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The brutal reality of child uplifts

The Detail today speaks to Newsroom's own Melanie Reid about why she has spent the last two years exposing the brutal reality of children and babies being taken, supposedly for their own good, by state authorities. 

"We're getting a lot of flak for this already." 

Melanie Reid is no stranger to poking the establishment, and this week she has raised the ire of Oranga Tamariki and the Hawke's Bay District Health Board with her revelations of what happens behind closed doors when social workers try to take a baby from a young mother. 

The 19 year old's whanau and midwives shot footage of determined social workers inside the hospital room, as the mother clung desperately to her baby boy, born by caesarean section just six days earlier. She had already had a daughter uplifted in a similar way, but this time the family was determined to stop it. The uplift order had been challenged in court. 

Reid says the story stems from her "Taken By the State" series two years ago.

"Since then I literally have one uplift scenario a week landing on my desk," she says. "They're called 'without notice' which means [the families] don't get an opportunity to challenge it in court, the children are just taken. Families have to go through the processes to try and get those children back.

"I was getting a lot of people coming to me saying 'you have to help us with these babies being taken from the maternity hospital'."

When she heard about the Hawke's Bay case she got on a plane. 

"This is probably one of the most important stories I've told. I found it really disturbing. I've been to lots of disturbing situations in my career but there's always kind of a 'bad guy'. And here it was this kind of state wall up against this mother, which really revealed how powerless and how hopeless the situation is if you happen to be that mother.

"It was very different, what I made, because it was almost 'reality TV meets journalism'. It was important for me to just show it every step of the way. It's quite a demanding long watch, it's not a commercial kind of half hour if you like. But it does feel like we've launched a rocket." 

As for complaints about the story from the authorities involved, including that she didn't leave the hospital premises when asked to, and didn't blur the faces of staff, Reid says she is seriously running the public interest argument. 

"I believe that my job is to show some transparency of what is really going on behind closed doors. There was only one way to do that and that was to get behind those closed doors so New Zealand could see what is really happening with these uplifts. 

"If I've upset a few of these agencies along the way, then I'll wear that." 

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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