More than a name change: Minister Martin affirms Oranga Tamariki “nothing like” CYFS

Speaking to RNZ’s Checkpoint on the protests against Oranga Tamariki’s uplifting of Māori children, Minister for Children Tracey Martin argues that these will continue as long as children continue to be at risk, and that the government agency is more than just a name change from the Child, Youth and Family (CYF) agency of the past.

More than 300 people rallied on Parliament grounds, calling for an immediate stop in the practice of uplifting babies from families. This sentiment was echoed by Dame Tariana Turia also, but Minister Martin explained why this cannot be the case.

“It is not possible at the moment because there are still children whose lives are in danger, and there are children who are terribly neglected and treated badly. Every two days, a child in this country shows up to hospital with non-accidental injuries. We have had three children pass away since that video went live that created the impetus for this protest. It is easy to say [to end uplifts], but it is not going to happen.”

However, the Minister assured everyone concerned that she and Oranga Tamariki are “dedicated to, and I have sat down with Tariana Turia in Whanganui a while ago and told them I will absolutely work with them to find what will work for their respective communities as early prevention and intervention methods to stop children from entering into Oranga Tamariki’s care.”

Minister Martin also argued that Oranga Tamariki is more than just a name change from CYF, highlighting significant changes to its foundations since the Coalition Government assumed office. In particular, there have been “strategic partnerships with iwi: [such as] Ngai Tahu, Ngapuhi and Waikato-Tainui which have stopped children coming into Oranga Tamariki’s care.”

There have also been significant increases in the number of social workers and caregivers, and more funding for their training.

Though the Minister admitted that more work needs to be done: “The expert advisory panel said that we have to change from the Child, Youth and Family situation and that it would take at least five years and investments of billions of dollars to change what was the child crisis service into a child protection service. It is not there yet, only 29 days ago did I get the $1.5 billion I need to rebuild this.”

She emphasized the goal of the agency is to transition from a child crisis service, to a child protection service, and that work was in progress to achieve this: “There are six Cabinet papers that have gone through [regarding Oranga Tamariki], a completely different operating model, more money than ever before into child protection services. This is not Child, Youth and Family.”

“People need to recognise what the expert advisory panel said and the fact that we are trying to rebuild, rather than continuing to attack for the work that was done before Oranga Tamariki existed.”

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