At least three young people claim to have been violently assaulted by the same Oranga Tamariki staffer at a Christchurch care and protection residence this year, the Herald can reveal.
And police were called last night after the parents of one of the alleged victims "abducted" him from OT care, worried about his welfare.
But the head of the under-fire agency says he only became aware of allegations of violence or "the extent of" the allegations towards vulnerable young people in care on Monday.
And the agency has repeatedly refused to comment on the situation because the Herald would not put the questions to acting chief executive Sir Wira Gardiner at a specific time.
They also say they cannot speak further due to ongoing investigations within OT and by police.
On Monday media outlet Newsroom published footage of a youth in the agency's custody being violently restrained by staff.
The CCTV footage from the Te Oranga residence in Christchurch was leaked to the media by a staffer-turned-whistleblower who spoke out about what they felt were illegal constraints constituting assault.
The video shows a boy aged around 13 being tackled, held on the ground by three staff members, his face pushed into a wall and arms twisted behind his back.
Another boy of a similar age is shown in a video being placed into a headlock and also thrown to the ground.
After the leak it was revealed these restraints are used about 200 times a year, and over the past four years there have been 12 injuries, including one serious.
Following the leak, and after Children's Minister Kelvin Davis labelled the incident "totally unacceptable", OT launched an investigation to determine if the practices were widespread.
The matter was referred to police at the same time.
A "number" of staff have already been stood down as a result of the investigation.
At a press conference at 11.30am today Sir Wira said he "wasn't aware" or "aware of the extent" of the alleged violence until he saw the footage on Monday.
But the Herald understands at least three formal complaints have been made this year alone to OT about the same staffer.
Three young males in care - all under 14 - claim they were subjected to violence by the same man.
The complaints were made to OT by either parents, guardians or advocates for the young people.
The Herald has learned one of the youths was taken from Te Oranga last night by his parents.
Police are now investigating that as an alleged abduction.
OT refused repeatedly to respond to specific inquiries from the Herald about the alleged abuse and abduction.
A spokeswoman said the press conference was the only time the agency would speak on the matters at hand.
"This is now an ongoing investigation therefore we will be making no further comment until investigations are complete," she said.
Sir Wira agreed at the press conference that the action in the video "appeared to be excessive force".
"My first knowledge of it was the video," he said. "I have asked investigators 'How is it that we didn't know'?
"Is it that our reporting system is broken? How is it that we have to rely on someone leaking CCTV footage to the public?"
He said Te Oranga would be shut down as soon as possible.
A plan to close it and two other care and protection residences across New Zealand and replace them with smaller and more focused facilities was already in train but would now be expedited.
"Given that we are in a crisis situation I intend to accelerate the process," he said.
Te Oranga houses up to 10 young people and has a staff of 60.
There are two other similar residences in Wellington and Dunedin - with roughly 100 children placed there each year. More than two thirds are Māori.
They differ from Youth Justice facilities, and children are not there for criminal offending.
"As the spokesperson of the children, I expect a higher duty of care to look after them," he said.
"If we don't look after them I will be holding people to account.
"I want to know what happened, why it happened … which is why I initiated the investigation."
He urged anyone with concerns to come forward, assuring OT staff their jobs would be safe if they lifted the lid on abuse.
"I'm not chasing anyone for speaking up," he said.
"I would like people to speak up … It allowed me to focus on something I wasn't aware of ... aware of the extent of.
"We are reacting and I would prefer these things going through the processes we have but … I don't care where they come from, as long as these kids are safe.
"People can ring me in the middle of the night … these children are the most vulnerable and therefore they need a higher duty of care."