Taken By The State
Case 3: Pried from home with a crowbar
Child, Youth and Family Services uplift Child D, aged 7 at the time
As police used crowbars to break into her home, Child D hid in a wardrobe.
Her mother, who had raised the seven-year-old since birth, had just spent 20 minutes trying to reason with one of two officers, hoping to prevent a drastic uplift.
“When I opened the curtains at eight in the morning, the cop was sitting outside, down the road a bit,” the mother said. “He was sitting there for the best part of an hour [and then] he actually came up to the door and was chatting to me for quite a while,” she said.
Eventually, he told her a place of safety warrant had been issued for the child’s removal.
Place of safety warrants are issued under the Oranga Tamariki Act. To be approved, a judge must be satisfied there are reasonable grounds to suspect a child is suffering, or are likely to suffer, ill-treatment, neglect, deprivation, abuse or harm. These types of warrants are considered to be at the most extreme end of the spectrum – where CYFS or police have evidence showing the child is in real danger.
Those involved in the uplift have permission to remove the child, with force if necessary, and place them in CYFS care for at least five days, while a decision on the future care of the child is made. A medical examination may also be ordered. Issuing officers, such as community magistrates and registrars, can also issue safety warrants.
In this case, the mother believed a warrant was issued because she refused to engage with the Family Court.
“At the end of 2015, I withdrew from the Family Court and refused to engage with them any further...because they were not applying the law to keep us safe, and my daughter was becoming more and more harmed.”
Child D’s father is a convicted criminal with a violent history. To her mother’s dismay, the Family Court had made “harmful order after harmful order” regarding his access to the child.
“She was diagnosed with anxiety, elements of PTSD, reactive attachment disorder. All of the conditions ... happened while I was seeking safety in the Family Court,” the mother said.
When police and Oranga Tamariki turned up to take the child, her mother's requests to “go down to the police station and have a roundtable meeting” to discuss possible alternatives were rejected, she said.
“There was never any process where they could go, okay, it’s pretty obvious that there’s nothing untoward going on here, and this child doesn’t need to be traumatised any more than she’s already been traumatised by her father.”
“I refused to let them in. She ran away and hid. The cops broke into the window with a crowbar.”
Two social workers were then let into the house by the officers. Once they located Child D in a wardrobe, they asked her what personal items she wanted before removing her, and placing her in state care, the mother said.
“She was terrified. She’s the kind of kid that freezes and internalises it all.”
“[Then] they brought her back five days later,” she said.
Several concerns over this process have been raised by the mother.
First, questions regarding the basis for the removal of Child D remain unanswered.
In addition to this, three social worker visits were made to the pair’s home in the seven months after the uplift. At the conclusion of this period, Oranga Tamariki notified the mother that “Family Court matters” had concluded - however the agency planned to remain involved in Child D’s situation.
None of it made any sense, the mother said.
“It’s just not a normal thing people have to deal with - where’s the parenting manual for that?”