Recognising and upholding inherent rights
The rights of tamariki to be nurtured and cared for by their family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group are recognised in the principles of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and enshrined in te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi). These rights remain unchanged for tamariki who meet the definition of a subsequent child (aged 0 to 14 years) under section 18A of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
However, the subsequent child sections (18A to 18D) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 provide for greater oversight from the Family Court to help ensure the safety and oranga (wellbeing) of tamariki when parents have had a previous tamaiti permanently removed due to abuse or neglect or have been convicted of causing the death of a tamaiti they cared for.
Our practice when working with tamariki and whānau Māori should be relational, restorative, inclusive and oranga focused. Our assessment will be supported by the Oranga Tamariki practice framework and Te Toka Tūmoana and recognise the principles of mana tamaiti, whanaungatanga and whakapapa.
When working with Pacific children and families, our practice should be guided by and demonstrate the principles contained in Va’aifetū. Each Pacific nation is unique, and we need to consult with the appropriate Pacific cultural advisor to ensure that key people in the family and community are identified and able to participate in the assessment process.
Focus of section 18A assessment
This guidance should be used alongside the subsequent child policy, the full assessment policy, guidance and our assessment framework, and be guided by the Oranga Tamariki practice framework to help social workers complete a thorough assessment that will meet the requirements of the legislation relating to a subsequent child.
The purpose of the section 18A assessment, completed through working closely with the parents, family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group, is to understand whether the subsequent tamaiti or rangatahi is unlikely to be at risk of the kind of harm experienced by a previous tamaiti or rangatahi. There are specific areas to address when assessing the parent of a subsequent child as defined under section 18B.
The key question the social worker must consider is whether or not the parent is unlikely to inflict the kind of harm on this tamaiti or rangatahi as they inflicted, or allowed to be inflicted, on the previous tamaiti or rangatahi. This question does not ask for the parent to be safe in all other areas of potential harm or risk. The assessment considers the strengths, protective factors and resilience in the parent’s current circumstances alongside the specific conditions that led to the harm experienced by the previous tamaiti. If there are other matters of concern, in addition to the kind of harm relating to the section 18A assessment, these need to be addressed through our usual assessment and intervention processes.
We work closely with our site solicitor, supervisor and practice leader to help ensure the key question is adequately identified and addressed in the assessment. It is important that the social worker reads the assessment and court decisions for the previous tamaiti or rangatahi. The circumstances at the time of that harm provide the context to compare with the current situation and determine what is different or has changed.
Working with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group
Throughout our work it is important that we identify and work closely with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family, and all significant members of their hapū, iwi or family group. We need to directly engage with the wider whānau, family group, hapū or iwi through hui ā-whānau or family meetings to identify whānau or significant others who can support the parents. This will also help us gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and needs, including any support needs either during or beyond the assessment. As soon as possible, we should involve the kairaranga ā-whānau, other Māori specialist role, Pacific advisor or other cultural support.
Be aware that the parents may be fearful of Oranga Tamariki involvement and anxious about the outcome of the assessment and implications for their tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. We should consider how this may influence their behaviour and responses. It’s important to explain that the assessment will also consider the strengths in the parents' situation to understand how those strengths might provide protection for te tamaiti or rangatahi or indicate resilience. We should let the parents know in advance the areas of the assessment we need to explore with them, and that we support them to demonstrate evidence of positive change.
It’s important that we identify any potential barriers to the parents or whānau or family fully participating in the assessment process. Our role is to advocate for the appropriate support, assistance and resources such as cultural, language or disability-related support to enable the parents and whānau or family to exercise their rights. This may include arranging access to an interpreter if required.
Similarly, we need to carefully consider how we engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi, taking into account their age, development, culture and any disability needs. This will ensure they are able to express their views and have their wishes considered alongside their best interests. Consider having a whānau or family member or other support person who te tamaiti or rangatahi trusts present during the visit. Check their understanding of the reasons for and purpose of the assessment. Consider also talking to any siblings that te tamaiti or rangatahi may have to ensure their views and relevant experience are considered in the assessment.
Use supervision to explore the influence of the practitioner world view on professional judgement and the impact of potential cultural or confirmation bias on assessment.
Recognising previous trauma
Our assessment needs to be trauma informed and restorative. This means understanding the impact of historical trauma through colonisation, and intergenerational and childhood trauma on the parents, including the impact of the specific trauma that has been experienced by this parent and the whānau or family as a result of the removal or death of a previous tamaiti or rangatahi. It is important that we recognise the restorative functions of tikanga, positive cultural identity, belonging and connection through whanaungatanga and whakapapa and ensure access to culturally relevant processes for healing if this has not already occurred.
Seeking specialist advice is critical when working with parents who have a disability, including cognitive disability, or mental health or addiction issues. Wherever possible, seek the parent’s consent to obtaining information about them from other professionals. If they don’t consent, we explore the reasons for this and ensure that this is included in our report to the court.
If the parent is unwilling to consent to the release of any reports, section 66 applies. Information will contribute to proceedings under section 18A(4) — therefore, the social worker can request information from any agency or independent person. Any specialist opinions received should be attached to or referenced in the assessment report.
Safe parenting factors
Consider the following factors if mental health, trauma history, intellectual functioning, offending, personal resilience, physical health or substance abuse were factors in the harm of the previous tamaiti:
- Strengths, protective factors and resilience. For example: the significance of history – how has understanding their whānau history helped the parent identify their own strengths and resilience and how does this contribute to safety and oranga (wellbeing) for te tamaiti or rangatahi?
- Do both parents meet the criteria of section 18B? If one parent does not, is that parent fully aware of the past concerns, and can they act protectively? Do they understand, minimise or deny the risk?
- Is the parent able to reflect on the harm inflicted on the previous tamaiti or rangatahi? How do they feel about that now? To what extent do they acknowledge or accept responsibility for that harm?
- If substance abuse was a factor in past harm, what has the parent done to address this and what are their strategies to prevent or manage relapse?
- If substance abuse is still a concern, does the parent recognise this and are they willing to seek professional support to address this? Consult with a mental health addiction professional to understand the impact of current use on the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi and details of current use, including frequency and severity.
- If mental health or intellectual disability were a factor in the past harm, how did this affect the parent's ability to provide care for the previous tamaiti or rangatahi, and how does their current situation compare with the past? Seek advice from a mental health professional, psychologist or other disability specialist to understand the impact of unmet mental health or disability needs on te tamaiti or rangatahi and the support required to meet those needs.
- If family violence or other offending has been a factor in past harm, have there been convictions for family or other violence or engagement in programmes to address this? Are there protection orders in place?
Safety and basic care
Consider the following factors if past harm included exposure to family violence or unsafe adults, not protecting from risk, or not meeting physical needs:
- Any strengths and protective factors, for example: those provided through kaitiakitanga. How do the other adults in the parent's whānau or reference group support the parent and provide protection for te tamaiti or rangatahi through their kaitiaki roles? How does that compare with the circumstances for the previous tamaiti or rangatahi?
- What does the parent understand about the safety and health needs of their tamaiti or rangatahi? How will they meet those needs and how will they protect their tamaiti or rangatahi from harm?
- Are there other adults present in the home? What is their role with the whānau or family, parent and tamaiti or rangatahi? Are they a protective factor?
- If they are current substance users, how do they ensure this doesn't impact on the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi?
- What is the relationship between the parents like? Do they communicate respectfully with each other? Is one partner more dominant? Is there a clear power difference, such as age gap or financial power?
- Where there was family violence, is violence still occurring? Is there a clear safety plan or protection order in place? Do the parents recognise the impact of family violence on te tamaiti or rangatahi?
- If violence is no longer occurring what are the parent's reflections on previous violence and how did they achieve change? What did they learn? How do they deal with conflict now?
- How do the parents support each other, deal with stress and problem solve? What resources can they identify that support them in times of stress or need?
- If te tamaiti is not yet born, is the parent accessing antenatal care? What do they understand about healthy pregnancy and the importance of antenatal care? How have they prepared for the arrival of pēpi and what support will be available to them after pēpi is born?
Relationship with te tamaiti or rangatahi
Consider the following factors if the parent's view of, or emotional interaction with, te tamaiti or rangatahi featured in past harm:
- Evidence of protective factors – for example: how whanaungatanga has strengthened the relationships between the parent and te tamaiti or rangatahi by supporting, encouraging and instilling confidence in the parent and te tamaiti or rangatahi (whakamanawa).
- Observe the interaction between parent and tamaiti or rangatahi – how does the parent communicate with and respond to te tamaiti or rangatahi? What strengths do they see in their tamaiti or rangatahi? What are their aspirations for them?
- What are the parent's role and responsibilities with te tamaiti or rangatahi? A clear understanding of this is important, especially in step-parent situations.
- If te tamaiti is not yet born, what is the parent's attitude to the pregnancy? What do they want for the future of their tamaiti? Are there any similar patterns in this pregnancy compared with that of a previous tamaiti?
Skills and knowledge
Consider the following factors if knowledge, parenting skills, willingness and capacity to change contributed to past harm:
- Strengths developed over time which can be seen as protective factors – for example: increased parenting knowledge, experience or skills, and new parenting insights acquired.
- The context or circumstances in which previous harm occurred, and whether the context or circumstances have changed – for example: how long ago did it occur, and were there any triggers for the abuse? What are the parent's views about discipline? How do they set boundaries and manage behaviour?
- Do they understand the developmental needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi? How do they encourage them to learn and achieve?
- What was the age of the parent at the time the previous tamaiti or rangatahi was removed and how long ago did this occur? Maturity can be evidenced by new strategies, improved self-awareness, development of insight and life skills etc.
- Explore the parent's reflections about learning and change. If they have changed, what is different for them now and how was that achieved? How will they maintain the change?
Te Ao Hurihuri
Family, whānau, hapū and iwi
Consider the following factors if harm to a previous tamaiti or rangatahi occurred in the context of disconnection from whānau or extended family, intergenerational trauma or disrupted whānau or family functioning:
- Strengths and protective factors – for example: the significance of whakapapa and whanaungatanga for the parent and te tamaiti or rangatahi and how connection with and support from the family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group has contributed to safety and oranga (wellbeing) for te tamaiti or rangatahi.
- How does the parent's own history and experience influence their behaviour, functioning or beliefs? This is especially important if the parent has experienced abuse or trauma themselves. Can the parent reflect on their past experiences and explain how this influences their parenting?
- Are the parent's whānau or family aware of the past concerns and how do they support them now?
- What activities or events connect the parents with their marae, whānau or family group, hapū or iwi?
Networks of support
Consider the following factors if concerns about social and community relationships, cultural connectedness and supports, community services and resources were co-existing factors in the harm to the previous tamaiti:
- The strengths in the parent's current support network, especially those that provide connection to culture and cultural activities and how this provides support, stability and encouragement. Include church, community, gang affiliation, interest groups or sports clubs, and iwi.
- Previous programme involvement, including type of programme, attendance, engagement and completion. Is the parent engaged with a clinician or other professional? Ask the parent to describe their engagement with the professional.
- How does the parent feel about the social worker seeking a report from the provider or professional?
- Discuss the information gathered with the parent. Consider their response.
Consider the following factors if access to housing, financial resources and employment were stressors in the context of harm of the previous tamaiti:
- Strengths that indicate change – for example: increased stability and financial security provided by adequate accommodation and employment, better support systems and coping strategies. How does this compare with their previous situation?
- Are there other external stressors that impact on oranga? For example: issues with access to advocacy or support for living with disability, responsibility for other whānau or family members, migrant or refugee status. How does this impact on the oranga of parents and te tamaiti or rangatahi?
- Stress can undermine a parent's coping skills, which may trigger behaviour that may pose a risk of harm to te tamaiti or rangatahi, so explore the parent's coping strategies.
Consider the following:
- Strengths and protective factors – for example: how the parent's use of te reo Māori in the home and support for te tamaiti to attend kōhanga supports their language, social and emotional development, and cultural identity.
- Is te tamaiti or rangatahi aware (depending on age or stage of development) of the sibling previously removed from their parent's care? What do they understand about the reasons for this? How do they understand and describe their own safety?
- If a step-parent is in the home, how does te tamaiti or rangatahi feel about them? Does te tamaiti or rangatahi feel supported by and safe with them?
- Does te tamaiti or rangatahi have a support network, including whānau or family and other adults they trust and feel safe with? Who do they talk to if they are worried?
- Are there adults significant to te tamaiti or rangatahi who have or will have an enduring kaitiaki role for them?
- How is te tamaiti or rangatahi similar to or different from the previous tamaiti or rangatahi in terms of vulnerabilities and strengths?