Oranga Tamariki apologises for keeping a child in hospital

9:06 pm on 29 July 2021

Oranga Tamariki has apologised for keeping a child in hospital because it could not find a suitable placement, describing the case as "unacceptable".

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Oranga Tamariki confirmed the agency received a complaint from DHB staff. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

RNZ revealed today that a child spent more than nine weeks on a Waikato hospital ward.

In documents posted online by the cyber attackers who targeted the DHB, staff said the youngster did not require admission to hospital for any medical reason and was not unwell.

The Minister for Children Kelvin Davis is calling for an investigation into the case and advocates say it is disturbing and outrageous - and validates calls to scrap the ministry as a whole.

Since RNZ broke the story, Oranga Tamariki - which initially would not provide comment on the case - sent a statement this afternoon apologising and admitting it did not do the best for the child.

The ministry confirmed it did receive a complaint from the Waikato DHB and has apologised to the staff that were impacted by the lack of quality service provided.

It would not provide an interview and said it was limited in what it could say due to privacy concerns.

In the documents, it was revealed the child was confined to a hospital paediatric ward for 67 days.

The DHB "reluctantly" accepted admission for one week after the child's initial placement had broken down.

Despite the lengthy stay, staff said the child didn't require admission to hospital for any medical reason and was not unwell.

As a result, the young child - who had a "lovely manner and nature" - became "institutionalised" - effectively living in a hospital, something that advocate Julia Whaipooti said was distressing. The harm this caused the child could be irreparable, she said.

"The impact on this young person's life will be profound and that lies squarely at the feet of Oranga Tamariki, which does not live up to its name and really highlights the mamae (hurt) that children - who are meant to be our taonga - experience.

"The harm that this causes, not just today but ongoing, how are we going to trust these systems that are in place and meant to care for us when they hurt us."

There have been five reviews in the last year into Oranga Tamariki that all called for transformational change at the ministry.

Whaipooti said the more the government waited to act on the recommendations, the more harm would be caused to whānau.

"You have a system that has comprehensively, by design, failed this young person and their family and many young people and their families. We know this is not an isolated case and this is the thing that concerns me right now."

Minister Davis has asked Oranga Tamariki for assurances that all appropriate support is being provided to the child and their family.

Social worker and state care survivor Paora Crawford-Moyle cried as she read the story.

She said, unfortunately, it was unsurprising and it was clear the child was calling out for what they needed - and the state failed them.

"What we had [here] was pure incompetence all the way through. Where's the accountability? Who knew about this? And what justifies keeping a child in that kind of environment for nine weeks because you can't find a place for them?

"I believe that we need a high calibre of training, compassion, care and understanding for these children and this is just another example of somebody who just doesn't get the needs of children.

"I really think that heads need to roll with this one."

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