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Printed: 26/01/2020
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Last updated: 24/09/2019

Assessing safety needs for tamariki in care

Assessing the safety needs for tamariki in care means considering the physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural safety of te tamaiti. It’s about understanding both risk and harm, and the resiliency and protective factors that exist for te tamaiti.

What’s important to consider

The needs assessment for tamariki in care includes an assessment of safety needs. Having a clear understanding of the safety needs for te tamaiti supports our ability to ensure that their All About Me Plan, including the child-friendly plan, and the caregiver support plan, addresses any safety issues for te tamaiti while in care, including where te tamaiti may pose a risk to themselves or others.

The National Care Standards Regulation 14 — Process for assessing safety needs- requires that the assessment of safety for tamariki in care must:

  • identify the risk of the harm, loss or injury to te tamaiti, or to other persons from te tamaiti
  • consider the nature of the harm, loss or injury that te tamaiti has experienced, and the effects of this on their ongoing safety or wellbeing
  • consider the risks of harm posed by others who come into or may come into contact with te tamaiti
  • consider the level of resilience of te tamaiti and any protective factors present in the environment for te tamaiti, and
  • consider aspects of the behaviour of te tamaiti that may present a risk of harm and the impact this may have on their own safety or the safety of others.

Process for assessing safety needs — regulation 14 the National Care Standards

In completing the assessment of safety needs for te tamaiti it’s important to:

  • seek the views of te tamaiti and their family/whānau
  • review the CYRAS record and any specialist reports that may have been completed
  • understand the history of the case, and locate the current risks, issues and concerns within that context
  • consider how the cultural perspectives of the family/whānau may influence the experience of te tamaiti and seek cultural support if required
  • be clear about the danger/harm and risk statements for te tamaiti and if necessary use the Child/Young Person and Family consult to ensure these are well formed and accurately identify the concerns for te tamaiti
  • seek the views of the caregiver if te tamaiti is in care, and
  • consider the relevant Tuituia domains to draw together your assessment.

Tuituia doesn’t hold a single domain or subdomain dedicated to the area of risk/harm for te tamaiti, however you will find elements of the risk/harm needs in the following Tuituia domains:

  • identity and culture
  • attachments
  • health
  • behaviour
  • safety and basic care
  • safe parenting factors.

Assessing risk and harm

In assessing the safety needs for te tamaiti we need to start by recognising that every tamaiti has their own mana. The mana of te tamaiti should be able to flourish and be evident and active as they live and grow in any healthy family/whānau or caregiving family.

Neglect, abuse, loss of attachments, lack of safety, security and unmet needs for love and belonging are experiences that may violate the tapu of te tamaiti (the personal sacredness of te tamaiti or rangatahi) and diminish their personal mana.

These circumstances may be traumatic for te tamaiti and those close to te tamaiti, creating a complex system of needs for healing for te tamaiti and also their family/whānau.

Within this however, it’s critical to recognise and support their potential and to find strengths and areas where there’s resilience, as these will be catalysts for change. Whakapapa (the blood lines and genealogical ties to a common ancestor for te tamaiti) and whanaungatanga (purposeful relationships) are key mechanisms for practice to support the healing, growth and restoration of the mana and tapu of te tamaiti.

Considering protective factors and resiliency

Your safety assessment for te tamaiti needs to also consider strengths, resiliency and protective factors that are present for te tamaiti.  Consider the identity and culture domain, which is a key area of protection and resiliency for te tamaiti.

Identity and culture — Tuituia domain

Having a strong sense of cultural identity, knowing who you are and feeling proud and confident is recognised as a key characteristic in developing and maintaining resiliency.

For tamariki Māori resilience is enhanced by connections with family/whānau, whanaungatanga and mana tamaiti; and is further nourished by te reo Māori and tikanga. 

Tamariki who have connections to family/whānau, marae and whenua are more likely to have a strong sense of wairua, and be able to see their place in the wider universe. The ability to draw on cultural beliefs and values is important in developing resilience in the face of adversity. A strong positive Maori identity, mana tamaiti, is seen as having an amplifying affect in terms of resilience.

In the same way that a strong connection to identity and culture contributes to resiliency and acts as a protective factor, a lack of connection and identity can also increase the risk to te tamaiti.

Consider the particular strengths of te tamaiti that could be enhanced to support a positive and mana enhancing view of themselves, such as:

  • a particular sporting ability
  • cultural knowledge or skill, for example kapa haka or carving
  • drama or musical talent.

The hopes and dreams of te tamaiti and their ability to visualise a positive future also contributes to the overall safety and welling of te tamaiti.

Other key domains to consider when assessing resiliency include, friendships and attachments. Strong pro-social relationships with peers and trusting relationships with positive family/whānau members and other adults can provide an important protective factor. 

Friendships — Tuituia domain

Attachments — Tuituia domain

Understanding the individual tamaiti

As you assess each of the areas of Tuituia assessment, you need to be mindful of the vulnerabilities and strengths of te tamaiti, taking into account their age and developmental needs. Understand the history of the case and the background of te tamaiti; consider what this means for te tamaiti in their current context. Having an understanding of the specific safety needs for the individual tamaiti will provide us with greater clarity around what is needed to create safety, and how te tamaiti can be supported moving forward.


Disabilities can have a significant impact on the experience of abuse for te tamaiti. Having a disability can significantly increase the chances that te tamaiti will be abused or left in an unsafe situation, especially if they are non-verbal and less able to communicate with protective adults.

For tamariki with a disability we need to understand how the disability impacts on their specific safety, the impact this has on their behaviour and any increased needs for safety that te tamaiti may have as a result of their disability.

Assessing needs relating to any disability


All infants/pēpi and toddlers are vulnerable due to their inability protect themselves and their dependence on others for their needs to be met. Some have an increased vulnerability, for example due to being premature or having medical problems, having physical or developmental disabilities, or due to being difficult to soothe or irritable. In different ways these infants/pēpi can challenge the capacity of parents/caregivers to accurately read their cues and support their safety and development.  

When assessing the safety needs of infants/pēpi and toddlers it is important to:

  • understand their prenatal experience (for example were exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy) and how this may be affecting their development and safety
  • consider their safety within their physical environment - safety around stairs, where gates may be needed, access to roads, traffic, swimming pools or baths
  • understand their developmental stage (for example are they mobile) and consider what level of supervision and guidance is required for them to be safe
  • ensure that the home/care environment is compliant with SUDI/safe sleeping guidance
  • Importantly the care environment needs to be supporting them to feel loved and secure, to form close and secure interpersonal relationships and to explore their world from a place of safety and security.

Remember infants/pēpi and toddlers have little or no ability to protect themselves from people, circumstances or environments that are unsafe; the adults caring for them must be able to fully meet these needs and ensure their safety. 


For rangatahi the safety assessment may be more strongly focused on their own behaviour and the impact of this on themselves and others, including any risk rangatahi pose to other tamariki or rangatahi.

Consider abuse or trauma history of rangatahi alongside:

  • sexual safety
  • internet and online safety
  • substance abuse
  • risk taking behaviours.

While it’s important that rangatahi are supported to take responsibility for their behaviour, understanding that the behaviour is likely to be a reflection of how they are dealing with trauma and past harm will be important to consider as you seek to understand their current and future needs.

Understanding whether rangatahi have a sense of their cultural identity, family/whānau and whanaungatanga may also help you to understand what interventions may be required to remediate these areas of concern.

Understanding communication needs

All tamariki can communicate their preferences if those working with them take the time to understand how they communicate. There are a number of reasons why the voice of te tamaiti may be more difficult to obtain as a result of their individual circumstances. This includes the very young tamaiti, where English is a second language, or where there are communication challenges as a result of a disability. Some tamariki may need support to ensure their views, wishes and feelings are taken into account in assessment and planning. Adaptable methods that can be adjusted for particular individual needs are important.

Assessment of needs relating to any disability

Recording — why we are involved and what we are worried about

In addition to the assessment of safety needs within the Tuituia domains and sub-domains, the Tuituia assessment section ’why we are involved and what we are worried about’ is crucial in capturing the areas of safety concern for te tamaiti.

This section outlines the reasons we are working with this tamaiti and relates to the danger/harm and risk statements sections in the Child/Young Person and Family consult.

Using the Tuituia recording tool

Responding to new safety concerns

In the course of this assessment or at any time during our involvement with them, te tamaiti may disclose new information about historical harm or abuse, or may raise issues about their current safety with their caregiver, an adult or another tamaiti or rangatahi. If new safety concerns, that have not previously been the focus of a child and family assessment or investigation, are identified for te tamaiti, a Report of Concern should be made and the usual processes followed.

Child and family assessment or investigation

Policy: Allegations of abuse, neglect, or harm of tamariki by caregivers