A young and vulnerable mother says she and two others were "inappropriately touched" by a staff member at an Oranga Tamariki-associated parenting programme.
The North Island programme, which the Herald is not naming to protect the identities of those involved, has confirmed it has launched an internal investigation following the allegations and stood down the staff member while it is carried out.
Many of the mothers in the residential care programme are referred there by Oranga Tamariki after their child or children had been uplifted, with the programme a requirement for them to be reunited.
It involved the mothers living on site, and a mixture of parenting classes and counselling.
The mother told the Herald she had been in the progamme since last year.
Her 1-year-old daughter had been uplifted at birth due to issues around drug and alcohol addictions and family violence.
She had since been through rehabilitation, and was determined to get her life back on track and be there for her daughter.
To regain care of her daughter Oranga Tamariki required her to go through the programme, she said.
"It is the only way I can get my daughter back in my care."
But while the programme is designed to provide a safe space for mothers - many grappling with "violence, child abuse and trauma" - the woman said recently it had not felt that way.
In December, while she was alone with the staff member in question, she said they touched her in an inappropriate manner.
"The kind of abuse that happened to me happened also when I was younger, so it was very triggering for me," she said.
The woman kept the incident to herself, fearful that raising a complaint could see her lose her daughter again.
But during a group counselling session in January, she said two other mothers spoke out about similar abuse.
She laid a formal complaint with the programme, and, while it had launched an internal investigation, it had been over six weeks without any update.
She said she had raised concerns with Oranga Tamariki also, but these had been "brushed off".
"I am concerned because we are put here by Oranga Tamariki and this place is supposed to be a safe place for us and our children."
A programme spokeswoman confirmed there had been an allegation of inappropriate touching, but declined to comment any further while their internal investigation took place.
"I recognise intently the degree of trauma our vulnerable mothers experience in their lives prior to coming on to the programme – and we have responded in care to ensure all the mothers have received additional therapeutic support.
"I cannot comment any further than to say that the staff member in question was placed on immediate paid leave and remains so while our internal investigation is completed."
She said they hoped to complete the investigation next week.
The programme's clients are largely referred through Oranga Tamariki and part of the referral order is that they have an infant.
There are almost always custodial orders on the children and the Family Court is heavily involved along with Oranga Tamariki.
An Oranga Tamariki spokeswoman said they were aware of the investigation and recently received an update on its progress.
"While the investigation is still under way it would be inappropriate to comment further."