was harmful and that the trauma was ongoing.

"Whānau continue to feel as though they are living under constant threat of Oranga Tamariki, even when it has been deemed either by Child, Youth and Family or Oranga Tamariki that no further involvement is necessary," the report said.

READ MORE:
Armed police involved in uplift of Māori baby, Oranga Tamariki inquiry reveals
Baby uplifts: Māori-led Oranga Tamariki inquiry launches at Auckland hui
Baby uplifts: Distressing new videos emerge showing newborns being uplifted
Family lawyer on Oranga Tamariki uplifts: Widespread trauma and misery

Mothers who had children removed said they were often abandoned by Oranga Tamariki.

"That's one of the things that I see, from my perspective that OT just drops the birth mum like a hotcake. So you've done wrong and you're banished. What are we doing about mum? What are we doing to support her?" one whānau supporter said.

The report identified six areas for change:

1. The system needs to recognise the role of mums as te whare tangata and treat them
and their pēpi with humanity
2 Unprofessional statutory social work practice is harming mums, whānau and pēpi
3. Whānau need the right support from the right people
4. Pēpi Māori and their whānau are experiencing racism and discrimination
5. The organisational culture of the statutory care and protection system needs to support parents and whānau to nurture and care for their pēpi, and
6. The system needs to work in partnership with whānau, hapū and iwi so they can exercise tino rangatiratanga.

A further report would make recommendations to Government.

Oranga Tamariki carried out an internal review last year, which found major failings in the uplift of a 6-day-old baby from his 19 year-old mother at Hawke's Bay Hospital.

It found that Oranga Tamariki did not do enough to build relationships with the baby boy's family or explore placing him in the wider family.

Children's Minister Tracey Martin rejected calls for Oranga Tamariki boss Grainne Moss to resign following a critical internal review of a child's uplift last year. Photo / Stephen Parker
Children's Minister Tracey Martin rejected calls for Oranga Tamariki boss Grainne Moss to resign following a critical internal review of a child's uplift last year. Photo / Stephen Parker

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

Whānau Ora released a broader review of Oranga Tamariki upliftsin February, which highlighted "systemic failure, discrimination and inexplicable breaches of human rights towards Māori".

The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is also carrying out an investigation.

As of June 2019, 6429 children were in state custody, and 69 per cent of them were Māori.

Māori children aged between 0 and 3 months were five times more likely to be uplifted than non-Māori.