by Greta Yeoman
Children aged from 10 to 13 comprise the largest group of Timaru children in the care of Oranga Tamariki, government information shows.
The information, gained after an Official Information Act (OIA) request to Oranga Tamariki (the Ministry for Children), shows an average of 80 children have been in state care in Timaru over the past five years.
There were 26 children in the 10-13 age bracket as at June 30 last year, along with nine children in the 0-1 group, 16 in the 2-5 group and 12 aged from 6 to 9.
The 14-plus age group, which now includes 17-year-olds, included 17 Timaru residents.
Each age group has remained reasonably consistent, the data shows.
The number of children in state care in Timaru last year was 80, a drop from 88 in 2013.
The Courier requested information about the ages children were taken into the care of Oranga Tamariki, but the ministry was unable to provide it as it would have involved going through every child’s file, a spokesman said.
Recently, several instances of the ministry removing newborn babies from their mothers has prompted the launch of several Government inquiries, including one by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft.
Several changes to Oranga Tamariki’s services began on Monday.
They include supporting and caring for 17-year-olds in the youth justice system, something that was previously limited to children 16 or younger.
The former National government extended care to 17-year-olds in 2016, but not to those in youth justice programmes.
Another change now in place is the introduction of a new transition service for 18- to 25-year-olds leaving state care or youth justice, including the right to return to living with a caregiver until the age of 21.
Oranga Tamariki staff to report annually and publicly on how it will improve outcomes for Maori children and their whanau and iwi.
This legislation includes reducing disparities for Maori and taking mana tamaiti (a child’s rights), whakapapa (genealogy) and whanaungatanga (family connections) into account in all policies, practices and services.