Opinion: Baby Moko failed by Women's Refuge and Government

Opinion: Baby Moko failed by Women's Refuge and Government

Baby Moko deserves accountability -- and that means the Women's Refuge and Child Youth and Family (CYF) need to take some blame for his death.

Moko was beaten behind closed doors and these agencies were basically on the front door step.

Opinion: Baby Moko failed by Women's Refuge and Government

Moko Rangitoheriri (Supplied)

We all know that the callous and vicious abusers are truly at fault and deserve everything the justice system can throw at them. What they did is truly inexplicable.

But at the same time, 'the system' is there to protect our children -- and the system failed.

The agencies involved owe Moko -- and New Zealand -- an explanation of why they failed him.

Let's start with the Women's Refuge.

The Maori Women's Refuge in Taupo was the closest to this case. Moko's sister was enrolled in a school programme run by Women's Refuge. One of their social workers was in frequent contact with Tania Shailer leading up to Moko's death.

Women's Refuge has had to make an embarrassing backtrack on a crucial statement.

In an interview with media the manager of the Refuge dealing with this case said that Moko's sister had told one of its social workers at the after-school programme that Moko was being abused by Tania Shailer.

Opinion: Baby Moko failed by Women's Refuge and Government

Tania Shailer and David Haerewa (Newshub.)

That's now being clawed back by the national office who says the manager was unprepared and got it wrong. The Board of the Maori Women's Refuge in Taupo even turned the blame onto the media accusing the reporter of pressuring the manager. This is ridiculous -- the Refuge has known about this case since last year.

The reality is that when Moko died in August they should have been all over the details. For the manager to have made such a crucial mistake is not acceptable.

It is a sign of the abysmal way in which agencies dealt with this case. It was a critical statement. How could the manager have got it so wrong? And the fact she gave an interview to media shows there has been a lack of communication and support from the head office.

CYF met with Tania Shailer and Women's Refuge on July 30. Even now, neither agency can agree on what was discussed.

In an interview with Fairfax, the Women's Refuge manager said Tania Shailer raised on several occasions the fact she was "not coping". A CYF spokeswoman said this was not in their notes.

What a mess. Sort it out.

CYF and Women's Refuge were aware Tania Shailer was not coping. Why did they not pop down the road for a cup of tea, even just to observe the children and the routine to see if they could help with easing the pressure?

The second issue raised was an allegation by Tania Shailer that Moko's mother Nicola Dally-Paki was getting back together with her abusive ex-partner. She even had the audacity to raise concerns about the future welfare of the children.

Yet the children at the centre of this allegation, this entire meeting, were never visited. Not once by Women's Refuge or CYF. Shame.

"Children at the centre."

That's the Government's new mantra. Children must be at the centre of everything it does.

But someone forgot to pass that message on to its departments. Two agencies at the heart of this case and not once was there any due consideration to the children.

They were not at the centre, they were an afterthought.

One visit is all it would have taken. Had they done due diligence by the children, they would have uncovered the disgusting abuse those children were suffering. I say those children because Moko is not the only victim.

There were six children in that house. They all witnessed the monstrous behaviour of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa. Four of the children were witnessing their parents commit the abuse. All of them will be scarred for life.  

We hear a lot about data sharing by Government. But yet again lack of communication was rife amongst all of the agencies involved. They all knew various pieces of information but failed to connect. The Government has been pushing for agencies to share information -- a wraparound model -- but that did not happen here. A sign the systems are totally broken.

Opinion: Baby Moko failed by Women's Refuge and Government


Social Development Minister Anne Tolley needs to be much more active and involved in this.

Today she couldn't recall when she was first briefed on the matter.

In my opinion, that's shocking -- I don't think anyone will forget the details of this case. It is forever etched in our minds. So for the minister responsible for our most vulnerable not to know when she was first briefed is shameful.

The minister even shut down questions on the issue saying she was not here to talk about that because she was doing a pre-Budget announcement on another issue.

Sorry minister, a child is dead; we need to talk about this.

CYF is currently undergoing a complete overhaul, but the minister says "that's not going to stop an individual being cruel and torturing a child if they think that's okay".

That is actually beside the point because her department could have potentially done more.

Her attitude that no amount of policy can change an individual's actions completely misses the point. Policy is there to guide departments who are clearly right on the other side of the door. If agencies had visited that house, they would have uncovered the vicious attacks.

The minister should be less worried about making sure her department ticked the right boxes and ask how they could have been part of the solution.

Will we truly learn anything from this? Certainly not if agencies charged with having children at the centre keep looking out for themselves.

The Government and Women's Refuge were on the doorstep as Moko was killed behind closed doors.

"The system" is guilty of failing another of New Zealand's children.

We owe it to Moko that the next time this happens those same agencies go inside -- and stop it.