15 Mar 2019

'Deeply disturbing': More than 200 children abused in state care in 6 months, reports show

6:51 am on 15 March 2019

For the first time, Oranga Tamariki has laid bare just how much harm and abuse is being done to children in its care.

No caption.

Photo: 123RF

The Ministry for Children has released its first two safety of children in care reports, covering the six months to December 2018. In that period, there were over 300 instances of neglect, or emotional, sexual or physical abuse.

The abusers included caregivers, parents, other children, adult family members and - in a small number of cases - Oranga Tamariki staff members.

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss said the figures were "distressing".

Grainne Moss

Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss says two reports provide distressing figures for the number of cases of children abused in its care. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In the September quarter, there were 200 findings of harm, involving 130 children. There were 120 cases of physical harm, 19 of sexual harm, 35 of emotional harm and 26 of neglect.

Just over 72 percent of the physical harm findings were recorded against a caregiver or parent and the majority related to inappropriate discipline measures.

All of the findings of emotional harm or neglect were recorded against caregivers or parents.

In the December quarter, there were 136 findings of harm, involving 97 children. Of the 17 findings of sexual harm, three were recorded against a caregiver, while three were recorded against people not known to the child.

Various forms of harm carried out by ministry staff, report says

There were also findings of emotional, sexual and physical harm recorded against Oranga Tamariki staff members.

Ms Moss said it was disappointing and unacceptable that staff were among those abusing children.

"We have taken immediate disciplinary action, we've ensured that the children are safe and those individuals have been dealt with appropriately," she said.

In the most serious cases, that could include referring individuals to the police.

Where the abuse occurred in placements, Oranga Tamariki said in most cases, children were removed from those placements. In some cases, this wasn't necessary, but extra safety measures were put in place.

Ms Moss said she wanted to see no children harmed in state care, but admitted that could take some time to achieve.

But she said the ministry would to be open and transparent with its reporting on harm, so improvements could be made.

"What we need to make sure is we are continually learning so that we are changing things for the better for the children," Ms Moss said.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft.

Judge Andrew Becroft Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said the figures in the reports were "utterly unacceptable".

"These figures, make no mistake, are deeply disturbing, they're distressing," he said.

Judge Becroft said he was concerned at the instances where Oranga Tamariki staff members had abused children.

He said that behaviour could not be tolerated, and reinforced the need for absolute vigilance when hiring staff.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs