The Hands Off Our Tamariki Network has an admirable ring to its name. Here’s hoping everybody gets the message because if whanau members kept their hands off their tamaraki … well, there would be no need for a state agency to intervene and get its hands on the victims of domestic violence.
The reasons why the Oranga Tamariki agency becomes involved in caring for children has been somewhat downplayed by speakers at protest meetings who demand the state leave their mokopuna alone and insist Māori be the ones caring for their children.
Yet while they call for the state to stay away when Maori children are involved, paradoxically they want the government to do something:
Sheilagh Walker, of Ngā Puhi, came down from Whangārei to be at the protest and said it was time for a change, and the prime minister and politicians needed to step up and do something.
“Our prime minister really needs to realise – no disrespect to her – yes, she supported the Muslim community but hey, right here in Aotearoa [for] tangata whenua … the theft of our tamariki and whakapapa is a priority.”
Are these children never removed from their families for their own protection?
The statistics below suggest otherwise.
Howls of “racism” inevitably were flung against the agency responsible for ensuring children’s safety and (a fundamental Ardern government concern) wellbeing.
Jean Te Huia, a midwife involved in the controversy generated when Oranga Tamariki attempted to remove a newborn baby from its mother at Hawke’s Bay Hospital earlier this year, was among those who bandied the “r” word.
She said Oranga Tamariki’s policies were racist against Māori, and continued to hurt iwi, hapū and whānau through the generations.
“When we look at the statistics of children in state care today, they are third, fourth and fifth generation.
“They are children of state care, their parents were and their grandparents were.”
“Clearly the state tries very hard to keep children within their whakapapa links. That may actually be part of the problem of re-abuse in ‘state care’ – that children have been left or placed with unsafe family members.“But the state certainly tries very hard to place children within their own ethnicity. (Again not something I necessarily agree with if the child’s best interests are not being served.)
“That’s why they measure their achievement in this endeavour:
Mitchell takes issue, too, with Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson, who said the “torture and abuse” at the hand of the state must stop. She retorts:
“That is one seriously misguided, dangerously inflammatory indivi”dual.
“If abuse at the ‘hand of family’ were to stop Oranga Tamariki, the focus of all this venom, wouldn’t need to exist.”
Lindsay Mitchell has tried to throw light on this vexing issue in previous posts.
In March, addressing the issue of removing children who have been abused or neglected, she examined whether Maori children should be placed with whanau, returned to their families or taken elsewhere.
She posted new data about the re-abuse of children who are already officially in state care.
In the quarter to September 2018 there were 200 findings of physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect concerning 130 individuals. Fifty nine percent of children in state care are Maori but accounted for 71% of the abuse findings.
A majority of the re-abuse occurred in a family placement (family member) or return to family care (usually parent). Most (60%) of the re-abuse was physical.
“Most of the physical abuse occurred in a family or return/remain home placement. Almost all of the neglect occurred in these two categories, and most of the emotional abuse. Only sexual abuse (19 findings) had a different pattern and over half of that had occurred when the child was away from care eg had absconded.”
Mitchell concluded that, based on these statistics, the evidence for keeping children within the whanau is not great. BUT there are around 6,300 children in state care so 130 isn’t a high proportion.
Bob Edlin is a veteran journalist and editor for the Point of Order blog HERE.