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Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki v Frye [2020] NZFC 6519

Published 17 November 2022

Discharge of custody orders — care and protection — tikanga Maori — turangawaewae—mana tamaiti — Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, ss 4A, 5, 7, 7A, 7AAA, 13, 14AA, 18A-18D, 74, 101 & 178 — Care of Children Act 2004, ss 4, 5 & 133 — MEM v Chief Executive of the Ministry of Vulnerable Children FC Rotorua FAM-2001-019-000230, 22 June 2009 — R v Child Youth and Family Services FC Dunedin FAM-2004-012-584, 14 December 2006. This was an application to discharge custody orders in favour of Oranga Tamariki (OT) for two children and grant orders in favour of the mother, or the grandparents. The mother had four children, three of whom had different fathers: the youngest two were in her care; the eldest was living with a caregiver in a different city and the second eldest with his grandparents, and they were both were in the care of OT since they were very young. The relationship between the mother and the grandparents of the second eldest child had broken down, but was deemed not to be irreparable. The mother had had a tumultuous history with the father of the second eldest child which involved violence towards the children, and resulted in them being placed in OT's care. The Court, in assessing whether to discharge the orders, had to look at the welfare and best interests of the children as the primary consideration. This consideration is found in both the Care of Children Act (COCA) and the Oranga Tamariki Act (OTA). The Court's role was to assess the evidence and determine whether continued state intervention was justified. It had a duty to ensure that the children were protected from all forms of violence, safe, and had their wellbeing and interests protected. Given the extensive powers found under the OTA to intervene in the private lives of families, the child ought to be considered as an individual, but the child should not be considered separate from ties arising from birth heritage, and especially mana tamaiti and whakapapa. The concept of turangawaewae, or a place to stand, is also important. Hundreds of pages of social workers' reports were gathered, which assessed the ability of the mother to handle all the children in supervised settings, and the grandparents' ability to care for the child in their care. Concerns were raised about how the mother would react on some occasions when the children were loud and uncooperative, and how the different needs of the children would be met given the upbringing they had become accustomed to. The grandmother was recovering from a serious illness, and it was noted in the report that the grandparents had adopted a permissive style of parenting, which resulted in the child in their care falling behind in some developmental respects such as in speech and with toilet training. On the evidence, the Judge was satisfied that the second eldest child should go into the mother's care, but that the eldest child should remain living with the caregiver for the time being, to be reviewed. Counseling was also required for the mother and grandmother. Orders were made accordingly. Judgment Date: 10 August 2020. * * * Note: names have been changed to comply with legal requirements. * * *