‘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.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

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.

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