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Kelvin Davis to Oranga Tamariki: please explain

Newsroom logo Newsroom 26/11/2020 Sam Sachdeva
Kelvin Davis wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Newsroom

Kelvin Davis has requested an urgent briefing from Oranga Tamariki on a ‘heartbreaking and disturbing’ Newsroom investigation showing the agency uplifting four Māori children from their permanent foster home 

Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis has asked Oranga Tamariki to “please explain” its actions after a Newsroom investigation into Māori children being taken away from Pākehā foster parents who had provided them with a permanent home.

Davis told Newsroom he had watched most of the video - a change from his predecessor Tracey Martin, who refused to watch a previous Newsroom investigation into a child uplift - and had already called Oranga Tamariki officials into his office on Thursday morning for a “please explain”.

“I was disturbed by what I saw - it was absolutely heartbreaking.”

Davis had subsequently requested an urgent briefing on the case and the ministry’s approach.

The video documentary by Newsroom’s investigations editor, Melanie Reid, reveals the case of four Māori siblings being taken from a Pākehā family after they were placed with them two and a half years ago.

The ministry’s actions have been condemned in the documentary by iwi leaders, highly experienced social workers and child trauma experts.

Reid’s investigation shows Oranga Tamariki removing the children after promising them and their foster parents that this would be their ‘forever home’ and they would never be moved again.

The British couple, who have one other foster child, had purchased a lifestyle block to give the children more space to play and the wife had given up her job to concentrate on looking after the children.

a dog sitting on a table: The foster Mum after the children were taken. © Provided by Newsroom The foster Mum after the children were taken.

Davis said: “The first thing that we should be thinking about is the wellbeing of those children, and ... having children in a safe, loving family is the number one priority.”

Asked whether it was tenable for Oranga Tamariki CEO Grainne Moss to remain at the top of the organisation in light of the latest revelations, he said: “There are issues with the leadership, and I am handling them, but let’s be really clear that the changes in OT are bigger than just the leadership. There is a systemic problem here and one person isn’t necessarily the problem, we have to look at the whole system.”

Newsroom has heard of multiple examples of young children who were taken and placed in foster care with non-Māori being uprooted again and returned to wider whānau as the children's ministry tries to clean up the mess it caused in the years up to 2019.

Read more:

Oranga Tamariki: The new wave of trauma

'Two wrongs don't make a right'

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