Friday, February 23, 2024

Kerre Woodham: The complaints about Oranga Tamariki are the same every time

We have in the news yet another report into Oranga Tamariki. Yet another damning indictment into an organisation that should never exist. The Chief Ombudsman has called for changes “on a scale rarely required” at Oranga Tamariki. He reviewed about 2000 complaints over four years for his report children in care, complaints to the Ombudsman, 2019 to 2023. He said he could not yet provide reassurance that Oranga Tamariki’s practices and processes were consistently operating as they should.

You could have basically taken any report that's been written over the last 20 years, and it doesn't matter whether it's called CYFS or Child youth and Family or Oranga Tamariki, it is the same complaints time and time and time again about an organisation, I repeat, that should not exist.

If parents and caregivers gave their children even the most basic and rudimentary of care, like just didn't kill them, we wouldn't be spending more than a billion dollars a year on a government department that is constantly criticised. And I really feel for the people who work there. You would go in there with the best of intentions, and they would be crushed out of you within months, I'd imagine. CYFS, child youth and family, whatever, are roundly attacked for taking babies off mothers. The next day, they're roundly attacked for NOT taking babies off mothers, for not acting soon enough.

There have been criticisms of this organisation since I can remember. I mean, I'm going back in the far mists of time, but I remember them all. Since 2017, I'm just going back to 2017, and I've been talking about this since the 1990s, but since 2017, 65 New Zealanders 17 or under have been killed/murdered. Some of them youth fighting but since 2017, 65 New Zealanders 17 or under have been killed - 24 of those were aged under 12 months. Those weren’t youths fighting in the street. They were the most vulnerable children and homes killed by their carers since 2017.

I am going right back now: Saliel Aplin and Olympia Jetson. They were murdered by their stepfather when they threatened to tell the authorities that he was sexually abusing them. So many adults knew that they were being abused. Teachers knew and warned the authorities. CYFS workers knew, police knew. They'd complained to the police. The police had investigated. They couldn't find any evidence. Their own mother. She was a hapless soul who tried to get away. She was in a terrible, violent, oppressive succession of relationships that resulted in numerous children, and she couldn't keep them safe.

If I say those names and you were around at the time, you'll remember the school photo of those two girls. They were gorgeous, bright, brave intelligent. But they were only 11 and 12, there was only so much they could do. They knew the risks they were taking; they phoned the authorities themselves. They were trying to get help from the adults. Their mother knew. They told friends they would die. They'd been threatened with death by their stepfather if they told. And they told their friends they would die, and they did. He stabbed them. While a whole bunch of adults knew about this abuse. Their mother was very sad and regretful. She said she'd never be in a violent relationship again. She said she would like to see trained social workers employed in primary schools so abuse to children could be detected and dealt with quickly by professionals. She was calling for major changes at CYFS, with whom she remained angry, saying there are a lot of questions to answer over its management of her family's case.

But is it CYFS fault or Child Youth and Family’s fault or Oranga Tamariki's fault?

How can a government organisation prevent dysfunctional families from abusing the most vulnerable? Surely you need eyes and ears within those families. Oranga Tamariki has a more than $1 billion budget. Wouldn't that money be better spent on trying something different? Although when you do try something different, then all hell breaks loose.

I remember when women on benefits were offered free long-term contraception by the then National government way back when, must have been about 2012. Paula Bennett was accused of Nazi type policies from an uncaring National government, it was offered. It was free. It was reversible. And then when National says it's going to can free contraception for women, then everybody criticises them again for not understanding women and their needs.

So, if you try something, if you put your head above the parapet, it's very quickly knocked down. This is appalling. It's been appalling. It has stayed appalling. Children keep dying. The ones who survive, God only knows what happens to them when they have their families, because the very children I'm talking about their siblings are now in their 20s, 30s and 40s, having their own families, how the hell do they parent? Not all of them are going to turn out bad at all. Many people can take a dysfunctional childhood and turn it into a very successful adulthood by not repeating the mistakes, by not repeating the abuse that was dished out to them.

But why the hell do we have a government organisation that has been rebranded, renamed, had its chief executives replaced over and over and over again, and all those children want is someone to save them. And you can't do it from a government organisation. Even if you throw a billion dollars at it. Wouldn't that money be better spent perhaps putting welfare workers with every at-risk child? There aren't that many of them. There aren't that many of them that are struggling. And yet they're the biggest, biggest problem.

The deaths of so many New Zealand children, it’s just a damning indictment on this country. There's a stain on this beautiful country. Serenity Jay, Hail-Sage McClutchie, Mikara, Baby Ru, James Whakaruru, Saliel and Olympia, you know, you can see their faces and you know that they're going to have to make room on the wall of shame because more babies are coming after them.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.


Robert Arthur said...

To what degree does the insistance on placing children within their own "culture" a limiting factor? Many outplaced in the past have done very well.
With many burdend with relatives from their own family, taking on yet more must be very demanding, and especially if they have absorbed significant te ao and tikanga.

Empathic said...

I don't think the underlying causes of Oranga Tamariki's dysfunction have been accurately identified. They will be varied and complex. One is the influence of feminist propaganda including excessive faith in the goodness of mothers and the idea that 'patriarchal power and control' is the basis of most family violence. This unevidenced belief has crept into family and criminal law with the concept that 'coercive control' (assumed to be done by men) is in itself violence comparable to murderous beatings. There have been numerous cases in which fathers have raised red flags about violence or risk provided by their children's mother, but the fathers have then been dismissed, treated as harassing the mother until the children are seriously harmed. Further, there have been numerous cases in which children have been removed from mothers and place elsewhere without the father being asked to have the child or even being consulted, often on the basis of some unsubstantiated allegation previously made against that father often as a ploy in a Family Court dispute over child 'custody' or so-called 'relationship property'.

Indeed, the situation of sole parents, subjecting children on average to much greater risk than in families including the biological father, is one based on feminist propaganda. Only a very small proportion of family breakups, encouraged and facilitated by government including specifically Oranga Tamariki, are due to any real violence.