United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children
UNICEF Aotearoa describes article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children as follows:
Live with their parents
The child has a right to live with his or her parents unless this is deemed incompatible with the child’s best interests. The child also has the right to maintain contact with both parents if separated from one or both.
Guiding principles when assessing options to secure safety
When there are serious safety concerns for pēpi, tamariki or rangatahi, we must ensure that the assessment considers not only the seriousness of the situation and the potential for harm but also considers any alternatives available to secure safety for the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi with their whānau or family. The need to form safe, secure attachments to support their physical, mental and emotional oranga (wellbeing) is also critical when working with pēpi, tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau or family.
While this guidance covers all tamariki, there are additional risks when te tamaiti is under 3 years of age. Their vulnerability and dependence on the adults around them to care, nurture and keep them safe increases the criticality of a response.
Legislative and practice requirements require us to ensure that alternatives to prevent entry to care are explored fully and all possible means of supporting the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi to live safely with their parents or wider (extended) whānau or family are considered.
All decisions are based on the assessed needs, risks and protective factors of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi in the context and environment of their whānau or family.
- We put the best interests and oranga (wellbeing) of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi at the centre of our work, ensuring we understand and consider what is in their best interests, within the context of their whānau or family and working in collaboration with them to secure safety.
- Our practice has regard to mana tamaiti, and the whakapapa of tamariki Māori and the whanaungatanga responsibilities of their whānau, hapū and iwi. Te Ao Māori knowledge is preferenced when working with whānau Māori.
Duties of chief executive in relation to Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) – section 7AA of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989
- We engage with mothers, fathers, partners and caregivers.
- We engage with both maternal and paternal whānau or family.
- If there are safety issues for kaimahi, these need to be assessed and managed but should not prevent engagement.
- We undertake a thorough assessment of the needs of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi and use Tuituia to record this, ensuring the views of the whānau or family are included.
- We ensure that the assessment of the needs of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi has regard for mana tamaiti, especially the need to strengthen belonging, cultural identity and connections to family, whānau, hapū and iwi.
- We consult with our supervisor, kairaranga ā-whānau and other cultural advisors to ensure we are connecting with the right people.
- We consider and are mindful of the impact of the experience of an assessment and subsequent actions on the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family. Involvement of Oranga Tamariki in a whānau or family can be distressing and traumatic, especially if the whānau or family has been involved with statutory services in the past.
- Hold a hui ā-whānau as soon as possible to explore the concerns together. Work in partnership with the whānau or family, respecting and allowing them to use their resources and supports.
The primary responsibility for caring for and nurturing pēpi, tamariki or rangatahi lies with their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group.
It’s important the option being considered can work successfully, and the decision and plan is developed with family, whānau, hapū and iwi and meets the needs, interests and oranga (wellbeing) of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi.
Considerations when working with parents and a pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi
- any history alongside the current situation and, if the current concerns are based on historical information, be clear about what happened then and whether these concerns are still current – what is the same or different now? what bearing does the history have on the current situation? what are the whānau narratives around that history?
- what resources and supports can be identified within the whānau or family of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi
- how resources and supports can be used to build safety for the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi
- if there are whānau or family members who acknowledge the concerns and are prepared to be part of a safety plan by working with the whānau or family and collaborating to achieve a safe outcome.
Considerations when working to secure safety for pēpi specifically
- Can someone leave the home so it is safe for the pēpi to remain at home with a parent or caregiver with supports in place? or
- Can someone come into the home to provide support to ensure the pēpi and their parent are safe? or
- Can the pēpi and their parent be placed within a safe whānau situation together?
If pēpi is being breastfed, consider how this can be maintained and what supports and resources are needed for this to happen.
When we have been unable to secure safety for the pēpi with their parents, then we explore the wider family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group for solutions.
We consult with our supervisor, kairaranga ā-whānau and other cultural advisors to ensure we are engaging with the right people.
Recording our engagement and assessment
We ensure our recording includes:
- how we have worked extensively in partnership to find a home within the family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group of the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi that can meet their immediate safety and oranga (wellbeing) needs
- how we have ensured te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group have been part of planning and decision-making
- how we have engaged with both the maternal and paternal whānau or family
- how we have used appropriate whānau decision-making processes such as hui ā-whānau, family meetings or family group conferencing
- how we have assessed the needs of the pēpi, such as breastfeeding, and how we have taken account of these needs and the impact of any actions on the pēpi and their whānau or family
- the views of the family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group and how we have taken account of these views
- how we have worked in partnership to ensure arrangements are in place to support and strengthen connections between the pēpi, tamaiti or rangatahi and their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group
- for tamariki Māori, how we have consulted and worked alongside a kairaranga ā-whānau or, if not available, a senior Māori practitioner or a competent bicultural practitioner
- for tamariki Māori, how we have consulted and worked alongside iwi, mana whenua or Māori organisations as appropriate
- for Pacific children, how we have consulted with and worked alongside Pacific advisors
- for all tamariki, how we have consulted with and worked alongside the appropriate cultural advisors
- our analysis and reasons for decisions, supervision, case consults and child and family consults.
When we are not able to secure safety within whānau or family
A section 139 temporary care agreement can be an option to secure safety and formalise the placement if no whānau solutions are available and care is required. A temporary care agreement can be used with a whānau caregiver if it will ensure safety when a more formalised intervention is required.
The use of a section 39 place of safety warrant or a section 78 interim custody order may be required to secure safety if a family, whānau, hapū or iwi-led solution cannot be found and the situation is serious, and safety cannot be secured any other way.
These orders should only be used after all the above has occurred and there is no alternative available.