470 babies taken into care
A retired judge who freed convicted child abuser Oriwa Kemp from prison says she is a victim of her background and more taxpayer money should be spent discouraging such women from "indiscriminately" having children.
The comments by Barry Lovegrove, convener of the parole board panel which freed Kemp from jail, came as Child, Youth and Family released figures showing the agency is uplifting hundreds of babies at birth or soon after.
The Sunday Star-Times revealed last weekend that CYF had this month seized Kemp's hours-old baby girl. It was the second time in two years CYF had taken a newborn from her. All three of her children are in the agency's care.
Kemp was jailed for cruelty to her niece, Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie, who was spun in a clothes drier and hung from a clothesline before being fatally assaulted by relatives in 2007.
Last week it was announced Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, who was jailed for nine years in 2009 for her daughter's manslaughter, would be released on parole in April.
Former Women's Refuge head Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who gave evidence at the coroner's inquest into Nia's death, said removing Kemp's baby was "inhumane" and CYF should have put services in place to support her to be a good parent.
But the Sensible Sentencing Trust said Kemp had shown no responsibility and she should be offered money to be sterilised. Kemp said last week she did not want to be sterilised and hoped to have more children.
Parole Board decisions for Kemp say she had been through a "lifetime of hardship and abuse" and, as a first offender, was at low risk of reoffending. She was just 16 when the assaults on Nia occurred.
Lovegrove said it was wrong to confuse Kemp's ongoing "social deficit" with criminality - "the fact is, it's not a crime to have babies" - and she should be viewed as a "victim of an imperfect social environment for which we must all accept some degree of responsibility".
He said she had as much right as anyone to have children.
"If you want to do something about the indiscriminate birthing of children in this country then you've got to impress upon young girls that it's irresponsible to bring children into the world unless you are fully capable of looking after them."
Lovegrove said Kemp came from an "awful" family background - "real Once Were Warriors stuff" - and it would be difficult to turn that around.
"She will always find she will fall back into her antisocial background because that's what her past and her family and jail have been all about. To rip her away from that represents a real challenge.
"As soon as you say ‘more should be done' you're [called] a ‘bleeding-heart liberal' and ‘you're only talking about ferals' and ‘we should be sterilising them'.
"I really don't want to live in a country that goes around sterilising people, I'd far rather we did as much as possible to change attitudes. If that requires more government money then it should be provided."
CYF figures show that, in the 2012-13 year, 470 babies were taken into care at birth or within six months of birth.
Paula Attrill, the agency's general manager of family operations, said CYF worked to keep children with their families and often that meant parents had to change their lifestyle.
"The sad reality is that for some children, their home isn't a safe place to be. This is when we must act - we can't gamble with children's lives based on feeble promises or false hopes.
"No social worker takes any pleasure in removing a child from their home. However, tough decisions have to be made when a child's safety is at stake, and we cannot be afraid to make them."
BABIES TAKEN INTO CARE 2012-13
At birth: 26
Within 30 days: 157
Within six months: 287
Babies with siblings already in care: 77
Sunday Star Times