The High Court has declined an application made by a parent for the custody of her child, instead granting ongoing custody to foster parents.

The child was put into the care of the foster parents at the age of three, after Oranga Tamariki found that the child had been neglected by her birth parents. Oranga Tamariki then sought to remove the child from the care of these foster parents on the basis that they are Pākehā, and the child is Māori.

Oranga Tamariki argued that the Pākehā parents could not fulfil the cultural needs of the child, and sought to place her in the care of a Māori foster parent, who was also the caregiver of the child’s brother.

After the Court initially declined this application, the mother of the child appealed, stating that the judge had failed to consider cultural provisions contained in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

The Court had to weigh up the child’s right to be raised in an environment that incorporates Māori concepts and ideologies, against the right for the child to remain in the care of the foster parents with whom she had been living for four years.

The Court ultimately decided that the primary consideration when deciding on who takes custody is the welfare of the child. The Judge stated that uprooting the life of the child was not justified in this scenario, as the foster parents were able to show that they cared for the child and loved her deeply and that this was the most important consideration when making the decision. 

The Court dismissed the appeal, and granted the original foster parents ongoing custody of the child.

If there is confusion around parenting issues, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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