Failure to have state care abuse inquiry: “sticks like a knife in my guts”

The Prime Minister and Government ministers keep refusing to have an inquiry into historical cases of abuse of children while in State care (there are claims that abuses are still occurring).

Paora Crawford Moyle (at E-Tangata) describes what state care was like for her, and how “it sticks like a knife in my guts” whenever she hears a refusal to have an inquiry.

Every time Anne Tolley and Bill English talk about the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, or oppose an inquiry into the historical abuse of children in state care, it sticks like a knife in my guts.

I am Ngāti Porou through my mother, and I’m Weira — Welsh — through my father. After spending 14 years in state care, and 25 years in social work, I consider myself an expert on what it is truly like for a child with Māori whakapapa to grow up separated from all that intrinsically belongs to them.

I was five when I was taken into state care, and 18 when I was finally able to escape it. My mother, miserable and unwell, had left us, for her own survival as well as ours, to escape my father’s violence. She was deemed to have “abandoned her children”, and so my father was awarded legal custody of us.

He then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care. On my fifth birthday, he took me and my two brothers (my older sister was placed with other caregivers) to a children’s home, and left, promising to be back for us soon. I waited every day for weeks and months after that, but it would be many years before I saw him again.

Over the years, other children came and went, but my siblings and I stayed in those homes. To everyone who came to visit and view the “underprivileged” children, we looked well adjusted and cared for.

But our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to: psychological, sexual, and other physical abuse over many years. It still makes me sick to say that.

She goes on to describe how Maori children were subjected to institutionalised racism.

We are survivors, although none of us came through that experience unscathed. Even after I left state care, the trauma followed me. For many years, I tried to fill the emptiness with drugs and alcohol, and toxic relationships.

But, as my brother Tipene said to me: “Our stories have to be told. How would people know what it’s like for a child to go through state-imposed trauma unless we all tell our story?”

There are still thousands of kids in state care who don’t have a voice. And too many of them are Māori. According to the Children’s Commissioner, Māori make up 61 percent of all kids in state care and 71 percent of the total in youth justice residences.

If that isn’t institutional racism, what is?

There may be institutional racism, but there also seems to be a disproportional problem in Maori families – probably a minority of families but far too prevalent.

Problems continue:

Anne Tolley has ignored multiple recommendations to establish strategic partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations. Instead her ministry consults and engages with and privileges organisations like Barnardos and Open Home Foundation.

The refusal of Government to have an inquiry obviously hurts.

Bill English, interviewed on The Hui, denied again the need for an inquiry into the state’s epic abuse of children in care. What this says to survivors is: “It didn’t happen.” Or “You weren’t beaten or raped that badly”.

It sticks like a knife in our collective guts. And while it’s fantastic that Susan Devoy and others are calling for the inquiry, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Māori have been calling out state abuse of our mokopuna for decades. For example, in the landmark Puao-te-Ata-tu report in 1988.

Bill English and Anne Tolley keep referring to April 1 when the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki will kick in and miraculously make children safe. That’s like saying cigarettes are safe because Big Tobacco says it is.

Āe, we absolutely need an inquiry to know the scale of the state’s historical abuse on children. Without it, the cogs in the machine keep churning, trucking and trafficking.

English has changed his mind on a number of issues – like Super, like charging for water. Perhaps he will think again about how to deal with this.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Pickled Possum

     /  March 21, 2017

    Kia kaha wahine toa
    “It was a difficult and lonely navigation for us. The perpetual emptiness was a feeling we all experienced. As property of the state, the effects of separation and abuse manifested in many ways. Some were immediate and obvious: the disruptive behaviour. Bed-wetting. And some were repressed and long term: the inability to form trusting and lasting relationships with others — a common experience for those who’ve been in state care”

    “To everyone who came to visit and view the “underprivileged” children, we looked well adjusted and cared for. But our experience contradicted appearances and we suffered things children are not supposed to: psychological, sexual, and other physical abuse over many years. It still makes me sick to say that.”

    The current law gives priority to placing a child with a member of their whānau, or wider hapū, or iwi. But the new bill, as it stands, removes that priority and instead puts the emphasis on the child’s safety.

    “Anne Tolley’s justification all along has been that Māori children are more vulnerable than non-Maori when returned to their whānau because they are at high risk of being re-abused.”

    But what she failed to mention is that this was occurring most often as a result of the dump-and-run, patch-and-dispatch practices by social workers who don’t value the needs of Māori children as highly as non-Maori.”

    “We are survivors, although none of us came through that experience unscathed. Even after I left state care, the trauma followed me. For many years, I tried to fill the emptiness with drugs and alcohol, and toxic relationships”

    These are Real emotions from a Real person does the fact she is Maori make it a little less trivial?

    Tears are flowing reading her full story at E-Tangata
    I believe in all fairness and for some closure; there should be a Class Action

    Firstly; to address the very fact that children were being abused in supposedly safe loving environments. To see how the slippery slope to torturing children ‘In Care’ was just ignored.
    Unless you have been involved in helping abused children or have been abused You have No say in this matter IMHO.

    the new Bill gives the social worker complete and uninterrupted say over a child’s life.

    To say that today’s dysfunctional families come from a generational dysfunction family, is like saying; all non-maori are paedophiles, just an eg as paedophiles are predominantly non-maori.

    I met an elderly man the other day who is loving and kind and brought up a successful brood of children, only to have one stray into the P pit.

    There is nothing he can do for the mother and the father who live for the ‘glass pipe’.
    He and his beautiful wife just go get their mokopuna and wash them, feed them, love them look after their wairutanga needs then send them back home to hopefully a cleaner house with cupboards that are filled with real kai.

    Of course it is all good for a while but without acknowledgement from the mother and father that ‘kicking’ the P-pit is the first priority on the list it doesn’t take long before the food, clothes and house are just all back to being a mess again.

    So the kuia and koro go back and take the children who ask why? can’t we live with yous?

    If the government agencies get involved then these children would or could be taken and put into an emergency care house, hotel or jail cell. Away from Real caring and Real love and also Real tikanga. To grow up with Real problems created by unknowing and self righteous law makers.

    I will not support this Bill and if Anne Tolley thinks it is right then she should think ‘why” it is right to separate children from their whanau hapu iwi.

    ‘We cannot support this bill”
    http://www.maoriparty.org/children_young_persons_and_their_families_oranga_tamariki_legislation_bill_first_reading

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  March 21, 2017

      “is like saying; all non-maori are paedophiles, just an eg as paedophiles are predominantly non-maori.”

      This is true as a whole but the last figures I saw showed Maori child sex offending was around 28% of the total convictions, Pacific Islanders 12% which is well above their population %. If you also consider that the Maori and Pacific populations are made up of a larger % of children than the European population the statistics are even worse in terms of adult offending.

      Reply
  2. “sticks like a knife in my guts” …

    Mine too …

    Its gonna be painful for pakeha to discover the true extent and depth of racism in our system and in the history of New Zealand …

    Better to acknowledge it, correct it and get over it properly – heal it as much as possible – so we can move on unencumbered, than leave that knife stuck in there …

    We can only become Aotearoa New Zealand by doing so, IMHO …

    ‘We cannot support this bill”

    Reply
    • PDB

       /  March 21, 2017

      “My mother, miserable and unwell, had left us, for her own survival as well as ours, to escape my father’s violence. She was deemed to have “abandoned her children”, and so my father was awarded legal custody of us.
      He then applied to Social Welfare to have us temporarily placed in its care. On my fifth birthday, he took me and my two brothers (my older sister was placed with other caregivers) to a children’s home, and left, promising to be back for us soon. I waited every day for weeks and months after that, but it would be many years before I saw him again.”

      Bloody Pakeha!

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  March 21, 2017

      Two issues.
      1. Should there be an enquiry into the abuses in State Care. Probably, yes. They probably affected more than just Maori children, but I think there should be one.
      2. Does the new bill prevent children being placed in the care of responsible whanau? Not as I understand it. But it doesn’t require them to be placed in the care of irresponsible ones. There have been to many instances of that. That’s my understanding. I am happy to be corrected if I’m wrong.

      Reply
  3. Griff

     /  March 21, 2017

    “wahine toa”

    life is not about being a warrior in this century. That imperative died in about 1835 with the end of the “musket wars”
    Did it ever occur to you that repeating the myth is enabling the dysfunction?

    Underneath your assertion is the idea Maori woman need to be strong to counteract the violence coming from Maori males. How about addressing the problem with love not celebrating the scab many Maori woman grow to protect them from the hurt their culture inflicts on them .

    The current law gives priority to placing a child with a member of their whānau, or wider hapū, or iwi. But the new bill, as it stands, removes that priority and instead puts the emphasis on the child’s safety.

    Yes indeed the needs of the child comes first .
    How any one could disagree with this is unsettling to say the lest.

    Racism
    the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

    Racism is rife is the Maori community.
    As you have illustrated it is even propagated down to the iwi or whanau level.

    Safety of the Kids must come first your cultural beliefs a distant second .

    Reply
  4. I am sick and tired of being slagged off at by some Maori women who claim that all ills they and their children have suffered are due to racist Pakeha. I say bullshit. The problem starts with the poor choices being made by the Maori Women of the male partner they intend to procreate with. if your husband beats you or your children, leave the husband. If you want the community to help you pay for the children you bore, then accept that you will lose some of your independent freedom of action. The Community can’t provide the father’s love and support your children need and deserve, perhaps the Whanau can help with an appropriate substitute father figure to provide the time, the love and support for your children that you brought into this life, As a human being you have the right to procreate, but in doing so you also have an obligation to those children all of the necessities of life. If you are not ready and able to accept that responsibility, the choice is yours , say NO!
    And I also add, the same situation exists for all non-Maori women.
    As far as men are concerned, if you father a child, it must be by mutual consent with the mother and without ny pressure or force. You too have to make good decisions about the partner with whom you wish to procreate, it is a lifetime commitment. If you don’t want to accept that obligation then say NO, THANKS.

    Reply

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