We modify our usual social work practice approach in the context of a measles outbreak to prevent the transmission of the virus.
Measles and immunisation

Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/assessment-and-planning/assessments/intake-and-early-assessment/core-assessment-phase/
Printed: 19/05/2024
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 13/02/2024

Core assessment phase

The core phase of assessment builds on the initial phase of assessment to establish a picture of the safety, strengths, vulnerability and needs of te tamaiti and their whānau.

Upcoming changes for this guidance

This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach

Updates made to guidance

The guidance around making a finding of whether harm or abuse has occurred has been strengthened, especially in steps 6 and 8.
How we undertake the core phase of assessment

Purpose of the core assessment phase

The purpose of this phase of assessment is to work with the whānau or family to:

  • assess current and future safety and harm or the likelihood of harm to te tamaiti 
  • determine whether te tamaiti has needs that require addressing, and if so who is best to provide those services
  • inform the decision about future involvement by Oranga Tamariki, such as a family group conference, no further action (NFA) or referral to other services.

Depth and breadth of assessment in the core assessment phase

The breadth and depth of the assessment needs to be proportionate to the purpose of assessment at this phase – having sufficient information to identify whether te tamaiti is suffering, or is likely to suffer, serious and/or ongoing harm and determining the best response to concerns for their safety or wellbeing.

The assessment should build on the information and analysis summarised in the pathway rationale casenote from the initial assessment. This casenote provides the reasons for decisions and the key areas of concern that the assessment needs to explore further.

Consider how the concerns identified in the initial phase of assessment map to the domains of the Tuituia framework and plan with your supervisor and colleagues which areas your assessment will need to focus on and how you will work with the whānau or family to explore these areas in more detail.

Tuituia framework and domains

When the core phase of assessment is covered by the Child Protection Protocol (CPP)

The purpose of the core phase of assessment does not change even if the CPP is being followed. The decisions at this point don’t depend on the completion of the Police investigation or court outcomes.

The CPP acknowledges the discrete roles of Police and Oranga Tamariki and states what activities Oranga Tamariki is responsible for during the core phase of assessment. These are:

  • addressing the immediate safety of tamariki together with the Police
  • completing an assessment of harm and the severity of this
  • taking action to ensure the ongoing safety of tamariki 
  • facilitating and assisting tamaiti victims and their whānau or family to engage with support services.

Child Protection Protocol

How we undertake the core phase of assessment

1 Use the Tuituia assessment framework

The Tuituia assessment framework helps us develop an understanding of:

  • te tamaiti and their needs, vulnerabilities and strengths
  • the strengths, needs and resources within the whānau or family
  • te tamaiti and their whānau or family within the wider system.

2 Engage with te tamaiti

The way we engage with te tamaiti is a critical component of the core assessment phase. In this phase of assessment, we need to have face-to-face engagement with te tamaiti to:

  • share with them the process and timeframes of the assessment
  • establish their safety
  • hear their views and understand what they are experiencing
  • build a picture of their vulnerabilities, needs, strengths and resources, and their whakapapa and whanaungatanga relationships
  • talk with them about what we are seeing and how we might proceed at the end of this phase of assessment.

Think about how we can support this engagement – where it might best take place, who may be able to assist, what tools or resources may support engagement and how to consider factors such as age and developmental level.

Practice standard: See and engage tamariki

3 Engage with whānau

Early and ongoing engagement with whānau or family is critical to this phase of assessment. Tamariki and whānau or family are inherently connected – tamariki belong to whānau or family as whānau or family belong to tamariki – so an assessment of the needs, vulnerabilities and safety of te tamaiti cannot be understood in isolation of their whānau or family. We want to work with the whānau or family to strengthen their understanding of, and opportunity to, respond to any concerns for the care or safety of te tamaiti.

Key aspects of working with whānau or family in this phase of our assessment include:

  • involving our kairaranga ā-whānau or specialist Māori advice to support engagement with tamariki and whānau Māori
  • seeking advice from Pacific cultural advisors and other relevant ethnic cultural or spiritual leaders
  • using hui ā-whānau or family meetings to:
    • support and enhance the rights, participation and decision-making of tamariki and their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and support network as early as possible
    • inform the assessment and safety planning for te tamaiti 
    • hear and understand the whānau or family views about te tamaiti, including how they view the concerns held by Oranga Tamariki
    • understand the vision the whānau or family has for their tamaiti 
  • seeking to understand te tamaiti in the context of their whānau or family – we need to:
    • broaden and deepen our understanding of te tamaiti within their whānau or family – talk with te tamaiti and their whānau or family about who they are, where they are from, who and what they feel connection to, what significance is held in the name given to te tamaiti, what whānau or family stories they have that help you understand their journey as a whānau or family and what is important to them
    • interact with parents/carers/whānau and observe their interactions with te tamaiti
    • gather observations and information from whānau or family, friends and neighbours that may provide vital insights into the workings of the whānau or family
  • supporting, strengthening and assisting whānau or family to:
    • establish who the whānau or family wants to be involved, who they see as resources for them, who they believe can help Oranga Tamariki understand, and who can help them to provide safety and meet the needs of te tamaiti 
    • explore with whānau or family how to make the process work for them, and what the whānau or family needs to work with Oranga Tamariki
    • make decisions about how to address concerns for their tamaiti 
  • co-working with non-statutory agencies, kaumātua or key cultural advisors to help facilitate involvement with whānau or family.

Take into account the diversity of whānau or family life and households. Too often, assessment is overly focused on mothers, leaving fathers, partners and other members of households out of the analysis. Ensure the assessment explores maternal and paternal whānau or family, partners, and sibling relationships.

Kairaranga ā-whānau

Hui ā-whānau

Practice standard: See and engage whānau and wider family

4 Engage with other professionals

This phase of assessment requires the perspective and insights of others working with te tamaiti and their whānau or family. We should:

  • identify multi-agency involvement which may need to be coordinated so it’s easier for tamariki and whānau or family
  • gather information related to the concerns from other agencies who know te tamaiti and their whānau or family, for example schools, early childhood education, health professionals, iwi and community organisations
  • include professionals in the child and family consult and visits to whānau or family – work with the whānau or family to identify who is meaningful to them and who would assist engagement and understanding
  • consult with the care and protection resource panel for local advice and knowledge – we should consult as soon as practicable to support a widely informed and coordinated approach to our assessment or investigation.

Policy: Assessment

Care and protection resource panel

Practice standard: Work closely in partnership with others

5 Undertake safety planning

Complete the safety and risk screen to establish the immediate safety of te tamaiti. The safety and risk screen identifies if there are concerns that warrant immediate action by Oranga Tamariki and others to establish the safety of te tamaiti while the assessment of their longer-term safety continues.

Hui ā-whānau or family meetings allow the whānau or family to share their perspectives, and how they see any concerns being managed. Hui ā-whānau or family meetings provide the whānau or family with an opportunity to use their strengths to build safety around te tamaiti and address any concerns – either by themselves, with support from other professionals/agencies, or while a family group conference is convened to develop a future plan for te tamaiti and their whānau or family. Remember, the whānau or family does not have to agree that abuse has occurred, but they must be willing to work with a safety plan to ensure future harm does not occur.

If this phase of assessment does not identify any concerns for the safety of te tamaiti, then a safety plan is not needed. However, if a family group conference is required, but there is enough safety to keep te tamaiti at home until the conference is held, then a safety plan needs to be put in place. Use the safety plan template located under the Safety and Risk Screen in CYRAS to record the safety plan that has been developed with the whānau or family.

Protect and support the development of tamariki and rangatahi within healthy whānau and families

Safety and risk screen

Practice standard: Ensure safety and wellbeing

6 Analyse information and determine next steps

When discussions with te tamaiti, whānau or family and professionals have concluded and hui ā-whānau or family meetings have been held, we work with the whānau or family to determine next steps and formulate the outcome of this phase of the assessment. Analysis of the information gathered should lead to a judgement about:

  • whether harm or abuse has occurred
  • the needs of te tamaiti
  • how well their parents, family, whānau, hapū and iwi are able to meet these needs within their current social context.

The options for the outcome of the core assessment phase are:

  • no further action (NFA)
  • refer to services
  • family group conference.

Making a finding of whether harm or abuse has occurred

Before we reach a finding of whether harm or abuse has occurred and determine the next steps, we need to be able to demonstrate that we have sought and considered all relevant information throughout our assessment. This includes the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family, and professionals (including any other allocated Oranga Tamariki kaimahi).

Consider whether we should engage with the person who is alleged to have caused harm – consider whether they are someone significant in the life of te tamaiti or rangatahi and seek guidance around engaging with them from relevant policy and the Police if the Child Protection Protocol (CPP) applies.

All information needs to be considered in the context of what we may already know about te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family and take into account the context within which the concerns have been raised, including what we may know about the person alleged to have caused the harm.

This phase of our mahi requires us to analyse information, consult others, and exercise our professional judgement. Determining whether harm or abuse has occurred is not always easy, especially in the face of contradictory or unclear information. This can be particularly difficult where Police or the criminal court is involved. Remember our decision about whether harm or abuse has occurred needs to take into account the information held by Police, but does not have to wait for or rely on an outcome of the Police or criminal court. Our decision needs to reflect our professional judgement, taking into account all of the information that we have gathered, about whether on balance, we believe harm or abuse has occurred. It is important that we use our professional supervision and case consultation processes to help us, and that we clearly record the rationale for our findings and decisions made and the information we have relied on to inform this judgement.

A finding of abuse or harm should be informed by the definitions of abuse, neglect and harm. These descriptions can be used to help us clearly describe why we have reached a finding of harm and provide specific examples to support us to determine the right finding to select. In some cases, a single incident could lead to a finding of more than one abuse type.

Definitions of abuse, neglect and harm

A finding of harm or abuse does not necessarily mean we will continue to be involved with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. If the whānau or family have acted protectively and are supporting the oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi, there may be no need for our ongoing involvement. Conversely, if there is no finding of harm or abuse, te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family may still have needs that we can support them with and we may continue to be involved with them.

Serious harm and the family group conference

A key consideration is determining whether te tamaiti has suffered, is suffering or is likely to suffer serious harm. And if so, whether they are in need of care or protection. If they are in need of care or protection, then a referral for a care and protection family group conference must be made. If not, then it is important to work with the whānau or family to identify if there are other supports that they may need to help them strengthen and maintain their ability to protect and provide safe, effective care of te tamaiti.

Determining whether te tamaiti has suffered, is suffering or is likely to suffer serious harm and whether ongoing statutory involvement from Oranga Tamariki is required can be complex. There are several factors that require consideration. Take time to explore your thinking with others, discuss in supervision and ensure you involve te tamaiti and their whānau in seeking to understand the impact on te tamaiti.

Serious harm – forming a belief

Wellbeing concerns

If, following an assessment, we find that te tamaiti or rangatahi is not at risk of serious harm, then we need to consider whether there are identifiable risks or wellbeing concerns that should be addressed through other pathways.

Support and assistance for tamariki and rangatahi not in need of care or protection


7 Share the assessment with others

We should share our developing assessment with te tamaiti, whānau or family and involved professionals, so we can test our analysis and provide them with an opportunity to understand how we are seeing the situation. Advise referrers of assessment outcomes.

The primary decision is whether there are current or future concerns for the safety or wellbeing of te tamaiti that meet the threshold for section 14 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and the requirement for a family group conference, or whether the whānau or family can meet and provide sustained safety for te tamaiti with non-statutory supports, if needed.

8 Record the core assessment outcome

It is important that we clearly record the rationale for our decision-making, including what informed our decision about whether harm or abuse has occurred, and the outcome of our assessment.

If during the course of the assessment or investigation we have been provided information from the person alleged to have caused the harm (either from them directly or through a third party such as Police, another family member or professional), we need to ensure this is carefully recorded and considered in our assessment, whether or not it is deemed to be accurate.

If our assessment or investigation has determined that harm has not occurred, this should also be recorded and the information or evidence to support this.

The Tuituia recording tool does not need to be completed for this phase of assessment but we should use the Tuituia report template to record the written assessment. The assessment is recorded at the end of the Child and Family Assessment phase on CYRAS.

Complete the relevant sections of the Tuituia report (including the red text prompts in each section):

  • important information about te tamaiti and the context for the report
  • why we are involved and what we are worried about (including harm related to the experience of trauma and impact on future wellbeing for te tamaiti)
  • where the report relates to te tamaiti who is in care, outline the key reasons for being in care and what still needs to be done to recover from the experience and impact of trauma
  • te tamaiti needs and strengths, including how these strengths can be fostered
  • te tamaiti views and participation
  • the views of parents/caregivers and their hopes and wishes for te tamaiti
  • whanaungatanga connection
  • kaitiaki mokopuna needs and strengths
  • family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group perspective and aspirations for te tamaiti 
  • cultural considerations
  • engagement of other professionals
  • what outcomes we are seeking to achieve and how we get there.

In the report you need to clearly describe the areas of concern and what change we want to see. What has been done, or needs to be done, to address the risk statements and ensure enduring safety and wellbeing for te tamaiti? What is the best way to achieve this (referral to a community-based service or other government agency, family group conference, family/whānau agreement, court order)? Why is this the best way? How will we know when the goal has been achieved? Where this is a youth justice referral, what needs to happen to hold the rangatahi to account for their offending and address the underlying causes of their offending?