Waatea News Column: Oranga Tamariki report highlights it’s the welfare of the State that matters not the babies they kidnap

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The Children’s Commissioner has released his report into Oranga Tamariki and it is as pitiful as it is offensive.

The Children’s Commissioner grimly highlights the statistics:

  • Māori babies are five times more likely to be taken into state care
  • 69% of all children held by the state are Māori
  • 1 in every 150 Māori children are taken into care

The report concludes what all these whitewash reports conclude, that the data is old (from 2017) and doesn’t reflect current practice with one un-contextualised fact that desperately attempts to eclipse the enormity of the problem held up as some type of glimmer of hope.

For this example its the minimal reduction in Māori babies being uplifted that is somehow a triumph of welfare policy.

What a load of ungracious sophistry.

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Here is the truth.

This entire social experiment using big data to intervene early so as to not cost the State more money downstream is an immoral means to decide social policy and its neoliberal agenda to save money by defunding the universal provision of social services should be called out for what it is, the State protecting its welfare over the people they are supposed to be serving!

This weak response by the Children’s Commissioner highlights the utter lack of real checks and balances in the system.

Here is what needs to happen immediately.

Free legal resources for any parent involved in this process so that their rights are clearly defined and protected.

In case of a Māori uplift, Whanau Ora and local Iwi brought into the process to provide help before any uplift.

Uplifts are only for immediate danger and must be reviewed within a month.

These three ideas would require a budget increase, and of course, that’s why those 3 solutions will be turned down because this entire right-wing experiment in social policy is supposed to be cheaper, and if it starts costing more, then it’s not serving its purpose of protecting the welfare of the State over the welfare of a vulnerable child.

We should be ashamed of what this twisted piece of social policy has generated and it must be denounced in the most extreme manner available.

That the Minister of Oranga Tamariki and the Prime Minister have still not watched the Newsroom footage that sparked this inquiry is totally unacceptable.

 

First published on Waatea News.

15 COMMENTS

  1. “…using big data to intervene early so as to not cost the State more money downstream…”

    The idea of early intervention is preventive: take the child before it can be damaged or killed. This may seem a callous approach to you, as it does to many people. But it’s on-balance greatly to be preferred to what used to happen. Which was to wait until harm to the child had been reported. Or the child had been killed.

    To be sure, it costs the state less to intervene early, but prevention of harm is of inestimable benefit to the child.

    I’m sure that most people understand this.

    OT doesn’t uplift children just because it can, or because they’re Maori.

    OT is a child protection agency: it uplifts and removes babies and children who are at serious risk of harm or death at the hands of their parents or family. That’s its whole purpose.

    OT social workers deal with family situations that would make your blood freeze. Some people are egregiously awful to their unfortunate offspring: remember how bad the family violence statistics are, here in NZ.

    In the course of the work I used to do, I sometimes saw some of the dreadful consequences of that violence. And I’m old enough to remember the tragic procession of court cases, especially from the early 1990s onward.

    Were it not for OT’s sterling efforts, the numbers of irreversibly damaged or dead children would be vastly greater.

    I can take an educated guess at the factors underlying the terrible level of family violence. Jean Te Huia recently pointed to those factors, while reminding listeners that OT wasn’t to blame, but just doing its job. See this:

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/summerreport/audio/2018730029/jean-te-huia-s-reaction-to-children-s-commissioner

    At the same time, Denis O’Reilly pointed to the meth epidemic affecting much of Maori society.

    Have a care with critique of OT: the evidence says that it’s misplaced.

    • D’Esterre, thank you for that – The Jean Te Huia interview is from just ten days ago and I have transcribed some of what she says, here:

      Oranga Tamariki is the ambulance at the bottom of the hill. And if we continue to focus on the ambulance at the bottom of the hill, and we don’t fix the problem, ..and the problem is about supporting family to be family.

      If we look at the number of state houses that were taken out of communities, and those families are now live in hotels, they live with other family members, they live homeless, they’re on the street. If we look at what is causing the issue (which is the removal of children), it isn’t creating a better system to remove children.

      The answer is in improving those homes where those children are coming from, so that those children can stay with their parents and stay with their families. We need a better system of housing, we to get need a better system of educating our families and our whanau, a better system where our men can work, where they have employment..

      In Hawkes Bay where they bring in 17,000 overseas workers, …who now take up all of the horticultural and agricultural jobs. Many of those were jobs that Maori people had.

      So we have problems that far outweigh the need to improve a child welfare system.

      • Kheala: As you note, Jean Te Huia said (among other things): “In Hawkes Bay where they bring in 17,000 overseas workers, …who now take up all of the horticultural and agricultural jobs. Many of those were jobs that Maori people had.”

        And she’s right about that.

        However, it would be disingenuous not to comment on the reason why that has happened.

        Employers were obliged to bring in migrants because of the destructive effects of burgeoning drug use and abuse by Maori. Those employers were increasingly unable to find workers who were willing to do the work, or who were able to pass drug tests. Cannabis damages developing brains, as I’ve said elsewhere: one of its most pernicious effects is the destruction of motivation.

        And we see almost daily, news reports about what meth can do to addicts. Small wonder so many are unemployed.

    • the meth epidemic affecting much of Maori society.

      Affecting all of society, …tragic, destructive, horrific in its impact.
      I too have seen innocent lives completely destroyed by it, including in my wider family.
      Meth is the scourge of our time. A Tsunami of Meth

      • Kheala: “Affecting all of society…”

        Yes, you’re right, in the sense that its consequences affect wider society: the cost to the taxpayer of crime, health problems, the damage to families and so on. Though in my family and social circle, nobody is addicted. Were it otherwise, we’d sure know about it! That doesn’t mean that nobody has tried it, of course…

        I read that link; I’ve seen that information elsewhere. I note that each of those areas where usage is highest also have high Maori populations. Combining that fact with crime reports and gang activity, along with Denis O’Reilly’s comments, it’s reasonable to conclude that Maori society is disproportionately affected.

        But it won’t be all Maori: we have extended family (some of them Maori) in two of those areas. As I remarked earlier, meth isn’t a problem for them.

        • D’Esterre,
          One reason I said “all” is because I want the problem fixed! As long as Meth/ P is cast as ‘a problem belonging to one ethnic group’ then it becomes ‘someone else’s problem’. The will, the motivation to sort it out and end it, as a hideous, widespread, incredibly destructive scourge on us all, is not there.

          I don’t believe the government is putting enough resources and effort into trying to end the problem. I don’t mean just throwing money at it, though that is one factor, but with sufficient will, it could be achieved.

          And the other lot, if they get into power, – it is then far easier for them to just throw people in jail, into their privatised, for-profit prisons, … when they can present it as a problem of one particular ‘group’. The wider population feel they’re off-the-hook and public motivation for really dealing with the problem and ending it, evaporates.

          (When it is framed as a regional problem, eg of Northland or Hawkes Bay, etc, it starts to become more focussed and easier to address.)

          • Kheala: “As long as Meth/ P is cast as ‘a problem belonging to one ethnic group’ then it becomes ‘someone else’s problem’.”

            Unfortunately, in terms of negative effects at least, it has become centred among the poor and the disadvantaged. And Maori are overrepresented in that sector of society.

            Before P/meth, it was cannabis; before that, it was booze. All of these substances have become normalised in much of Maori society. The horrendous effects are obvious to all of us.

            In the late 60s, when I was finishing my studies, cannabis first appeared in the universities. To begin with, it was mostly students who used it (though not me: I’ve never tried it). But by about the mid- to late-70s, it had spread into Maori society – more or less at the same time as the rise of the gangs – where it became normalised.

            Cannabis damages the developing brain, and use by young Maori people has caused predictable damage. Add to that the sort of damage reported by this study, and it’s small wonder we have a tsunami of crime among Maori:

            https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/408350/traumatic-brain-injuries-and-imprisonment-linked-study-suggests

            I think we can conclude that a study of male prisoners would elicit similar results.

            I’m old enough to remember when the NZ government of the time enthusiastically adopted Richard Nixon’s disastrous “war on drugs”. It has been a colossal failure. Were it not for that wrong-headed idea, I suspect we’d not be seeing the problems we now have with P and the like.

            I’m conflicted about the legalisation of cannabis. On the one hand, I favour it. On the other, a (much younger) member of this household who is firmly opposed, has presented cogent arguments, with which it’s difficult to disagree.

            On balance, I come down in favour. If we’ll still have the resulting crime, at least we won’t also be criminalising people for possession and so on.

        • its consequences affect wider society: the cost to the taxpayer of crime, health problems, the damage to families and so on.

          I would take out the phrase “to the taxpayer”, as these problems are far deeper and more damaging to us all as a society, as a nation, as a culture, as that combined group of people who comprise Aotearoa NZ (than merely financial). The cost needs to be comprehended in ‘human’ terms, in that word’s widest, deepest and highest sense. (Does it make sense to say, at a soul level?)

          • Kheala: “I would take out the phrase “to the taxpayer”, as these problems are far deeper and more damaging to us all…”

            True enough. However, in the final analysis, it all comes down to hip pocket issues. The damage costs money, and fixing it – if it can be fixed – costs money, one way or another.

    • The idea of early intervention is preventive: take the child before it can be damaged or killed. This may seem a callous approach to you, as it does to many people. But it’s on-balance greatly to be preferred to what used to happen.”

      That idea might fly if the child’s new situation wasn’t horrifically damaging. But that’s not the case. I’d encourage you to read Elizabeth Stanley’s 2016 book “The Road to Hell: State Violence Against Children in Postwar New Zealand.”

      • Bea: “That idea might fly if the child’s new situation wasn’t horrifically damaging. But that’s not the case.”

        I don’t think that anyone could claim with certainty that all contemporary foster carers who take uplifted infants and children are damaging them. There have certainly been terrible cases over the past 30 years or so, though of course they were the outliers.

        I remember the late 80s – early 90s and the old DSW’s change of focus in respect of Maori children in care. There was a real effort made to place such children with extended family members. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the deaths and the injuries; scarcely surprising, given that if the birth family’s parenting practices are poor, those of extended family are likely to be similar.

        “…..Elizabeth Stanley’s 2016 book “The Road to Hell: State Violence Against Children in Postwar New Zealand.””

        I’m familiar with this material. She’s talking about institutional care. I was born very soon after WW2: I remember those institutions, went to school with some of those children.

        Such places reflected outdated – largely Victorian – views of children and how they should be treated.

        By the1980s, however, they were closing or had closed. The last ones to close were the psychopaedic places such as Lake Alice, Templeton and Kimberley, in the 90s. And – awful as they were for many of the unfortunate people living in them – there was a strong rearguard action by parents to stop their closure.

        Of course, they were good for some residents, but for many others, just dreadful.

        I was working in that sector at the time: I heard stories that would – as I said to Martyn earlier – make your blood freeze. Sadly, many parents didn’t know the full extent of what went on in those places, hence the campaign against their closure.

        Nowadays, there are no institutions of that sort, for which thank heavens. But many children – disproportionately Maori – are in danger from the very people who ought to care for them.

        The 2012 White Paper pointed to a different strategy, hence the establishment of OT. And the uplift of newborns began. The underlying principle is that it’s better to take children from abusive and/or incompetent parents before they can be damaged or killed. It makes sense.

        Whether such children can be placed with extended family is dependent upon said family. If the issues of gang involvement, drug addiction and resulting mental illness, and crime are prevalent in the wider family, then the child is safer in another family.

        Stanley raises the issue of colonisation. This country hasn’t been a colony, de facto since 1853 and the establishment of the first government, de jure since the first decade of the 20th century. What she’s actually talking about is culture: not the same thing. However. Access to one’s culture is every bit as important for non-Maori children as for Maori. Everyone needs to remember that.

  2. Kheala: “This was in Aus; the pain is the same.”

    Indeed. But not exactly a commensurate situation, for all that.

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