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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/assessment-and-planning/assessments/intake-and-early-assessment/initial-assessment-phase/
Printed: 24/04/2024
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Last updated: 30/06/2023

Initial assessment phase

We gather quality information and develop a chronology to assist us in deciding the best response and appropriate level of support for te tamaiti and their whānau or family.

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

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 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 whānau or family
    • develop an understanding of the needs and vulnerability of te tamaiti, along with the strengths and resources of the whānau or family
    • explore their relationship with te tamaiti and their whānau or family – what does this tell us about their knowledge and understanding of the needs, strengths and risks?
    • reach a decision about the best response
    • where appropriate, encourage them to support te tamaiti and their whānau or family 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

As part of determining the appropriate response for te tamaiti and their whānau or family, in some circumstances it may be appropriate to speak directly with tamariki, whānau or family as part of our initial assessment. Understanding how whānau or family see the situation for te tamaiti, whether they have concerns or are stepping in to provide support, can help us reach a decision about the appropriate response.

It may also 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 whānau or family.

Practice standard: Work closely in partnership with others — guidance

We may also receive information from the notifier or another concerned person who proactively contacts us after the initial report of concern with information they believe is important. This may include visual information such as photographs.

2 Determine the outcome of the initial assessment phase

Consider the initial concerns in the context of all information (including visual information such as photos) obtained from the notifier, te tamaiti and their whānau or family, professionals and any others who have offered ifnormation, along with the chronology. Use this information 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.

We use the decision response tool to support our 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, the relationship of the notifier to te tamaiti, impacts of cumulative harm and trauma, and whether te tamaiti is in care.

Consider who the information has come from as this provides insight into the relationship between the notifier and te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family and provides additional context for the concerns being shared. Where tamariki, rangatahi, whānau or family contact us directly, this can tell us valuable information about the concerns. It is important that we hear and respond to the voice of tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and family.

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.
    Sharing information about tamariki and rangatahi
  • 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.

Decision response tool


3 Record the decision

Record the response decision for te tamaiti in the pathway rationale template. Our written analysis of the combined information recorded in the Pathway Rationale casenote will consider the impact on te tamaiti or rangatahi of previous individual events alongside patterns of behaviour, concern and impacts of cumulative harm. It will also consider who the notifier was, the impact of our previous involvement and how best to support and engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.  

We ensure we have a clearly articulated rationale that includes our key sources of information and use of the decision response tool.