Ministry for Children forced to apologise after social worker tries to access private medical records

Source: 1News

1 NEWS has protected the identity of the parents to maintain the privacy of the children involved.

The Ministry for Children, Oranga Tamariki, has been forced to apologise to a foster family after one of its social workers tried to access their private medical records.

The incident occurred after a foster child tried to attack them with a knife. However, the family says the attempted privacy breach has been even more traumatic.

The couple, who have cared for 26 children, including their own, over their 16 years spent as foster parents, said the experience has been rewarding – but also without its many challenges.

"I've been whipped with cords, I've been punched, kicked, hit - I've had objects thrown at me," she said.

Last year, the attacks escalated, and they were threatened with knives.

"Everyone was in one of the bedrooms as part of the safety plan, and the child was trying to get in with the knife through the door and it was a very serious situation, but I also so want to state there's been a lot of psychological input between then and now."

While the child's behaviour has improved, this foster mum's hands shake as she recalls the attack, in which she suffered bruising and post-traumatic stress.

But that's nothing compared to how she felt when her GP told her Oranga Tamariki had requested her medical file without her knowledge.

"As much as I felt like I was the victim of the attack, I felt more of a victim in that moment than I had ever in that attack. I felt very violated and really, really upset at that I burst into tears when I heard that."

"I just couldn't believe that was possible and they should be able to do that. I thought your medical information was yours and I couldn't believe that would happen," he said.

They complained to Oranga Tamariki, but they felt they weren't given a straight answer.

"This just felt like the final straw - there has to be something that I'm allowed to keep private for me".

In a statement to 1 NEWS, Oranga Tamariki said, "We have looked into the circumstances of this complaint and it is clear that proper process was not followed on this occasion."

Oranga Tamariki has since apologised to the foster family and have met with them to discuss their concerns, as any medical request should be done in partnership with them.

However, Oranga Tamariki would not confirm whether the social worker will face disciplinary action.

The foster family would like to see changes so it can’t happen again.

"We love the children we have and a lot of them we've had long-term and they’re our children as much as the children we gave birth to and we couldn't imagine life without them".

The couple wants to be left to care for those children without further intrusion.