More than 220 children who were removed from their families to keep them safe went on to be harmed in state care over a six-month period.
The new findings, the first from Oranga Tamariki’s new reporting system on child harm, were described as “distressing” by chief executive Grainne Moss.
“It’s really important that we keep children safe and on some occasions what this data shows is that we’ve failed to do that,” she told the Herald.
In the worst cases, children had been raped or beaten. Several incidents led to criminal charges.
Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children, set up the new reporting system last year, to replace the patchy, narrowly-focused one used by its predecessor Child, Youth and Family.
The new system is one of broadest and most detailed in any jurisdiction. It records abuse committed against a child by anyone, not just the caregiver, and in any location, not just within the child’s placement. It records all incidents of harm, accidental and intentional, and ranging from over-zealous discipline of a child through to severe physical or sexual assaults.
As of June last year, there were 6350 children and young people in state care in New Zealand. Between July and September, 130 of them were found to have been harmed. Between October and December, 97 were found to be been harmed.
Some of the incidents were historical but were first reported during this period. A few children were harmed more than once. They were mostly likely to have been abused by caregivers, though many of the sexual assaults were committed by other young people or unrelated adults.
Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the findings were “deeply disturbing” and “utterly unacceptable”. But he said Oranga Tamariki had been bold in recording and revealing the full extent of abuse in state care for the first time.
“It’s a courageous step to publish these and to not seek to hide as was often the case in the past. Now we know what we’re up against, inarguably.”