Oranga Tamariki admits that she sometimes asks district health boards to keep children in hospitals for longer than they need to be medically, while trying to find a suitable place for them.
This is against the advice of Children’s Minister Calvin Davis, who told the agency that the child should only be in hospital for medical reasons.
RNZ Revealed in July That a child in state care, who did not need medical treatment and was not ill, spent more than nine weeks in a hospital in Waikato because the agency failed to find him anywhere safe to go.
This was not an isolated incident.
Counties Manukau DHB said in a statement that children in care sometimes stay longer than necessary in its hospitals.
“There have been occasions when the child has been in the hospital for a long time medically where the safety space in the community has taken longer than expected. Because of this the longest stay will be 5 days, especially if the child Was entered at the end of the day. No place was reserved for the weekend and before the end of the week. “
“Such situations are rare but sometimes necessary,” said Glens Sandland, a spokeswoman for Oranga Tamaraki DCE Services for Children and Families.
“In some exceptional circumstances, Oranga Tamariki or the police may request that the District Health Board (DHB) delay the child’s discharge from the hospital. This is part of a memorandum of understanding between the three agencies and only if requested. When safety is a serious concern, the request for extension is to seek court orders or to arrange a new suitable, safe place.
In response to a request for official information, Oranga Tamariki told RNZ that she was not aware of any concerns about the level of care provided to children in her care who are in the hospital.
“If there are concerns, they are being addressed at the local level,” he said.
“Specific concerns about Tamariki while she is in hospital are addressed by social workers, sites and hospital staff,” she said.
“We have Hospital Licensed Social Workers in DHB across the country who support the work of Oranga Tamariki and DHB.”
Children’s Minister Calvin Davis declined to be interviewed, but said in a statement that he had made it clear to Oranga Tamariki that the hospital was not a suitable place for a child unless there was a medical reason.
Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Beckroft agreed.
“If we’re talking about hours or nights, that’s another story. [but] I would be concerned if it was followed by an extended stay, which is medically necessary, “he said.
“Hospitals are for children who need medical treatment, they are not an alternative to foster care or care, and should not be.”
Backraft said the agency had assured him that this did not happen often.
“We never had any complaints about it. I checked it very carefully with Oranga Tamariki and, as I rely on their information, they tell me it’s rare, but I’m sure. I will keep an eye on it. “
Social worker and former state ward Power Crawford Moyle said hospitals should not be used as temporary emergency placements.
“I don’t think children should be left in hospitals for days, maybe one or two nights under unusual circumstances,” he said.
“It’s about the poor resources of social workers. We don’t have the resources we need to find places, to make emergency places available … Hospitals should not have emergency places.”
He said, “When you have a 30 to 40 case load and you work with children, often very young children, and you don’t have time to do it properly, it’s a There is a problem of resources. “
In July, Davis was advised that Oranga Tamariki Care had ten children who were hospitalized for medical reasons, mostly for a few days.