Purpose of the initial phase of assessment
The purpose of the initial phase of assessment is to gather sufficient information to:
- understand the needs and vulnerabilities of te tamaiti, including wellbeing concerns and harm or the likelihood of harm to ensure they get an appropriate response and the right level of service
- inform the decision about whether a tamaiti who has been notified to Oranga Tamariki requires further statutory assessment or an alternative response – and if so, what alternative response that should be.
How we undertake the initial phase of assessment
1 Gather information
Section 17 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 gives us discretion to determine whether it is necessary or desirable to investigate concerns reported under section 15. However, this is not the same as investigating the concerns (which happens in a child and family assessment or investigation) and there are different parameters for the enquiries we can make with others during the initial phase of assessment.
Information to consider in the initial assessment phase
We consider 3 key sources of information in the initial phase of assessment:
- the initial reported concern
- the notifier – through a direct conversation, we should:
- explore their concerns in the context of what they know about te tamaiti and their family/whānau
- develop an understanding of the needs and vulnerability of te tamaiti, along with the strengths and resources of the family/whānau
- reach a decision about the best response
- where appropriate, encourage them to support te tamaiti and their family/whānau by remaining involved and included, even if there is continued engagement with Oranga Tamariki
- a chronology that pulls together critical information, in an accessible form, to develop a picture of te tamaiti and their whānau over time. A chronology identifies key events that have impacted on te tamaiti and their whānau – it is not a full account of everything that is recorded in previous reports of concerns, or the CYRAS record. A chronology highlights harmful cumulative patterns as well as previous responses to reports of concern.
Other sources of information
In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to gather information related to the notifier's concerns from other agencies (such as schools, early childhood educators, health professionals, NGO providers and iwi) who know te tamaiti and their family/whānau. However, because you are not undertaking an assessment or investigation at this point of the assessment process, there are limitations on what information you can seek.
We should also seek advice from our kairaranga ā-whānau or other specialist Māori advice.
Speaking with te tamaiti and/or family/whānau
We can’t speak with te tamaiti or members of their family/whānau as part of the initial phase of assessment. We can only speak with them once we undertake further assessment or investigation as part of the core assessment phase.
2 Determine the outcome of the initial assessment phase
Consider the initial concerns in the context of additional information obtained from the notifier, other professionals and the chronology, in order to decide the best response for te tamaiti and their whānau. Make every effort to do this with the notifier so there is a shared understanding of the decision and next steps.
Use the decision response tool to support your decision about the appropriate response pathway and response timeframe. The decision response tool helps us consider key factors in our analysis, such as age, disability, impacts of cumulative harm and trauma, and whether te tamaiti is in care.
There are 4 potential pathway options:
- No further action – where there is no substance to the report, the concerns do not indicate harm to te tamaiti, or concerns are being appropriately responded to by others (including where the referrer is able to make referrals for te tamaiti and the whānau).
- Refer to services – this is appropriate when any concerns for te tamaiti can be responded to by another agency, iwi or cultural social service.
- Child and family assessment – this is appropriate if te tamaiti is experiencing (or is likely to experience) serious harm, and/or the concerns are having a significant impact on their development, safety, health and/or wellbeing but don’t indicate abuse which may constitute a criminal offence.
- Investigation – when the concern for te tamaiti meets the criteria in the Child Protection Protocol.
3 Record the decision
Record the response decision for te tamaiti in the pathway rationale template. Ensure you have a clearly articulated rationale that includes your 3 key sources of information and use of the decision response tool.