A report released today by the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki, shows 12 percent of children in state care have suffered harm.
The safety of children in care report looked at case notes of almost 700 children during 2015 and 2016.
Chief executive Grainne Moss said the figure was higher than previously reported and could be higher still as it focuses mainly on children aged five and over.
"Children over five can articulate their concerns. There could be [under-reporting]. What this research does is it raises a number of questions that we need to further explore."
She said the report widened the definition of harm to include cumulative harm such as a caregiver not taking the child to the doctors regularly.
"Now once off that's not a problem, but over three or four months that's seen as neglect. There were no short or long term damages to that child but we still count that as harm."
"Harm is harm and we need to eliminate harm in every place and on every occasion."
Ms Moss said the report was not large enough to draw any strong conclusions from but that it reflected what the Ministry had been told in the past by caregivers and children in care.
"Caregivers have said we need more support and help, we need better training. The children and young people have said to us, we need you to advocate for us we need you to keep us safe in all situations."
Ms Moss also said support was needed on a community-level, not just within homes were children were placed. She said children tended to thrive if the community was on-board with helping them as well.
"Children live in a community; they don't live in government agencies, they don't live in a system. If we look at our track record, in terms of looking after children as a country we are very challenged."
She said the children identified in the report as being harmed had either been removed from their environment or had undergone counselling and support along with their caregiver.