Up­lift baby happy liv­ing with whanau

A Hawke’s Bay kau­matua says one year af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial baby up­lift­ing at­tempt, the child is no longer with his mother but is hap­pily liv­ing with whanau.

Hawke's Bay Today - - Front Page - SAHIBAN HYDE

AHawke’s Bay baby at the cen­tre of a con­tro­ver­sial Oranga Ta­mariki up­lift at­tempt is no longer with his mother but she has full ac­cess to her 1-year-old who now lives with his grand­mother.

Jean Te Huia, the mid­wife of the mother at the cen­tre of the up­lift, said the happy out­come was an ex­am­ple of Ma¯oridom in ac­tion, and the adage of us­ing a vil­lage to raise a child.

The up­lift had been a trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence for the mother but she was re­cov­er­ing well.

Te Huia said she chal­lenged any mother in New Zealand to go through what the mother did and come out of it “nor­mal”.

Oranga Ta­mariki de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.

The at­tempted up­lift of the 6-day-old boy in May 2019 ended in a stand­off at Hawke’s Bay Hospi­tal be­tween po­lice of­fi­cers, Oranga Ta­mariki work­ers, the fam­ily and those in the room rep­re­sent­ing them.

The sub­se­quent cov­er­age shone a torch on the wide­spread up­lift­ing of Ma¯ori ba­bies by the state, and prompted four in­quiries into Oranga Ta­mariki and an even­tual apol­ogy from the de­part­ment.

The mother, who had her first baby taken in the same way in 2018, de­liv­ered her son by Cae­sarean sec­tion on May 1, 2019.

The Fam­ily Court had or­dered the up­lift on the grounds the child’s wider fam­ily had a back­ground of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and drug use — a claim dis­puted by the wha¯nau.

Oranga Ta­mariki ap­plied for, and was granted, a with­out-no­tice cus­tody or­der the next day.

It was di­rected by the judge to no­tify the boy’s mother, but this didn’t hap­pen.

On May 6, three Oranga Ta­mariki work­ers ar­rived with a car seat and forms and told the mother they had come to take the baby.

The woman, with her own mother and two mid­wives in­clud­ing Te Huia, re­fused to hand over the baby boy, lead­ing to the stand­off as Oranga Ta­mariki of­fi­cials and po­lice tried day and night to en­force an or­der granted by the Fam­ily Court.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions with fam­ily, Oranga Ta­mariki and po­lice went on un­til 2am the next day when it was fi­nally de­cided the baby would not be up­lifted.

“She went through an ex­tremely hor­rific, trau­matic event. She had her daugh­ter taken off her, and to fight to stop an­other not taken is ex­tremely trau­ma­tis­ing,” Te Huia said of the mother.

“To get through it takes ex­ten­sive coun­selling, and in­ten­sive su­per­vi­sion.

“All four in­quiries found Oranga Ta­mariki want­ing. They failed the re­views and the up­lift was a breach of hu­man rights for the mother,” Te Huia said.

“The case high­lighted a his­toric break­down of govern­ment in­ter­fer­ence be­tween women of colour and chil­dren — a racist, eth­no­cen­tric, Euro­peanised belief of what a mother should be.”

A year on, bridges burned dur­ing the up­lift at­tempt are start­ing to be mended, says Des Ra­tima, kauma¯tua of Ngati Kahun­gunu, the Hawke’s Bay iwi that has been help­ing the fam­ily.

Ra­tima was called to the hospi­tal on the night of the at­tempted re­moval and played a part in get­ting the so­cial work­ers and po­lice to leave the baby with the mother un­til a hui could be called the next day.

That hui led to a de­ci­sion to put mother and baby in a respite home where fam­ily, iwi and so­cial ser­vices were help­ing him.

“At the wha¯nau hui it was agreed that the baby would be looked af­ter by his [ma­ter­nal] grand­mother, as in­ci­dents had been re­ported which re­quired us to step in,” Ra­tima said.

“The boy just turned 1, he’s walk­ing, has teeth, he’s happy.”

Te Huia said some Pa¯keha¯ may view the child be­ing raised by his grand­mother as neg­a­tive.

“It’s frowned upon by the Euro­pean so­ci­ety, but it is ex­tremely nor­mal in Ma¯ori and Paci­fica fam­i­lies. We have been do­ing it for hun­dreds of years. It takes a vil­lage to raise a child.”

The mother is un­der­tak­ing coun­selling and other cour­ses, and her life is much bet­ter than it was a year ago, Ra­tima said. She has com­plete ac­cess to her baby.

“A year later, ev­ery­one is a lot wiser,” he said.

“The mother is now see­ing her mother reg­u­larly, a re­la­tion­ship which was pre­vi­ously ac­ri­mo­nious. She also has her own place.”

Ra­tima helped her with vis­it­ing and ac­cess rights to the baby.

He said what mat­tered was the in­ci­dent opened up the com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines be­tween him­self, the iwi, and Oranga Ta­mariki, and that baby and mum were both do­ing well.

“The baby’s progress is go­ing re­ally well. His grand­mother con­stantly shares pic­tures with me,” he said. “The mother has com­plete ac­cess but no per­ma­nency, and whether it hap­pens is re­ally up to her.”

He said he was work­ing with the fam­ily as they un­der­went in­ten­sive in­ter­ven­tion.

“It re­quires us to do as much as we can to work with the fam­ily to re­move lay­ers which got them to be­have in such a way that Oranga Ta­mariki had to in­ter­vene,” he said.

“It’s in­ten­sive and time­con­sum­ing, and not funded by the Govern­ment. But I have to give credit to Oranga Ta­mariki for pro­vid­ing petrol money for the mother to go to cour­ses and coun­selling, and food parcels.

“It has been a strug­gle, but it con­tin­ues to im­prove.”

Ngati Kahun­gunu kau­matua Des Ra­tima

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