In Rachael Taylor's opinion, Oranga Tamariki is a corrupt system, "they have no soul. No mana. No integrity in what they do."
This is her story.
My time in the system began December 21, 2016 when my three children were forcibly uplifted from my care. The experience was traumatic and confusing. My children were clinging to my legs and crying – the police were trying to lift them off me. I was told to convince my kids not to make a fuss, that I would be arrested for obstruction of justice if I made it difficult. I relented and let them take my kids – trying to calm them as much as I could. Powerless to do any different.
I wasn’t even allowed to pack their clothes or stuff – they were just taken away in the clothes on their backs. I didn’t know my rights or the process of how to appeal.
It was a week before we had our first meeting to discuss any plans. I wasn’t allowed to organise a family alternative or to have any knowledge of where my children would be placed. At that first meeting, there was one lady who spoke in support of us; she couldn’t see why the kids needed to be uplifted, there was no record of neglect or any discussion about our case prior to the event.
As I see it, my kids were taken and then a case was made against us. They created their reports based on heresy, there was flimsy evidence to their claims and in some cases none - in fact accusations of our son being behind and truant at school were lies – I showed them the mid-year and end of year report sheets to prove his academic progress and attendance – he had been given an A grade. My documents were not allowed into their report – they refused to acknowledge them.
Don’t get me wrong, I was no saint – there were issues in my life and relationships that weren’t healthy, but my kids were not neglected or abused.
My children were fed and clothed and in school. I had family support. My husband was in permanent employment and I was training to be a chef. I owned my mistakes and was honest about my dysfunction.
Intimidated. Ignored. Marginalised.
Over my four years in the system, I was talked down to, patronised, lied about, intimidated, ignored, manipulated and marginalised. I was not supported or affirmed in any steps I made to meet their demands. In fact, efforts I made to improve my situation were either not acknowledged or dismissed.
Reviews to our plan were stalled, test (hair follicle) results held up, and positive changes in me and my partner’s life ignored.
We were handled by over fourteen different case workers during our time in the system – none of which knew us, or even tried to build a relationship with us.
They just read off their papers, they looked at me but didn’t see me. I was already judged guilty and incapable of change – stereotyped as an alcoholic, a troublemaker and a ‘dumb maori’; I was expected to give up and to fail.