Girl in hiding from Oranga Tamariki claims abuse in state care

6:39 pm on 4 July 2019

Police are hunting for a 13-year-old girl who has gone into hiding from Oranga Tamariki, alleging she's been abused in state care and wants to be with her whānau.

In a video message sent to RNZ, the girl claims she has suffered ongoing abuse at the hands of state caregivers, and wants to live with her grandmother but Oranga Tamariki won't allow it.

"Since 2015 my education has been very poor in Oranga Tamariki's care. I have been to school less than half the time.

"I have been assaulted and verbally abused by caregivers employed by Oranga Tamariki. I have now run away and I'm trying to stay with my nana but Oranga Tamariki won't allow me to be there."

The family say Oranga Tamariki agreed to allow the girl to stay with her grandmother, but the situation changed this week when her mother was released from prison.

Under strict parole conditions, the mother must stay with the grandmother but cannot have access to her daughter.

An advocate who is helping the family said she wouldn't disclose where the girl was until Oranga Tamariki could assure her she wouldn't be sent back into state care.

"Only if we have 100 percent trust with those agencies. They will meet at the table and they will have the best interest for the whānau.

"Long term we want her to be in the care of her mother, but we know at this stage there's a process to get to that point. Immediately in the care of people or whānau that we know have her best interests at heart."

RNZ has asked Oranga Tamariki about the abuse allegations but it did not answer the questions.

Instead, in a statement, it said many of the claims made were simply untrue, and it was worried about the girl's wellbeing.

"We have serious concerns about the wellbeing and safety of this young girl, and have lodged a missing persons notification with police. Making sure she is in a safe environment and at the centre of every decision is our priority.

No caption

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"Our many attempts to work with whānau to find a safe solution for this vulnerable young girl have been challenging but we're committed to continuing to work with the wider whānau and their support people to find a solution for the child.

"Ultimately, the wellbeing, safety and privacy of this vulnerable girl is first and foremost in our minds and we don't consider sharing her information publicly to be in her best interests."

The 13-year-old's mother was convicted three years ago of neglect of the girl and her siblings.

She knows she won't get her back any time soon, but said she wanted her daughter in a safe place.

"I want her to be sorted and I've got to follow my conditions as well because I'm easily to be recalled. My first and foremost is to make sure she's safe and that she's happy. I'm wanting to cooperate with [Oranga Tamariki] but the thing is it feels they don't have her best interest at heart."

And she said she was horrified at the alleged abuse her daughter had suffered while in state care.

"It just brings me to tears even talking about it because I was in state care myself and that's how I fell pregnant with her. I know what goes on and the horrible things that happened to me.

"But knowing what she has already gone through as well since being in there is horrendous. She's running away from the home she's been placed in because she's getting abused."

The girl's grandmother said she tried to become the girl's legal guardian when the girl told her the abuse had started, but was offered little support from the ministry to take on another child.

"When [name removed] started to have the significant abuse I totally wanted to be her guardian and we found the trauma that [name removed] had ensured she was just completely unmanageable. What I wanted is support to try to get her right. That never happened."

The grandmother said she raised the abuse allegations with Oranga Tamariki several times, but no action was taken.

"It was horrific. She was sleeping in parks four out of seven nights. She was sleeping with men at 12 because she could just walk out of a house under an OT carer. [I told them] Over and over and over. Absolutely nothing [was done]."

The girl's advocate is meeting with their local MP to discuss the situation and find a way forward.

  • Hands Off Our Tamariki urges PM Jacinda Ardern to acknowledge Oranga Tamariki abuses
  • Oranga Tamariki doesn't collate mental illness figures
  • Support for fourth Oranga Tamariki inquiry led by Māori
  • Oranga Tamariki accused of trying to 'wean' child off parents by slashing contact
  • PSA deplores recent coverage of Oranga Tamariki amid rise in staff abuse