31 Jan 2020

Oranga Tamariki backs Ngāti Porou care model

6:28 pm on 31 January 2020

Oranga Tamariki has backed Ngāti Porou's whānau-based approach to stop any more of their tamariki going into state care by 2025, but won't commit to new funding yet.

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Photo: newborn baby

The East Coast tribe presented the report into its iwi-led model of care, Caring for our Tamiti Mokopuna, to the children's commissioner and the Ministry of Social Development at a hui in Gisborne on Thursday.

The report showed that between 2015 and 2017, there was a 38 percent increase in the number of Ngāti Porou tamariki going into state care, up to 425.

The report showed there were low rates of whānau agreements, compared to the number of family group conferences, which it said meant there was "opportunity to engage whānau with wrap-around support earlier".

Three key recommendations were proposed, including renegotiating the relationship between Ngāti Porou and the Crown, investing in tikanga, whakapapa and whānau centred support, and investing in increased whānau capacity.

The iwi said it would develop a business case to get more resources from the government to increase its social services.

Oranga Tamariki deputy chief executive Allan Boreham said these services were already extensively funded.

"But going forward we know that they want more, and I don't think it is necessarily that they want more money, it might require money, but what they want is to be able to do more of the iwi-led approaches that they talked about in that report, and we want to get behind that."

He rejected the comments from the report that the relationship between the iwi and Crown wasn't a partnership.

"I know that in the relationship that I have with their chief executive and the work that we're doing, I absolutely believe we're approaching it in the spirit of partnership."

Te Matatini Society chairperson Selwyn Parata.

Selwyn Parata. Photo: RNZ

In a statement, Te Rūnanganui o Ngāti Porou chair Selwyn Parata acknowledged that the relationship with Oranga Tamariki and its predecessors was "generally positive" but "has not been without its ups and downs, probably on both sides of the equation".

The report was originally ready for release in mid-2019, but he said it was delayed due to the media coverage around the uplift of Māori newborn babies at the time and the iwi did not want to conflate its initiative with the enquiries and reviews.

"The report urges us to focus on Ngāti Porou whānau who are at risk, to restore their capacity, to provide for their members' emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing [and] in doing so, we will be reducing and reversing the flow of our mokopuna into state care; we will be replenishing the future stocks of our family leaders, and the fabric of our hapū, marae and communities," Parata said.

The report features voices from tamariki and their whānau who've been through both the Oranga Tamariki care system, and Ngāti Porou social services, and found there were "fundamental tensions" between the two.

The report outlines the Ngāti Porou approach to care, which provides immediate support for both the tamaiti mokopuna, their whānau, and relationships with iwi support workers are maintained outside of conventional business hours.

Whānau and tamariki who were interviewed for the report said that through the iwi system they found these relationships were "developed and nurtured", and described as "being like a family."

The report outlines an intensive intervention and prevention plan, where low-to-medium risk cases were accepted by a representative from the iwi, a plan prepared including a home visit to meet with the whānau, and the child and family registered to the iwi.

The whole whānau would be offered mentoring and counselling, budget and housing assistance and the tamaiti mokopuna engaged in activities to prevent them from offending.

If after three to four home visits issues persisted, the child would be taken away from their birth whānau, until a carer from the wider iwi was found for them to be placed with.

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