McRae, K. & Nikora, L. W. (2006). Whangai: remembering, understanding and experiencing. MAI Review (1).
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/1230
The Māori customary practice of whangai is often equated with adoption or foster care. There are, however, significant differences between the institutions. Adoption or foster care, tends to be mainly focused on the interests of the child. The institution of whangai, while being cognizant of the interests of the child, is weighted more towards establishing, nurturing and cementing relationships between individuals, families and broader relational networks. In this paper we draw on the lived experiences of six people who have been raised as whangai and/or have raised whangai. We were interested in their understanding of the cultural concept of whangai, how the customary practice of whangai has changed over time, and their projected thoughts on future generations’ experience of whangai. Findings suggest that the institution of whangai remains as a strong vehicle for both the care of children and for the nurturing of whangai kinship relationships. While participants recognised that contemporary Māori social environments have contributed toward multiple manifestations of whangai, most felt it to be an institution that will be valued and carried into the future.
This article is published in the journal MAI Review. Used with permission.