‘We could have done better’: CYF manager
Youngster’s death proof there is no margin for error when it comes to childcare. By Matt Shand.
IT’S going to take everyone in New Zealand to look after our vulnerable children, not just one Government agency.
That is the opinion of Tayelva Petley, manager of the Child, Youth and Family Taupo branch charged with keeping Moko Rangitoheriri safe.
Moko was killed by his carers Tania Shailer and David Haerewa. He was kicked, punched, spat on, bitten, thrown around, and pushed into walls. He had faeces rubbed in his face, and he was stomped on.
He died in Taupo Hospital in August, 2015.
Petley, who is now the Bay of Plenty regional manager for the Ministry of Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki (MVCOT), has had two years to digest the youngster’s death – and to think what could have been done differently.
At the inquest into Moko’s death, Coroner Wallace Bain suggested a universal agency to monitor all children up to school age.
Such a move would meaning having to monitor up to 350,000 kids a year.
Bain noted a number of people and organisations had been aware of Moko’s plight, including police, the Family Court and Starship hospital, but none had been him in the leadup to his death.
Petley, in her first in-depth interview on Moko, said Bain’s idea could be achievable if the various agencies acted in partnership.
‘‘We all – everybody in New Zealand – have responsibility to care for children. If you know a child is not safe, it’s your responsibility to tell somebody who is going to do something about it. Oranga Tamariki cannot do this alone. The community needs to be engaged.’’
Moko’s killer had walked into an office Petley controlled and raised a red flag – against Moko’s mother.
Policy dictated CYFs would sight a child within seven days of a complaint being laid, but not necessarily investigate the notifier.
‘‘We have thousands of people who notify concerns. Our intent was to view the child, speak to the child, but these circumstances were a bit more complex.’’
During the inquest, lawyer Arama Ngapo-Lipscombe argued CYFs should have acted on that report of concern issued by Shailer, the person Moko’s mother turned to for help.
‘‘You had a policy to follow. And you were wrong,’’ she said in the coroner’s court.
Petley defends the decision made by staff at the time. In hindsight she admits better communication was needed. ‘‘We were acting on assumption they were safe and in reality ... those children were not safe.’’
Two children that are being checked up on often is Moko’s siblings, Petley said. The children have been placed by MVCOT into care. Their location and carers are suppressed.
‘‘Our focus now is to make sure they get the best opportunity and the best support to get to live their lives,’’ Petley said.
‘‘I’m proud to say they are doing so well. They are thriving. They are absolutely happy and thriving. They are somewhere safe. I amconfident of that personally.’’
Before taking on the position at CYFs in charge of vulnerable children, Petley ran a home for children escaping abuse. She says 300 children had positive outcomes through her home.
But caring for vulnerable children is a game where there is no margin of error.
She says the parallels with the Nia Glassie case were alarming.
Nia was spun in a clothes dryer for 30 minutes on a hot setting, hung and spun on a clothesline, held over a burning fire, used to practise wrestling moves and shoved into piles of rubbish and cold baths.
‘‘We were all impacted with Nia,’’ Petley said.
‘‘The whole country was impacted. With Moko, it was like we all went through that all over again.
‘‘It was clear there were loads of things we could have done better.’’
The systematic abuse of Moko occurred over a period of several weeks, a similar fate that befell Nia.
‘‘There were pockets of exceptional work being achieved, but we were working in isolation,’’ Petley said.
‘‘That was something we uncovered during our review.
‘‘This family has been vulnerable for quite some time. We need to take all of these little red flags being raised and turn them into one big one. Oranga Tamariki cannot do that on its own. The community must be engaged and partnerships need to be made with other organisations. We were not talking to each other.’’
Tayelva Petley, left, says care of children in danger must be a multiagency responsibility to avoid cases such as that involving Tania Shailer and David Haerewa, pictured above in Rotorua High Court during sentencing over the 2015 death of Moko Rangitoheriri.
Moko Rangitoheriri died in Taupo Hospital in August, 2015.