Oranga Tamariki isn't 'snatching babies' - Children's Minister Tracey Martin

Children's Minister Tracey Martin isn't happy with the way media are reporting on Oranga Tamariki.

There have been numerous reports lately about the number of children being removed from their families by the state child protection agency.

Affected families gathered in Waikato last week, with organisers of the hui saying removals aren't always justified. More than half of kids in state care are Māori, which has led to accusations the organisation's policies are racist from none other than former Whanau Ora Minister Dame Tariana Turia.

Martin told Newshub Nation on Saturday not all the coverage has been fair.

"We see articles about meth problems, we know that we have massive domestic violence figures... yet apparently Oranga Tamariki is 'snatching babies'. I think it's unfortunate reporting," she told interviewer Simon Shepherd.

She said privacy concerns meant Oranga Tamariki was often unable to defend itself against criticism, with journalists and editors having "decided already Oranga Tamariki is the problem, as opposed to Oranga Tamariki being part of the solution".

"More often than not there is a bigger backstory than what shows up by one individual saying something."

Tracey Martin.
Tracey Martin. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

There has actually been a drop in the number of kids going into state care in the past year, but numbers continue to rise because they're staying longer, Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss told Newshub Nation in March.

Martin insists the number of babies being taken away is also dropping, after a steep rise between 2015 and 2017.

She said that was a result of the previous Government's 'subsequent child' legislation, introduced in 2016, which gave the state more powers to take babies from parents with a history of abuse or neglect - a change she supported.

But that doesn't mean it's a default setting for Oranga Tamariki, she insisted.

"None of this is just a standard 'we're going in and picking up babies', which is a little bit what is being portrayed across the media at the moment."

And as long as children are suffering, Martin won't make apologies for stepping in.

"But let's be clear - Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills. Oranga Tamariki's job is to protect children - that's why it was formed."

To help with that, Martin wants more Māori social workers - they currently make up 24 percent of the force, but Martin wants it closer to the percentage of children in care who are Māori - 59 percent.

"Yes. I think we do need more Māori social workers... How can we actually encourage Māori to become social workers?"

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