The Dominion Post 02 March 2009
Dozens of newborns are being taken from their mothers every year because of fears for their safety. Child, Youth and Family took 66 at-risk babies less than a month old into its care last year and 15 of them were taken the day they were born. In more than half of the cases, older brothers and sisters were already in care, figures provided to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act show. The number of custody orders involving newborns has more than doubled in the past five years. In the 2003-04 year, 32 were taken into state care.
Those taken last year include the newborn daughter of convicted baby-killer Tania Witika, who gave birth in Christchurch. CYF obtained custody when it heard she was pregnant. The horrific death of Witika’s daughter Delcelia, 2, in 1991 was one of the worst child-abuse cases to go before New Zealand courts. She and her partner at the time were each sentenced to 16 years’ jail for Delcelia’s torture and death. The rise in newborn custody orders coincides with a doubling in care and protection notifications involving babies still in their mothers’ wombs. Last year Child, Youth and Family received 215 notifications from people worried about the welfare of unborn children, compared with 96 five years earlier.