Chief Ombudsman to conduct investigation into removal of newborn babies

The Chief Ombudsman has announced he will conduct an investigation into the steps Oranga Tamariki takes before removing newsborn babies following numerous reports about children being removed from their families. 

Last week, Newsroom released a video investigation showing officials from Oranga Tamariki - the Ministry for Children - at a maternity ward attempting to take a young baby away from her family out of concern for the child's safety.

The process used by the officials has been criticised, with the young Māori mother being isolated from her midwife and whanāu late at night so Oranga Tamariki could pressure her to give up her newborn.

Now Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says he will review complaints and conduct investigations.

"It is important for me to start looking at this issue immediately," he said in a statement.

"No one is more vulnerable than a newborn baby. I think the public needs assurance that the right policies and processes are in place for their protection while at the same time safeguarding the rights of whanau."

On average, three Māori children are taken into care every week, Newsroom reports, and that number is rising - while the rate of uplift for non-Māori is staying static.

More than half of kids in state care are Māori, which has led to accusations the organisation's policies are racist from former Whanau Ora Minister Dame Tariana Turia.

"My investigation is focussed on what a good system should look like," Boshier said.

Grainne Moss, head of the child welfare agency, was reluctant to discuss the details of the case during an appearance on The AM Show on Thursday, citing privacy. However she defended the decision to try to take the newborn into state care.

"We bring [children] into care with the approval of the courts after we've provided evidence that actually, this may be the only way to keep that child safe."