Oranga Tamariki under pressure on taking babies from parents

The story about Oranga Tamariki  taking babies from parents continues to look troubling. Oranga Tamariki  has tried to legally suppress Newsroom coverage but has failed.

The original story: NZ’s own ‘taken generation’

Today we launch a powerful new video story by Newsroom investigations editor Melanie Reid into the attempted ‘uplift’ of a newborn baby from its mother at a maternity ward by the children’s agency Oranga Tamariki.

For the first time, the process involved in taking a baby from its mother is laid bare. The filming, carried out in the hospital room, shows the pressure a young Māori mother is subjected to as she tries to keep her seven-day-old baby.

The case, which Newsroom reported here and here, has iwi leaders calling for a new national approach to resolve the high incidence of Māori parents losing their babies through Oranga Tamariki applications to the Family Court.

All those spoken to by Newsroom accepted intervention could be needed in cases where clear risks arose to a child’s safety – but they argue there is strong whānau support for the mother and child in this case and similar examples exist of Oranga Tamariki refusing to revise its decisions to take children.

Three Māori babies a week are being ‘uplifted’ from their mothers and of 283 babies taken into care last year, more than 70 percent were Māori or Pasifika.

Increasingly, those aware of the level of removals of Māori babies are discussing the term ‘Stolen Generation’, reflecting the systematic policy in Australia of taking indigenous children from their communities.

The documentary, which can be viewed above, contains detailed footage from inside the mother’s hospital room as officials repeatedly attempt to persuade her to give up the child. At one point Oranga Tamariki officials arrived at night after her whānau had left her alone with her week-old baby in the room and did not relent until a 2am intervention by a tribal leader and police commander.

Newsroom: Judge declines OT action vs Newsroom

A Family Court judge has declined a bid by children’s agency Oranga Tamariki to force changes to a Newsroom video story about its attempt to take a newborn baby from its teenage mother.

The agency wanted the court to make Newsroom – and Stuff.co.nz which also published the documentary – remove details from the story but Judge Max Courtney said it wasn’t for him to rule on – either the law had been breached or it hadn’t and if so Oranga Tamariki could report Newsroom to the police.

Oranga Tamariki’s action, following an attempted complaint to the Media Council over earlier stories on the case, was lodged by lawyer Linda Clark for her firm Kensington Swan as an urgent memorandum to the court.

Lawyers for Newsroom, and website Stuff.co.nz which also published the Newsroom story, told the court they rejected Oranga Tamariki’s claims about alleged breaches of the Family Court Act and would oppose their bid for orders to have changes made to the video story.

The video showed a case at Hawke’s Bay Hospital in which three Oranga Tamariki social workers, with police support, tried over two days to take a week-old baby boy from his mother after persuading the Family Court to provide them with an uplift order, citing the safety of the child.

The whānau and the woman’s midwives say the young mother is being blamed by association with her and her partner’s wider family’s background and has strong, caring support.

After strident opposition from the mother and father, their two mothers and whānau, and two midwives and iwi representatives, Oranga Tamariki said it would not try to take the baby but returned at night, when the mother was on her own and tried until the early hours to persuade her to hand over the child. Her midwife and family were barred by the hospital, security and police from entering the hospital to be with her.

Finally she was allowed to stay with the baby and leave the hospital with the boy and stay at a care facility. A further court hearing on the bid to remove the child is set for next week, but the children’s agency has said in a statement that the mother and child have done well and it is ‘supporting’ them.

Oranga Tamariki attempted the court action against Newsroom on the basis this site had identified the child and mother, which Newsroom and Stuff reject.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Gráinne Moss defended her agency’s actions around uplifts to Parliament’s social services committee on Wednesday morning, saying 98.5 percent of Māori children were not in care.

“It’s one of the hardest things, if not the hardest thing, that a social worker ever does – but they do not do that alone, they do that with other professionals, they also do that with the Family Court, they’ve often worked extensively for a long period of time.”

This is a very difficult thing to deal with. Oranga Tamariki are damned if they don’t intervene enough, and damned if they do.  But this situation looks bad, and finding better ways of dealing with it should be a priority.

Leave a comment


  1. Reply
    • Duker

       /  14th June 2019

      Does it say anything about the Mum living in a gang house or being a drug addict?

      Strangely its a common maori custom to pass on new born children to other family members. The instance I know of a person now much older, he said his mother told him
      she didnt want to give him up either, but her older sister was the one who made the decisions and he was passed to a cousin of a different iwi.

  2. David

     /  13th June 2019

    We uplift far to few children from terrible homes which is why we have such bloody awful statistics.

  3. Ray

     /  13th June 2019

    Trouble is we only (rightly I might add) hearing one side of this story, the actual specific risk to the child is not being mentioned.
    It is worth remembering that every year small children are killed, we rarely hear their ethnicity but the name usually is a clue.
    But the deaths are a way short of the 283 taken into care, we all know who will get or gets the blame if the Ministry has any involvement and a child dies.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  13th June 2019

      They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, indeed. If they let the child go to abusive druggie parents and it’s murdered or bashed up they are likely to be abused for letting this happen. If they take it, it’s made to seem like a heartless kidnapping.

  4. NOEL

     /  13th June 2019

    Lot of heart strings been pulled with this story.
    Initially I thought this was one of those influence by pubic stories but after checking further one is left questioning has the Department used false evidence to support a Custody application.

    • NOEL

       /  13th June 2019

      Couldn’t understand why they had to be hovering over the bed until I read this,

      “All afternoon on May 6, Oranga Tamariki had unsuccessfully attempted to uplift the baby but in a memorandum filed in court that day it states “uplift took place today [May 6]”.

      In fact, the baby and the mother, surrounded by their whānau were still at the hospital and another unsuccessful attempt to uplift the baby took place on the night of May 7.

      “This (memorandum) may well have convinced the judge that there was no point responding immediately to the application by the lawyer for the family to stop the uplift as it was too late and the child had already been removed.”

      Family deserved an inquiry.

  5. Griff.

     /  13th June 2019

    My extended family fosters baby’s up lifted by OT.
    Most of not all really do need to be uplifted urgently for the safety of the child.
    With new born baby”s it is harder to tell with the older children the trauma inflicted by their former life is obvious to even a causal observer .

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  13th June 2019

    Separating a new born from its mother is truly horrific and must be the last resort.

    • Duker

       /  14th June 2019

      ” new born from its mother is truly horrific and must be the last resort.”
      A common maori custom ( whangai) even when the mother isnt a deadbet. sometimes its just for a relative who cant have kids

      There were a number of reasons that children were taken as whāngai, including:

      finding homes for an orphaned child (pani)
      taking a child from a large family that was struggling to support all the children
      taking in a child who had young parents
      taking in an illegitimate child
      finding a child for people who cannot have children
      finding a child for older people whose children have grown up
      strengthening whānau, hapū or iwi ties by strategically placing children within selected whānau.
      particularly in the case of kaumātua (elders), taking in a mokopuna (grandchild) to pass down tribal traditions and knowledge
      taking children in as whāngai so that they could inherit land.
      Europeans would think the last one would be appalling

  7. Corky

     /  13th June 2019

    Just listened to Dame Tariana give the standard ‘not Maoris fault’ answer.

  8. Tipene

     /  13th June 2019

    “By Maori, for Maori” is the core reason this mess exists – all of the Social Workers WERE MAORI.

    Witless white-guilt apologists like Petra Baghurst then chime in with the same mantra.

    FFS: the model is broken, has been broken for ages, and will continue to be broken if its “more of the same”.

  9. Tipene

     /  13th June 2019

    Newsroom continue to kick Oranga Tamarikis ample arse:


  10. Amanda

     /  15th June 2019

    That is fucking shit I am under child youth and family thy took my baby off me n nw my baby is one n child youth and family care with a care giver tht me n my partner dnt no no n we both haven’t even met I hate them so I no hw people feel about than ass holes

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  15th June 2019

      Amanda, we all hate this happening but drugs, booze and brutal violence are usually the reasons given. How can you get them all out of your life and get good things into it instead?


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