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Printed: 29/11/2022
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Last updated: 29/11/2022

Using chronologies to support decision-making in the initial assessment phase

A chronology records the key life events of tamariki or rangatahi and their whānau or family to help us understand their journey to date and identify patterns of harmful impacts on oranga or behaviour and times when oranga has been positively experienced.

Update made to this guidance

The section on analysis and decision-making has been updated to state that our written analysis also considers who the notifier was.

What is a chronology

A chronology is a way of recording key events to help us understand what is happening in the life of tamariki or rangatahi and their whānau or family. It draws on the knowledge and information that we hold about our involvement with a whānau or family and is a way for us to start to understand the story of our involvement with them.

This information is personal to the whānau or family and is part of the whānau or family story. We are kaitiaki of this information and it needs to be treated with care and respect.

Chronologies can be used in a range of situations with a different focus and purpose to support our involvement with whānau or family. When used in the initial assessment phase, the chronology supports our decisions about how to respond to a new report of concern for a tamaiti or rangatahi by helping us:

  • get an overview of our involvement as a 'sequential story' of key events in the life of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
  • understand current events in the context of historical information, with a focus on what these events tell us about the lived experience of te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • identify indicators of emerging patterns of harmful impact on oranga, as well as examples of where whānau or family have acted to protect and support the oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • understand the immediate and cumulative impact of events and changes on te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family members
  • identify key whānau or family members and others working with the whānau or family who may contribute to the assessment process
  • think about how engagement with the whānau or family might be best supported.

A chronology is not a running record or detailed account of everyday events. If every issue or contact is recorded, the value of the chronology is diluted as it is difficult to discern the key events and their impact. The chronology emerges as a holistic summary of key events and their impact.

A key event is an incident that impacts positively or negatively on the mana, tapu, mauri or oranga (wellbeing), circumstances or home environment of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. What constitutes a key event is open to our interpretation of the information held on our recording system so we use our professional judgement and, if necessary, talk with our supervisor and seek cultural advice when determining what may be a key event to record in the chronology.

Cumulative harm

Purpose of the chronology in the initial assessment phase

The purpose of the chronology in the initial assessment phase is to support our decision about the best response to a report of concern. We use the chronology, along with current information from the notifier and others, to build our understanding of the circumstances for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. We do this with an awareness of both the impact of an individual event and the cumulative impact of events over time, and how this may have been experienced by and impacted on tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family. The depth and breadth of the chronology will reflect the decision being made – for example:

  • if the new report of concern relates to an allegation of non-accidental injury where te tamaiti or rangatahi has been admitted to hospital with serious injuries, the chronology may be relatively limited, with key events relevant to the report of concern being recorded
  • if the new report of concern is around exposure to family harm and drug and alcohol abuse, a more in-depth chronology that looks at patterns of harm, strengths and responses over time may be needed to inform the appropriate response.

We do not make decisions about the appropriate response to concerns based solely on historical information contained in a chronology. We need to understand the significance of the current concerns in the context of the history for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.

How to use a chronology during the initial assessment phase

1 Compile the chronology

Identify key events by looking at reports of concern, contact records and assessment reports, and where appropriate considering the All About Me plan and relevant youth justice information.

Key events may be, but are not limited to, reports of concern. Other examples of key events could include changes in care arrangements or school, the loss of a parent or significant whānau or family member, a completed specialist assessment, or a parent not engaging with support.

Positive factors should also be recorded. Include times where the whānau or family have demonstrated kaitiakitanga – nurturing the oranga of tamariki or rangatahi, and behaviours or responses that might indicate opportunities to use strengths and protective factors within the whānau or family. 

A key event may relate to the circumstances of someone other than te tamaiti or rangatahi who is the subject of this report of concern. For example, information about older siblings may be relevant to assessing a concern for an unborn pēpi or infant, and a parent’s history of parenting, abuse, offending or care experience may be relevant to include in a chronology for their own tamariki or rangatahi.

Consider what other information is a key contribution to understanding cumulative impact and assessing the best response to the report of concern.

Start with the most recent records and build a picture of significant events from there. Look for key events in the history of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family that help us understand the current concerns within the context of the history of the whānau or family. If a chronology already exists, ensure the analysis is supported by the information it contains and is accurate. A previous chronology can then be used as a base and we can build on the knowledge and understanding that this provides.

The depth and breadth of the chronology should be proportionate to the purpose of the assessment phase and the decision we are making. It will be used along with other information gathered in the intake phase to inform the decision on how to respond to a new report of concern.

2 Record the chronology

The chronology should be 'minimal but meaningful'. It should contain facts (not opinion), be constructed with sentences and identify key relevant life events, transitions, and key professional and whānau or family responses.

Chronology to support initial assessment phase – template (DOCX 52 KB)

Remember the chronology becomes part of the official record for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. We ensure that the information we record is accurate and reflects known facts. If we are building on an existing chronology, it is important we have confidence in the existing information and take reasonable steps to ensure it is also accurate.

Each entry in the chronology should include:

  • the date and time when the event is said to have taken place
  • the age of te tamaiti or rangatahi at the time of the event
  • short but useful detail about the significant event and its impact on the mana, tapu, mauri and oranga of te tamaiti – for example:
    • changes in care arrangements either through formal means or by whānau or family responding to changing needs
    • report from school that te tamaiti or rangatahi arrives from home hungry, unkempt and tired
    • the loss of a parent or significant whānau or family member or friend
    • missed medical appointments
    • whānau or family taking steps to protect or support the oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi
    • adherence to contact or connection agreements or other plans previously agreed
  • who the information came from (for example, did the whānau or family share this information, or has te tamaiti or rangatahi told us this through a previous disclosure or interview, or has the information been received from a professional working with the whānau or family?) – this provides us with insight into the relationship between the notifier and te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family and the context of the concerns being shared
  • the strengths and protective factors and resources identified within the whānau or family that assisted in responding to the event
  • identification of key community and cultural supports that were involved.
  • action taken to respond to the event, including by professional or whānau or family supports – do we know what impact previous involvement by Oranga Tamariki has had on the whānau or family? For example, a mother might have shared appreciation for referrals that were made to support her, or overt hostility might have been expressed by whānau or family members. If Oranga Tamariki involvement ended, what strengths and resources existed to provide confidence that no further statutory involvement was required?

3 Analysis and decision-making

We use the completed chronology, along with the decision response tool and information from the notifier and others, to determine the appropriate response to a report of concern. 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.  

Pathway Rationale casenote – template (DOCX 56 KB)

The chronology we develop is based on our records of contact with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. If we determine further assessment is required, we need to hear from whānau or family about what has shaped their whānau or family story to date and impacted the oranga of their tamariki or rangatahi and whānau or family.