Oranga Tamariki CEO tells John Campbell baby removal video was 'disturbing', but backs staff

Source: 1News

Oranga Tamariki's chief executive has admitted she found the video of repeated attempts by social workers to remove a newborn baby in Hawke's Bay "disturbing".

But Grainne Moss insists her staff had serious concerns for the baby's wellbeing, and all ministry staff only ever work out of commitment to keep children safe.

The organisation is currently the subject of multiple investigations or inquiries - one by the chief ombudsman, one by the children's commissioner and an internal investigation.

Newsroom's Melanie Reid brought the issues to a head with her investigation into an attempted baby uplift in Hawke's Bay in June, from it's mother and whānau.

A 40-minute video shows the removal after the whānau had left and the mum drifts off to sleep.

Ms Moss told TVNZ1's Breakfast today the video was "disturbing" and upset her, but would not admit to any wrong doing while the investigation is under way.

"I was upset about the video, of course I was, of course I was. I mean, what I do, and what all of my staff do, they bring their hearts to work. They want to make a difference to kids. They don't want to be faced with these terrible situations.

Ms Moss said she had talked to the social workers involved, as well as police and hospital staff who were there.

"What we do have is a picture that, as I say, is disturbing," she said. "We can't change the past, what we can do is we can change the future. We can really lean in and look at what we need to change, but what really do we need to change together."

She would not admit any fault, saying she would wait for the full picture to be unpacked.

"It is disturbing, but what I don't have is, I don't have the full picture and I really need to understand the full picture so we can see what did go well, what was the appropriate action, what could people have done differently.

"And actually, until we have the full facts, I think it's not a great thing to rush to judgment."

Defending the social workers, though, she said there was genuine concerns for the baby involved, and a lot of work off camera that had been done with the family. She also said the social workers involved had saved hundreds of children in their 30 years in the job.

Talking generally about the issue, Ms Moss said, "there's no doubt that it's really, really tough for mum. But it's also really really tough for the baby".

"The baby can't run, the baby can't speak, the baby can't tell you what's going on, the baby has no mechanism to which it can protect itself.

"Often, mum will try very hard in situations to protect the baby but often in many of our cases mum is being beaten when she's holding a baby, and sometimes that means baby gets hurt - I mean we've just had a baby die in [Auckland's] Starship [Children's Hospital] recently.

"We have a terrible, terrible record of babies dying every year in New Zealand, way higher than any other jurisdiction."

READ MORE: 'This is a constant balance' - Minister of children discusses death of baby amid Oranga Tamariki uplift backlash

Ms Moss said that in most cases, Oranga Tamariki gets children back with their families and whānau within one year. "We absolutely are dedicated to placing children with whānau. That's where we think, if they're safe, that's the best place for them to be."

When asked about accusations of Oranga Tamariki being systemically racist, she said there is structural disadvantage towards Māori that dates back to colonisation.

"It is two and a half more times likely that someone will pick up the phone and ring us about a Māori child," she said.

Now, almost 70 per cent of children in care are Māori in some areas. Ms Moss said Māori are more likely to suffer from family violence, poverty, lack of housing and the impacts of drugs and alcohol.