The grim reality of how Māori mothers are treated where Oranga Tamarki is involved is being highlighted in a new report.
Damning research by Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft reveals deep systemic issues facing the statutory care and protection system.
The report reveals racism and inhumane treatment towards mothers in Oranaga Tamariki's uplift processes. Thirteen mothers from 10 iwi were interviewed, saying they faced poor social work practices leading to a loss of faith and trust in state care.
Becroft says there needs to be urgent change.
"These were Māori mothers at the heart of the system - their voices are hardly ever heard [and] we don't get their perspective. They were clear that in their view, the state had let them down," Becroft told The AM Show on Monday.
"Their view was that they were not treated with humanity. Sometimes they found out about the removal order for a baby while they were birthing.
"It was almost universal. They knew what good support looked like - what they wanted - but they didn't feel the state's providing it."
Becroft said he found consistent and heartbreaking stories of Māori mothers and their babies which is impacting their long term wellbeing.
"Our small office focused on the experience of Māori because that's where the statistics show the problem was.
"Babies 0-3 months old were being uplifted at five-times the rate of non-Māori babies. That was the real concern [and] that's where we focused.
"I think in every case, the wellbeing and best interests of the child must come first. All the mothers knew they needed help [and] they needed intervention - they didn't shrink from that but the question is, 'Could we do it better'?"
Six key areas of change have been identified, including whānau needing support from the right people, better support for parents or whānau, and to work in partnership with whānau, hapū, and iwi.
Becroft said those areas will be outlined in a list of recommendations, which will be made later this year.