The case against reverse uplifts

Karen Chhour writes:

But the legislation has had unintended consequences. We’ve seen what happens when an interpretation of Te Tiriti is placed above the needs of the child.

In some cases, we have seen “reverse uplifts”, where a child is removed from a loving foster home to be placed with relatives deemed more culturally appropriate.

I have seen firsthand the devastation on caregivers’ faces and the pain in their voices after being told a “forever home” did not necessarily mean just that. I saw the damage caused to a family being threatened with a reverse uplift because they were not Māori, who by the grace of God managed to find a Māori ancestor generations back in their bloodline. That was enough to save them from a reverse uplift.

So a reverse uplift would have occurred if it were not for the fact they could find an ancestor from six generations ago, and somehow this is meant to be good for the child?

Then we had the very public case of a young girl referred to as Moana. Moana was traumatised and neglected for years before being removed and placed into a safe, loving home – until a social worker decided they needed to remove Moana from their care because a Pākehā family could not provide for her cultural needs.

All I’m asking is for Oranga Tamariki to make sure that we’re putting safety and wellbeing first. Everything else must come second to that.

Cultural needs are important, even very important. But they should not be a binary test that over-rides all other criteria.

It is true that my own experience informs my politics. I grew up dealing with Child, Youth and Family, and I learned that what matters most in a home is stability, love, and safety – not race.

But more relevant than my own experience is that of children harmed today under Section 7AA.

Child abuse is a national shame, and people have been calling for years for something to be done to protect our most vulnerable children. Now that we are doing something about it, those same people respond with personal attacks and call us racists.

Every child deserves to wake up every morning knowing that they’re going to be safe. Because ultimately you have to be able to survive to enjoy your culture. And at the moment, we are working with children in care who need our help just to survive.

So true.

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