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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/caregivers/allegations-of-harm-to-tamariki-by-caregivers/
Printed: 28/06/2022
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 21/02/2022

Allegations of harm to tamariki by caregivers

The safety and oranga of te tamaiti is our first concern when an allegation of harm is made against a caregiver or there are concerns for oranga. We are respectful, fair, transparent and sensitive to caregivers’ needs during the assessment/investigation.

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 shift

National Care Standards

The National Care Standards regulation 69 sets our obligations when responding to allegations of further harm made about tamariki in care or custody:

  • We respond promptly.
  • We record information.
  • Tamariki are informed of the outcome, as appropriate.
  • We take the required steps with the parties to the allegation, including reviewing the caregiver’s plan.

Duties in relation to allegations of abuse or neglect – regulation 69 of Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018

Staff resource: National Care Standards and Related Matters Regulations 2018 (PDF 11 MB)

When to use this guidance

This process is for allegations of harm (ill treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) or oranga (wellbeing) concerns about tamariki by a caregiver whether or not te tamaiti is in their care.

We are not investigating the caregiver but completing an assessment or investigation of an allegation of harm of te tamaiti, as we would any other allegations of harm. However, we need to complete some additional tasks which include supporting and keeping caregivers informed.

The process is different for complaints, or allegations of crimes other than harm.

Dealing with complaints about caregivers

Allegations of criminal behaviour by caregivers other than abuse, neglect or harm of tamariki

How we respond to allegations

1 Consider the information received

Use the intake decision response tool (DRT) to assess the information or concerns received for te tamaiti to determine the appropriate pathway and response time.

For all allegations of harm of tamariki in care, we complete a child and family assessment or an investigation.

Practice tool: Considerations when responding to information received

Practice tool: Considerations when developing a decision response

We communicate all information or concerns received about tamariki in care to the allocated social worker in a CYRAS casenote reminder. We also have a 2-way conversation with the social worker or their supervisor about the concerns.

2 Create a report of concern

Allegations of harm for tamariki in care or custody are recorded as a report of concern on CYRAS, not as a contact record or casenote. Indicate at the top of the report of concern that te tamaiti is in care or custody, and the name of the caregiver.

The caregiver social worker changes the caregiver status to under investigation and records the details of the allegation on the caregiver record.

We communicate the report of concern to the social worker for te tamaiti in a CYRAS casenote reminder and hold a 2-way conversation.

Any change to the decision response determined by the site is recorded in the Pathway Rationale casenote template. This should clearly state how and why the different decision has been reached.  
After hours: When an allegation is received after hours, it is the supervisor at the national contact centre who makes casework decisions.Steps 3–7 are not a sequential process – the oranga needs and best interests of te tamaiti may determine the order of when actions need to be taken.

3 Allocation of social workers

When allocating social workers to complete the assessment or investigation, we consider:

  • what is in the best interests of te tamaiti, while also taking into account the needs of their whānau or family and the caregiver
  • how the needs, including the cultural needs, of te tamaiti, their whānau or family and the caregiver will continue to be met
  • the views of te tamaiti, their family or whānau and the caregiver
  • how we will maintain transparency and fairness, particularly if the social worker for te tamaiti is the allocated co-worker.

We hold a consult with the social worker for te tamaiti (if they are not allocated as a co-worker to the assessment or investigation) and the caregiver social worker and their supervisor to plan our assessment or investigation and we continue to consult throughout the assessment and investigation.

The caregiver social worker cannot be one of the allocated social workers.

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody – Assessment or investigation

Allocating a key worker and co-worker 

4 Ensure safety and oranga (wellbeing)

We assess the immediate safety and oranga needs of te tamaiti and all other tamariki who may be at risk of harm. This includes the caregiver’s own tamariki or mokopuna.

We work with and respond in a way that maintains the oranga of te tamaiti and our relationships with parents, whānau or family and caregivers of te tamaiti.

We develop and implement a plan.

We review the plan throughout the assessment or investigation with te tamaiti, and their parents (as appropriate), whānau or family and caregivers.

We use hui ā-whānau and family meetings to ensure:

  • we consider what is in the best interests of te tamaiti
  • the ongoing physical and emotional safety, cultural needs and oranga of te tamaiti 
  • we support and enhance the rights, participation and decision-making of te tamaiti, their parents, family, whānau, hapū, iwi, caregivers and support network as early as possible
  • the views of the parents of te tamaiti, their whānau or family and caregivers are heard and considered.

We update the All About Me plan for te tamaiti, as appropriate, during the assessment or investigation.

Deciding whether or not to move te tamaiti

Before deciding whether or not to move te tamaiti from their caregiver, we:

  • consider what is in the best interests of te tamaiti
  • consider how te tamaiti can be kept safe with their caregiver
  • meet with te tamaiti, their parents (if appropriate), their whānau or family and the caregiver, and consider everybody's:
    • views
    • strengths
    • changes they have made or will make
    • available supports, including cultural supports, which are needed for te tamaiti to remain in the home, how these would be acheived and who would ensure this happens.

While a caregiver is under investigation, no new tamariki can be placed with the caregiver.

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Hui ā-whānau

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody – Securing safety

Working with tamariki when allegations of abuse, neglect, or harm are made against their caregiver

5 Advising and supporting the caregiver

We need to provide the caregiver with information about the allegation, including all relevant concerns such as historical or cumulative concerns which are likely to be considered, as soon as is practical and in a manner that they are able to clearly understand.

We inform them that:

  • an assessment or investigation of the allegation will be completed by Oranga Tamariki social worker(s)
  • the parents of te tamaiti will be informed of the allegation and when this has occurred
  • they will be given an opportunity to respond to the allegation
  • they will be able to read and respond to the evidence collected.

We ensure that caregivers receive ongoing support during the assessment or investigation:

  • Oranga Tamariki caregivers receive support from the caregiver social worker, such as:
    • referral for psychological support – for example, EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)
    • arranging additional respite care
    • arranging in-home support
  • care partner caregivers receive support from their provider agency.

We provide all caregivers with information about Caring Families Aotearoa before our assessment or investigation interview – ensuring this gives the caregiver time to arrange support people to attend the interview.

The caregiver social worker does not provide support during the interview.

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody – Advising the caregiver of the allegation

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody – Support for caregivers

Allegations involving section 396 providers

Caring Families Aotearoa contact details:
Email criticalsupport@caringfamilies.org.nz
Phone 0800 693 278

6 Advising parents

As soon as possible, we talk with the parents of te tamaiti about the allegation, unless doing so puts te tamaiti, the caregiver or another person at risk of harm.

When working with tamariki Māori we consult with kairaranga ā-whānau, a senior Māori practitioner or a competent bicultural practitioner to help engage with the parents of te tamaiti.

When working with Pacific children we seek advice from a competent Pacific practitioner to help engage with the child’s parents.

When working with children from other cultures we seek advice from a culturally competent practitioner or person to help engage with the child’s parents, as appropriate.

If we decide not to tell the parents at this time, we need to review this decision regularly and agree when the parents will be informed.

We record our reason for this decision and the frequency of these reviews in CYRAS.

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody – Advising parents of an allegation of harm

7 Engage with te tamaiti

Throughout the assessment or investigation, we talk with te tamaiti to seek and take their views into account, keep them informed, provide the support they need to ensure their safety and oranga (wellbeing) and encourage them to participate in decisions being made about them.

We use assessment to inform these changing needs and supports and capture this in the All About Me plan. Regularly assessing the frequency of visits by the social worker to te tamaiti is very important during this period.

There may be some limited circumstances where it is assessed as not appropriate or in the best interests of te tamaiti to keep them informed throughout the assessment or investigation (for example, because of their age or intellectual ability, or for their emotional and mental wellbeing) – this must be clearly recorded and reassessed during the assessment or investigation.

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody – Keeping te tamaiti informed and providing support

8 Recording the assessment or investigation

The assessment or investigation is recorded in a new Child and Family Assessment or Investigation phase.

Clearly record the outcome in the Tuituia report template.

We record our assessment or investigation in a way so that tamariki, whānau and family can understand what the concerns were, who was involved, what information was gathered, what decisions were made, what the reasons were and what the supports were put in place. This helps ensure te tamaiti, whānau and family understand how the concerns were responded to.

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody — Assessment or investigation

9 Draft outcome report

When the assessment or investigation is complete, the key investigating social worker completes a draft outcome report where the allegations, the assessment or investigation process, their analysis and the findings of the assessment or investigation (as recorded in CYRAS) are documented.

This report is provided to the caregiver or care partner care staff for their feedback by the most appropriate person (this could be a social worker, supervisor or manager). When deciding who this will be, we consider our relationships with the caregiver or care partner care staff and their specific circumstances.

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody — Outcome report

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody — Timeframes

10 Outcome report

The key investigating social worker finalises the outcome report once feedback from the caregiver or care partner care staff has been received.

11 Informing caregivers

The outcome report is provided to the caregiver or care partner care staff by the most appropriate person – this could be a social worker, supervisor or manager.

Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody — Outcome report

12 Informing te tamaiti

The discussion of the outcome of the assessment or investigation with te tamaiti is an important conversation and is often the beginning of the healing journey for te tamaiti and the caregiver.

The most appropriate social worker who has a relationship with te tamaiti informs te tamaiti of the outcome of the assessment or investigation, ensuring te tamaiti has the support they need during the discussion. We discuss with te tamaiti, their parents and whānau or family (as appropriate) who they would like to be part of this discussion. The social worker needs to consider the age of te tamaiti and their stage of development, culture and any disability they may have. The privacy of everyone involved needs to be respected. 

We help te tamaiti understand that someone:

  • has taken their concerns seriously
  • has taken action to support them
  • is managing their care and safety.

We record in CYRAS the discussion with te tamaiti.

If we haven’t been able to inform te tamaiti, we record the reason for this.

13 Informing parents and others

The investigating social worker informs the parents of te tamaiti and everyone involved of the outcome of the assessment or investigation (including the care partner and regional Te Kāhui Kāhu assessor, if applicable) and records this in CYRAS. 

14 Caregiver review

Once the outcome report is approved, the caregiver social worker reviews the caregiver’s approval status. The review report is provided to the caregiver for their feedback before being finalised.

The caregiver social worker then reviews the caregiver support plan.