Oranga Tamariki reviews his involvement with an abused boy who became permanently disabled
Oranga Tamariki held a family conference two days before a boy suffered a crippling brain injury. Photo/NZME
Oranga Tamariki says it is “deeply regrettable” that he was unable to prevent the brain injury to a little boy from Hastings which left him with a permanent disability.
The department says it is reviewing its involvement with the boy’s family to see if it could and should have done more in his case.
The boy’s father and stepmother pleaded guilty to child abuse and neglect when they appeared in Napier District Court last week.
The stepmother also pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm to the child, who is now 7.
The couple are due to be sentenced next month and their names will be suppressed until then. They are out on bail, but the Crown is asking for jail time.
According to court documents, Oranga Tamariki was involved with the boy and his family on several occasions, including during a family group conference two days before he suffered a serious head injury aged 4 in January 2020. , while in the care of his stepmother.
It was the boy’s second head injury that required surgery.
Contacted to comment on the boy’s fate, Oranga Tamariki said the injuries inflicted on the child were “extremely distressing”.
“Oranga Tamariki did not have legal custody of the child at any time,” Dee McManus-Emery, transitional assistant executive director, Child and Family Services, said in an emailed statement.
“When this child first came to our attention, we began working with whānau and other agencies to understand what had happened and together we put plans and support in place for the whānau” , she said.
“Despite these efforts, it is deeply regrettable that we were unable to prevent this child from further harm.
“This is something we take extremely seriously, and we have taken steps to closely examine whether there was more we could and should have done in this case.”
According to a Crown Prosecution Summary of Facts presented to the court, Oranga Tamariki was alerted to the boy’s case while attending daycare between September 2018 and May 2019, when he was 3 years old.
Center staff became concerned that the boy had facial injuries that were not accidental. When asked, the boy said “Mom” caused them.
Staff documented and photographed the injuries and reported them to Oranga Tamariki.
“Although Oranga Tamariki has followed up on the report, no conclusion has been reached,” the Crown summary reads.
In June 2019, the boy suffered a head injury for which he was hospitalized. He was airlifted to Wellington, where a craniotomy was performed to relieve bleeding between his skull and brain.
After this incident, Oranga Tamariki entrusted the boy to the care of his grandmother in another center.
The Crown summary says the boy was returned to the care of his father and stepmother “by arrangement with Oranga Tamariki” in December 2019, for Christmas.
A family group conference was called by Oranga Tamariki the following month to discuss his continued care. During this conference, a phone call was made to the person temporarily caring for the boy to check for any bruises. None have been reported.
Two days after the conference, the boy suffered the second, more serious head injury while in the care of his stepmother.
Airlifted to Wellington for another operation, the boy was found to have bleeding on both sides of his brain and “significant” damage to the brain itself.
“(The boy’s) life will be permanently altered in that he will suffer a permanent disability,” the Crown summary reads.
The boy has siblings.
McManus-Emery said in his statement, “We are confident that the tamariki are now in safe and loving locations.”