All photos by Ivan Rogers

On a bleak winter’s day a single mother of four sat in her car outside the local child welfare office in one of NZ’s not so glamorous towns. She clenched her eyes shut, took a massive breath, walked inside and asked for help.

It was the worst decision of her life. What ensued was a descent into hell, where she lost everything, her kids, her home, her self-respect. Going up against the state agency was, she says, like being ground to dust. This is Eleanor’s story, a story of resilience and survival.

On August 3, 2020 the email Eleanor had been waiting for arrived. It was an unimaginable relief to finally read that one word written over and over in the document: ‘Found’.

The email detailed a list of six complaints she had made against NZ’s child welfare agency Oranga Tamariki. They included physical injuries her children received in care, and that her children had been uplifted ‘without basis’.

That simple word ‘Found’ was typed next to all but one of the agency’s carefully phrased findings of their investigation into her claims against them. ‘Found’ meant her claims had been established, were correct, true.

Eleanor says reading the email validated everything her family had suffered at the hands of the state agency.

But it did nothing to erase the three years of trauma they had been through as a result of the actions of both individual social workers and a system of ‘dangerous dynamics’ that Eleanor says sabotaged her, and traumatised and weaponised her children.

So what happened after Oranga Tamariki admitted they wrongfully uplifted her children – not just once, but twice – after she had gone to them seeking help, and they had separated them from each other and placed them in situations in which they were traumatised?

The answer so far has been: not a heck of a lot. Since August 2020, more difficulties, more obstructiveness, more delays have deepened the trauma.  

To outline Eleanor’s story, we start with her at a low point a year after she’d gone looking for help from OT but everything in her life had started to unravel:

“This is not my f—ing life”

There’s a hotel downtown. From the outside it’s easy to imagine what it once was – grand, stately, Victorian. The Queen stayed there in 1954 and the Rolling Stones in 1965. But those days of real and rock royalty are long gone. It now stands on the main drag like a forgotten tombstone.

Inside, the same carpet a monarch once stood on is sticky underfoot. There is screaming and fighting during the night. It’s a place that runs on drug deals and desperation – “emergency accommodation”, the end of the line.

This is where Eleanor washed up in October 2019. She had lost her children, her house, her family and her car. She could barely function, let alone find a job. She had nowhere else to go. And she was close to giving up.

“I was on my knees that first night in a filthy old hotel room and I was like, this is not my fucking life.”

By this stage Eleanor’s children had been “uplifted” by OT for the second time. She couldn’t understand how a simple request for help had triggered such a cascade of suffering.

Two years earlier and she had been raising her four children, including one with high needs, in a state house. She had little support and desperately needed a break.

She had escaped an abusive relationship and had little support.

She had heard OT offered “respite care” for struggling parents, something the agency routinely provides for foster carers – a chance, says OT’s website, “for caregivers and tamariki to recharge”.

“I went in and I was really, really honest,” Eleanor says. “I said I’m drinking to cope, the ex [father of the two youngest] is abusive. I need respite care, I just need a break. Can you help me?”

She was exhausted, and worried about the effect her drinking might be having on the children.

“But I had four young children and was like, I can’t give my high needs son what he needs. I’m burned out. That day I was like, I’m either going to the police station to drop him off or to OT, because I can’t keep going on like this, I’m running on empty.”

Breaking Bad

“When you’re in a violent relationship, I’m not saying it’s easy to do it, but you can go to the police and say, he’s done this, I’ve got these bruises, and there is a process,” says Eleanor.

“But when it’s OT causing the abuse, there’s no process, there’s nowhere to turn and nowhere to go.”

Eleanor is petite with the build of a gymnast. She’s funny and bright, and laughs a lot, but she breaks down whenever she recalls the situations she and her children have found themselves in.

She also doesn’t fit the stereotypes. Raised in a privileged family, money was never an issue and she did well at school. But, by her own admission, she had a predilection for bad boys, something she believes was triggered by childhood abuse and a low sense of self-worth.

Eleanor’s abusive ex, Zac (not his real name), had arrived on the scene when Eleanor was pregnant to another partner. The new relationship was rocky from the start, although she had been flattered when Zac said he was attracted to her.

“I was seven months pregnant, on my own, I wanted to be in a relationship and create a family for my children and he said all the right things – exactly what I wanted to hear. Isn’t that always the way?”

But there was something Eleanor didn’t know about Zac. “He was heavily addicted to meth … I was very naive and had no idea you could get anything like that in the region where we were living.”

Six months later, after her daughter was born, she became pregnant to Zac, despite still breast feeding and being on birth control. The situation spiralled out of control.

“He turned up at my house one day and he had two firearms. He said, can I hide these because like the cops are onto me? And I’m like, what’s going on? Why have you got these? He said, I’m going to sell them and I’m going to make all this money. And I’m like, oh my God, I’ve got Breaking Bad in my house.”

Not long after, Eleanor’s baby was born prematurely and spent six weeks in a neonatal ward. Once the baby was discharged, Zac moved in, but within a few months he became increasingly erratic and abusive.

He broke Eleanor’s nose and she regularly suffered black eyes and other injuries. “I said I slipped over on the deck. I can tell it convincingly enough that people are like, oh, she probably wouldn’t be laughing if she was getting the bash.”

Then one day Zac knocked her out briefly, and when she ran outside he locked himself in the house with the two youngest children.

“He wouldn’t give the kids to me. And it was like I had no option here but to ring the cops. My baby’s crying. I’m like, You won’t let me feed my baby.

“He’s like ‘get inside’. And I remember standing on the other side of the car and I was like if I come near are you gonna kill me?

“He said ‘no I’m not, get in here’. And I’m like, you’re saying it so calmly I’m fucking dead if I go in there. But the babies are with you. And it’s like if I go in there it’s not going to be a good time. I’ve got to go and get someone to come back.”

Eleanor drove to a friend’s house and when they returned they grabbed the children. “And he pushes my friend over and grabs the baby.”

Eleanor called the police and she was surprised when the Armed Offenders Squad turned up with police dogs. It turned out they already knew about Zac’s firearms and drug offending.

“And that was quite confronting,” she says, “because I didn’t know it was that bad and didn’t know about him dealing.”

Zac was arrested, charged and convicted with male assaults female. Eleanor says it was suggested to her the police had enough to charge him with firearms and drug charges but needed her to provide a statement about the firearms.

“And I’m like it’s not going to be me. Like, that’s never going to happen. Because if he found out I’d done that he’d flip out, and if he flipped out I knew what that meant. The risks are way too high.”

Eleanor finally kicked Zac out but he came back months later wanting to reconcile. By now she had convinced herself his treatment of her was her own fault. “I kept telling myself I was hard to live with. Essentially I found ways to justify what he’d done and was doing to me.”

They slept together one more time. “I’d had the Depo-Provera [contraception injection],” she explains, “but I got pregnant again. It was the worst time in my life to be pregnant.”

When her son was born in 2016, Zac told Eleanor he wanted nothing to do with the child.

For the next two years she parented her four young children on her own – until that fateful day she arrived at her local Oranga Tamariki office.

The first uplift

Instead of the respite care Eleanor had requested, her children were sent for the night to her parents, from whom she was estranged at the time.

The next month, OT sent a social worker to visit her house. She reported Eleanor wasn’t drinking and there were no concerns other than the state of the Housing NZ property she was living in.

“The toilet had been blocked and had flooded the place. I had air blowers on to dry out the carpet, and the place was cold. But the social worker’s written report made it sound like the house was a shambles and unclean,” says Eleanor.

Things unravelled quickly from then on. A “hui ā whānau” was arranged, a forum where “whānau come up with their own solutions to keep children safe and out of Oranga Tamariki care”, according to OT’s website.

But OT changed the original time of the hui at the last minute.

“They told me the hui ā whānau was at 11am, then they texted me at 10:15am and said sorry, we got the time wrong, it’s at 10:30. But my support person couldn’t be there until 11, and I needed somebody there with me.”

Eleanor asked if they could reschedule so her support person could be there. “No, they said, that’s not an option.”

She turned up but decided she couldn’t stay as she didn’t feel safe. “So I got up and walked out. And they’re like, Eleanor was highly emotional and refused to participate in the hui.”

One night a few weeks later, with no warning and police stationed nearby, social workers arrived at Eleanor’s house with court documents and uplifted her children on a “without notice” basis.

“The jungle drums started beating in my chest,” she says. “What I didn’t know then is that they wouldn’t stop for years.”

Alone in the house once the children were gone, Eleanor says she “howled like a wounded animal”. Still, as she would discover, this was far from rock bottom.

OT placed the children with Eleanor’s parents for five months, causing major friction in the process. She couldn’t understand why they had been taken in the first place and felt as if OT was using her parents against her.

At first, visits had to be supervised at the OT office, and later at the children’s preschool.

By October 2018 they were allowed back in Eleanor’s house for half the week, and in December they were finally returned to her.

It seemed like the nightmare was over and she could finally get everything back on track. But it was just the beginning.

The second uplift

Two months after her children were returned, the social worker assigned to Eleanor’s case was changed. This was the beginning of the next descent.

Eleanor and her children were at the same Housing NZ property. Zac’s visits were inconsistent and his weekend access was erratic.

At this point, her neighbour – a drug user with a long history of mental health issues, says Eleanor – began to spy on her on behalf of the new social worker.

“The social worker would ring him to get updates on if I was at home. And I remember him screaming at me once across the road, saying he’d told the social worker we’d smoked crack together – which was a complete fabrication, I’ve never smoked that stuff and it was disproved with a hair follicle test.”

In early 2019, Eleanor’s whole world flipped upside down again. OT arranged a Family Group Conference at which the new social worker announced the children were to be removed in three days.

Eleanor says she had been given no warning before the conference this was going to happen. Devastated, she watched as all four of her children were taken away again.

“It felt like the world had gone completely mad, honestly none of it made sense. Then I retreated because it hurt so much. It just takes everything out of you. I felt like I was on top of a cliff and clinging on for dear life to stop myself from falling.

“The weight of empty arms never leaves you.”

Having initially been placed with Eleanor’s parents, by late 2019 the four children were split up amongst multiple family and foster carers.

Worse still, OT reported they could not send the children back to Eleanor due to her history of choosing violent partners – but proceeded to send two of the children to live with her former violent partner, Zac, the father of her two youngest children.

Despite Eleanor telling OT that Zac was a methamphetamine user, that he became violent often, and that he had been convicted for assaulting her and grievous bodily harm of another person – some of this committed in front of the children – OT did not request a drug test for Zac and the two youngest were placed in his care.

The agency then separated the older children. One went through three foster homes in the next seven months, the other through two. Both were under 10 years old.

Eleanor was allowed no more than two hours a week access to the four children, always supervised. “I used to feel like a criminal,” she says. “It diminishes your mana, your authority. I wasn’t even allowed to take the kids to the toilet. OT turned me into something that my children thought was an unsafe person.”

For Eleanor, the worst part was seeing the effects this experience had on her children, particularly her youngest, who was just two.

“I was seeing this little boy at preschool. Every time I would go to leave he would want to come with me, cos he’d know when mum walks out that door I don’t see him for another week. So he would be screaming, like the arms around me. And that for me is one of the biggest, most painful images.

“Because it happened every time,” she says through tears. “They wrap their arms around you and you have to peel them off. And that’s one of those little cruelties, that they make you be a party to it. You have got to be a part of what they’re doing … You know, if the goodbye takes longer than usual because the kids are upset, access will be shorter next week.”

At a Family Group Conference late in 2019, OT made the decision to permanently separate the children and recommended Zac be given custody of the two youngest children. They also recommended the five-year-old be given a permanent “Home for Life” placement, and that OT would be visiting the North Island to find a family placement for the 10-year-old.

“They had the power to send all the kids to different homes, including to my violent ex, without any clear rationale. That’s when you become awake and realise what power imbalance truly is. It’s like playing a game of cards where everyone but you is cheating.

“In my case, Oranga Tamariki’s agenda is about the care and protection of their decisions, not the care and protection of the children.

“Also, you are engaged in a system that has a hierarchy and they are all ticking each other’s boxes, so everyone has each other’s backs and you don’t really have a shit show.”

Hotel desperation

Without her children, Eleanor was now ineligible for the Housing NZ house and was made to move out. On a single person’s benefit, “in the depths of grief crying every day”, she was offered emergency housing by WINZ. And that’s when she found herself alone in a single room in the Queen’s old hotel.

In that moment she made a decision to survive. Her only option, as Eleanor saw it, was to become an escort.

To cope, she turned to an imaginary persona named Tulip she had created as a child as a way to deal with being sexually abused by a relative. “Tulip is the part of me that protects the rest, she’s like the really strong part. And I think it was that persona that took over, like, ‘it’s okay, we’re just doing what we have to do’.

“I was thinking I can’t lose my children, I won’t lose my children. I have to get them back and I just have to with every cell in my body believe it. Cos if I entertain the possibility of what life would be like without them, I just can’t.”

 She acknowledges others might find her choice morally questionable, and that such things are “not great for your soul”. But to get through, she says, you have to “numb things out”. In a matter of weeks she had earned enough to find a rental house. She could now begin the process of trying to get her children back – again.

It was a lonely Christmas that year. Eleanor was only allowed to see her four children the week before, and was denied permission to see her daughter on her fifth birthday – she wasn’t even allowed a phone call.

But there was one bit of good news. She now had someone on her side.

A friend and saviour

As Eleanor describes it, Emma is her saviour. “Through a lot of this I honestly had no energy to even keep fighting. And if it wasn’t for my best friend and her family, I wouldn’t be here.”

Emma is confident, articulate and bright eyed. She works in the performing arts sector and is a well-known advocate in her community. In January, 2020, she helped Eleanor make her first formal complaint to Oranga Tamariki.

Outlining her case history, she focused on OT’s failure to give clear reasons for the uplifts or to explain why the children could not be with her. She asked for the immediate return of her children.

But time was running out. A judicial conference was scheduled in February to decide if the children should be permanently removed from Eleanor’s care. Emma by now was frustrated and angry. She says it is almost impossible to convey what it was like fighting the “OT wall”.

“It beggars belief. In my view, they were totally dysfunctional, taking measured steps to undermine Eleanor’s relationship with her children, using every tactic possible.

“It felt like we were kept in a constant holding pattern, where no amount of box ticking seemed to get us anywhere. We were sent requirements and lists of things Eleanor was asked to do if she hoped to have more access to her children, yet when we achieved them the goal post was shifted again. It just never seemed to end.”

Central to this failure of process, according to Eleanor, was OT’s apparently wilful blindness to the findings of her psychologist, who she had been seeing for post-traumatic stress since early 2019.

Eventually the psychologist, too, had had enough. She wrote to OT confirming Eleanor’s story and saying that instead of gaining help and support from the agency, Eleanor had been blamed for failing to sustain relationships with the very people who had abused her.

Despite Eleanor having attempted to do everything possible to meet OT’s expectations, the psychologist wrote, she had been confronted with:

– mixed and conflicting messages from OT social workers

– a lack of clarification about the care and protection concerns for the children, despite repeated requests for this in writing

– a lack of guidance from over what would be required to have the children returned

– inconsistent and conflicting communication from OT social workers.

And the psychologist identified the Kafkaesque nature of Eleanor’s predicament:

“[Eleanor] is told [by OT] that she has to work with and have positive relationships with those who have abused her and her children, namely her ex-partners and [redacted], and when her children are abused she is the one blamed for placing them in situations where they have been or are at risk of being harmed.”

The family unites

At the start of the country’s first Covid lockdown in March 2020, and after much pressure from Eleanor, her family and Emma, the two oldest children were returned to Eleanor’s parents, allowing Eleanor access.

But access to the younger two (still under five and still with Zac) was made difficult during lockdown, further stretching their connection. OT continued to endorse Zac as the primary caregiver, meaning Eleanor would have only limited access every second weekend.

At this point, Eleanor’s parents, with whom she had reconciled, reached into their savings and began to fight OT in the courts – a process that would end up costing them more than $70,000.

They disputed OT’s case that there was “no realistic possibility” of the two youngest children returning to their daughter and her family. In response to OT’s plans, her mother wrote:

“It would appear there is little understanding from the social worker and Oranga Tamariki of the depth of grief enforced separation and punitive decision making causes for Eleanor. No consideration is given to genuine discussion or partnership with Eleanor as mother and guardian of the children.”

OT remained intransigent on the return of the youngest two, however. Says Eleanor, “It felt like their compromise was, you can have the two oldest but we’re not giving you the two youngest. I think I was supposed to be satisfied with that.”

The internal investigation

In August 2020, the internal investigation into Eleanor’s complaints was completed. Among its multiple conclusions, it found:

“The decision-making process leading to the initial court application [for the first uplift] is obscure. There is also no evidence that alternative options were used which may have built safety within the home.”

“The level of information gathered to assess changes that had been made by the suitability of [Zac] did not meet the expectations of the ministry prior to the youngest two children being placed with their father.”

There were 10 recommendations, including that a copy of the report be provided to staff “for the purpose of developing future learnings”, that staff receive further training, that a new social worker undertake a comprehensive assessment of Eleanor’s case, and that she receive a letter of apology from senior management.

Three months later that carefully worded apology from the regional manager finally arrived:

“I want to sincerely and unreservedly apologise for the way we treated your family. It is clear that our communications with you has been far from adequate. Our staff have acted outside the benchmark on practice and policy and have not responded to your concerns”.

It went on to state the executive manager had been asked to “ensure the recommendations from the review outcomes are fully implemented … and all staff learn from what we did wrong in your situation to avoid it happening to anyone else.”

Eleanor was furious and emailed to say she did not accept the apology:

“Your letter seems to be saying that decisions made were right but you’re sorry about the way this was communicated. I do not accept this apology. I do want in writing the reasons behind the decision to remove my children – which had already been found to be unjustified by [senior advisor who reviewed the case].”

Payback time

Behind the official contrition, however, Eleanor suspected another agenda was at work. At one meeting, she says, the OT social worker stated more than once that she had been told by her manager not to bother reading the review findings.

She believes it was payback time and says her designated social worker “was like, how dare you?” and seemed “hell bent” on deliberately blocking the return of her younger children.

“While that sounds unbelievable, time and time again I found myself thinking this is more than the social workers just being useless or unprofessional. I am up against something way worse.”

She gives the example of OT giving another social services agency – the Open Home Foundation, which had been appointed to undertake a parenting assessment – incorrect contact details for Eleanor.

“When the Open Home Foundation couldn’t get hold of me they contacted the OT social worker and she told them I wasn’t wanting the assessment anymore, and that being hard to get hold of was typical behaviour from me.

“OT giving out the wrong contact details, then accusing me of not engaging was something I experienced more than once … I had to chase down people myself who had been given wrong information. The week before we were in court, the social worker had emailed my children’s father and said that I disengaged from the parenting assessment process, which was absolutely a hundred false.”

In October 2020, the younger children’s OT social worker concluded there was no possibility of them being returned to Eleanor.

Family Court hearings, according to Eleanor, were just another “farcical process” that reinforced the same catch-22. Delays and protracted proceedings simply prolong the torment – and extend the time parent and children are separated.

“The longer it takes, the longer the kids are away from you. And then [OT] tell you the kids are now secure in another home and they have to consider attachment issues,” says Eleanor. “Then the conversation turns to what’s in the best interest of the kids. They create the very situation they are meant to prevent. It’s just so fucked.”

But Eleanor and her parents had now hired a seasoned lawyer and were not giving up the fight. “If we didn’t have the financial means these children would be gone from this family,” says her mother.

Says Eleanor: “It all just becomes so overwhelming. It’s like grabbing sections of the rope going up a cliff, bit by bit, you can’t look up or you’d give up and you can’t look down because you might fall, so you just hang on.”

The last stand

In early 2021, an OT lawyer emailed to confirm they had “received instructions to file an application for wardship as soon as practicable” for Eleanor’s two youngest. At the same time, after numerous complaints from Eleanor and her team, OT had appointed another social worker from a different office.

In an apparent case of one hand not knowing what the other was doing, the new social worker found no concerns about Eleanor’s parenting and recommended 50-50 shared custody of the two youngest children between Eleanor and Zac.

This seems to have been the final straw for Zac, who soon made good on a threat to give up the care arrangements. This meant OT had to make urgent alternative care arrangements, with the social worker observing, “We do not see that this decision is in the best interests of the children.”

In a strange reversal of fortune, the children were placed in the care of Eleanor’s parents, and soon after that with Eleanor. In September 2021, at a Family Group Conference with OT, it was decided permanent custody of the two youngest would be awarded to Eleanor. Zac would have access every second weekend.

The decision was ratified at a court hearing in October, with OT saying they would “check in” on the arrangement for six months.

After three years, the war was finally over. Eleanor had all her four children back.

But she is also now caring for four highly traumatised and high needs children.

One began to grow grey hairs on her head aged just six, and sucks her thumb and rubs her nose so much it has changed shape. She wets the bed and started asking to wear a nappy at night again. The youngest began to scratch himself and bite other children, and started wetting the bed again, too.

“All this terrible stuff happened after the uplift, not before,” says Eleanor.

She believes she was punished not just for seeking help, but for needing help in the first place.

“The social worker said later, Well, I didn’t choose to have all those children, you did. So it’s not really on us Eleanor, is it?”

“When I think about it, it’s years of the kids’ lives that have been lost. I have moments of terrible grief over the times I missed, the times I will never get back. They pushed so hard to take my children and in the end severely damaged the very people they are meant to protect.”

The price of trauma

What price can be placed on the pain attached to children being uplifted “without basis”? According to Oranga Tamariki, that price is $13,000.

According to material released under the Official Information Act (OIA), that is the average pay-out to those deemed to have suffered emotional harm and/or related costs as a result of OT failures, either in the process of removing a child or while the child was in care following removal.

The agency does not accept responsibility for any kind of “wrongful uplift”. Rather, it states: “An ex-gratia payment can cover a wide range of potential failures, which may come out of the removal of a child but aren’t related to the removal of a child itself.”

In apparent contradiction to the outcome of Eleanor’s investigation, which admitted to removing her children “without basis”, OT maintains it “is the Family Court which determines whether children should be brought into care. It is not for Oranga Tamariki to make a finding that a child has been wrongfully removed or removed without basis as the authority for removal is a decision for the relevant judge.”

It is convoluted reasoning, to say the least. OT “has not made any payments as a result of a child being removed without basis or wrongful removal from their parents or guardians.” But the “quality of practice from Oranga Tamariki which contributed to the Family Court’s decision to remove a child is a subject of some of the payments.”

In any case, it’s a rare outcome to receive any admission of culpability from Oranga Tamariki. Since 2017, the agency has made such “ex gratia” payments to just 21 families, provided on the basis of “moral obligation or goodwill (not legal obligation)”.

Of those payments, 12 were made since 2019, the year Newsroom Investigates revealed what happened in Hastings when OT attempted to uplift a new-born baby, sparking five separate inquiries, all highly critical of the agency’s child removal practices.

But Eleanor is not one of those recipients, either. She is still awaiting any offer of redress, despite months passing with promises of an ex gratia payment, counselling for her and her children, and other forms of support. Nothing appropriate has so far eventuated.

In October, OT emailed her to apologise for the delays, but said the payment was being “urgently peer-reviewed by a lawyer” and was now being “treated urgently”. Three days later OT emailed Eleanor again saying the ex gratia report had been finished, but that she needed to answer some questions first.

In particular, OT wanted her to explain in detail how and why she had sold her car, and wanted details about her benefit. “The context for these are that we are only able to pay costs which have been incurred as a result of the decisions that we’ve made,” the email said.

It now seems the person in OT’s head office facilitating the payment has left the agency. Progress has been no better for Eleanor’s parents.

In August this year, OT emailed Eleanor’s mother to apologise for the delay in replying to her request for reimbursement of her large legal bill, but stating they needed more information.

Having provided the information, on December 16 Eleanor’s mother sent yet another email asking for an update on the reimbursement. OT replied the following day, apologising for the delay and promising the regional manager would “progress an ex gratia application to determine eligibility for entitlement of any financial recompense. This will be done early in 2022.”

While it can’t be predicted what OT will eventually offer as compensation, Eleanor’s psychologist gave a sense of the scale of damages in a strongly worded letter to OT in September this year.

Pointing out that Eleanor, her parents and most importantly her children have been severely traumatised by their experiences, and that OT’s own practices have been found to be inappropriate and have grounds for complaint, the psychologist said the family “are going to require significant resourcing from the department to repair attachment bonds, trust, traumatic thinking, feeling and functioning and provide stabilisation for these traumatised children who each have disrupted attachments.”

Therapy and practical interventions by “psychologists and trauma and developmental specialists” would take three years or more, and Eleanor and her children will need independent secure housing and transport. Given she won’t be able to work as well as care for four traumatised children, Eleanor will need adequate resourcing and support, including abundant respite care.

To date, none of the children have received appropriate counselling services from OT, nor has the family received significant financial or other forms of support. But Eleanor feels vindicated, nonetheless.

“I know now there’s nothing I couldn’t deal with in life. That’s the ultimate – losing your kids. Who am I if I’m not a mother? I’m not perfect but I am certainly not bad, and I’ve risen like a phoenix from the ashes.”

* There has been no recommendation for the social workers involved in Eleanor’s case to be supervised, and they still work at the same OT site. OT have said they do not investigate individual staff members. “We consider decision making and actions within the context of the system as social workers have supervisors and other senior staff involved in their work.” Staff at the office concerned had been made aware of the review and its findings had been implemented.

OT told Newsroom: “Whilst our practice did not always meet the required standards expected and was the subject of review which made recommendations for practice learnings , the children at the centre of this case are our utmost concern and priority.”


*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Footnote: a Bill calling for the creation of an oversight committee for Oranga Tamariki is currently before Parliament.

*Made with the support of NZ on Air *

Melanie Reid is Newsroom's lead investigations editor.

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