Assessing information from suitability checksWe need to analyse the information we get from checks, such as police, medical and referee checks. We should consider if caregiver and adoptive parent applicants and their households are suitable and safe.
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
What we need to do
We need to assess the information from police, medical, referee and Oranga Tamariki document checks. We should also consider any other information that we've come across that's relevant.
When we assess the information we should consider:
- the safe care of any tamariki
- the applicant's strengths and vulnerabilities.
You should use the caregiver and adoption assessment framework to guide your assessment.
Oranga Tamariki/CYRAS/CGIS records
Where there’s history in CYRAS and CGIS for an applicant, it’s important that this information is considered alongside other suitability check information.
We need to consider any reports of concern or matters relating to youth offending regarding either the applicant, their own history as a child and the applicant’s family.
- the nature of those concerns, including whether they were substantiated or not
- the response that was provided, including a CFA, investigation, FGC, Court intervention, youth justice matters etc.
- whether there have been multiple reports of concerns and the patterns associated with this
- the applicants awareness and understanding of the previous social work involvement
- the role of Oranga Tamariki at the time, such as how well was the applicant supported?
- if they maintained a child centred approach or struggled to understand the concerns and impact on the child involved
- the nature of engagement with the applicant, including how long ago
- if any reports of concern were malicious, what was the nature of the relationship with the notifier and were there any areas of concerns that needed further enquiry.
We should view all case notes relating to the applicant and where possible consult with the previous social worker or supervisor to gain their views on the caregiving applicant. It may also be necessary to clarify information from other professionals involved.
A discussion needs to be had with the applicant early on in the assessment process, this may be necessary depending on the nature of concerns to establish whether or not it would be appropriate to continue with the assessment.
When completing a CYRAS and CGIS history check, it’s important to check for multiple records, all known aliases of the applicant and also where there is different spelling of names.
Applicants aren't automatically disqualified if they have criminal convictions or a history with police or Oranga Tamariki.
You must get the applicant's information and view of any concerns.
If information from CYRAS, CGIS or TRIM details offending we should access independent verification of the details, such as through a police check, to ensure that an accurate assessment can be completed.
We should consider:
- whether the nature or circumstances of offending or involvement indicates any specific or general risk to tamariki
- the severity of the offence
- the time of the offending — timeframe since the offence happened, whether any further offending has happened, whether behavioural change has happened in the interim
- the frequency of the offending — number of convictions of this nature, other offences committed
- whether the applicant who offended was in a relationship of trust and confidence with the victim
- if any treatment was undertaken, the assessment of successful rehabilitation and future risk
- other risk factors, including use of alcohol or drugs, mental illness, violence
- the attitude of the applicant who offended — is there genuine remorse or learning from the experience
- the views of their extended whānau or family and friends
- the views of other professionals.
The caregiver assessment and approval policy details special condition approval requirements for applicants with criminal convictions.
Policy: Caregiver and adoptive applicant assessment and approval
Where applicants have criminal convictions, we must gather further information to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not the applicant should be declined or whether to follow the escalation process to seek approval.
It's important to be aware of the operational delegations that apply to the approval of people with convictions.
Delegated approval for special consideration
- meet with the applicant to inform them of the information we have received through the Police check and provide them with the opportunity to discuss this information in more detail
- consider the circumstances that lead to the conviction
- consider the seriousness of the offence(s) and their implications for children, the pattern of offences (if there is more than one) and the recency of the offending
- consider if the applicant completed any rehabilitation to address the offending
- consider if the applicant has insight into what has occurred and if they accept any responsibility
- consider what has changed since the offending, such as employment, new relationships, community networks and supports
- consider what protective factors have been established since the offences
- explain to the applicant the responsibility Oranga Tamariki has in ensuring that we place tamariki where there are no known risk factors, not only for te tamaiti but for the applicant themselves.
It’s important that we take a holistic and broad minded view when considering the suitability of someone with serious convictions to provide care. In doing so they must maintain a strong focus on the safety of any te tamaiti who might be placed in their care. This is particularly important when assessing someone who has convictions relating to violence, sexual offences or offences against children.
Wherever possible the circumstances of the offending should be independently verified, especially in the case of very serious or violent offences, or offences involving tamariki.
This could include obtaining the summary of facts or consulting with police. Sometimes the summary of facts isn't available, particularly for very historical matters. We must advise the applicant of any further enquires they intend to undertake and discuss any information arising from these enquiries.
Privacy of applicants information has to be considered throughout this process and the social worker needs to seek consent from the applicant to share any conviction information with any other persons including partners, whānau or family members and referees.
It’s recommended that we interviews the applicants’ referee and if required other support persons, such as family members, close friends, community members to gain further insight into the applicants character and explore with them:
- what they thinks the risks might be for tamariki
- what they think the risks might be for the applicant
- what changes the applicant has made since the offending
- what commitment of support they are prepared to give the applicant in caring for a tamaiti.
For whānau or family applicants, this process may be, where applicable, fully explored in an assessment hui following discussion with the applicant. Whānau or family and community support should be taken into consideration.
All available information gathered should then be thoroughly assessed in consultation with the supervisor before an assessment recommendation regarding approval is made. Once a recommendation is confirmed it must be referred to the person with the appropriate level of delegation to consider.
Medical check information
It's important to discuss any medical condition with the applicant. We should discuss the effects it has on the applicant as well as their partner if appropriate.
You need to carefully consider any issues that might impact the applicant's ability to effectively care for a tamaiti over time, such as:
- serious or terminal illness
- any side effects from medication or treatments, or if they need to make changes to their lifestyle
- conditions that may worsen over time
- psychological psychiatric history
- health issues or potential health issues.
You should talk to your supervisor early on if there's any uncertainty about a particular condition which could affect the progress of the assessment.
Don't hesitate to ask medical practitioners if you need more information to make an informed decision in your assessment. It's important to remember that the disclosure of any medical condition to the applicant is the responsibility of the doctor.
Considering types of care
You should consider health issues not only in relation to the application to provide care, but also to the specific type of care they're applying for — use the lens appropriate for this application.
For example, the health implications may be different for someone applying to provide permanent care for a tamaiti than for someone applying to provide short-term care (was known as transitional care) or respite care.
Considering the whole application
As every assessment covers the whole environment that the applicant may offer to te tamaiti, a disability or impairment isn't necessarily a barrier to an application.
Consider the medical information in relation to the whole application and make a decision based on the best interests of te tamaiti.
While the medical practitioner’s opinion about the applicant's health is respected, it isn't the doctor's responsibility to make the decision on whether they'll be a suitable caregiver or adoptive parent — this is yours as the assessing social worker.
Residential history check
When tamariki come into care they have already experienced a sense of disruption in their lives. To ensure a tamaiti has stability in their life we need to be confident that the caregiver can provide consistency and security and that they have a safe, stable home base where te tamaiti can begin to flourish.
We need to check the applicant’s history of residence from the last 5 years. When considering the applicants history of residence it’s important to consider in the assessment:
- how many changes of address the applicant has had during the 5 year period
- what are the reasons for the changes of address, such as work transfers, employment opportunities, financial reasons and relationship issues.
Overseas residential history checks
It may be appropriate to gain further information regarding the residential history of applicants if they have resided overseas. In doing so, we need to exercise our professional judgement and consider:
- the reason for living overseas, for example were they posted by the New Zealand government or through their work
- the length of time they lived overseas and how long ago
- how many changes of address they had while living overseas
- the context of when they lived overseas, for example did they enter any formal rental agreement with the landlord and how well known to the landlord were they, was it a working holiday where they moved around frequently?
If there’s a history of transience unrelated to being on holiday, this must be discussed with the applicant and considered alongside other information in the assessment checks.
Immigration status check
Caregiver and adoptive applicants are required to either be New Zealand permanent residents or New Zealand citizens.
Considering the immigration status of whānau or family for the purposes of respite care
There may be situations where the caregiver requires respite or support from other people to provide care for te tamaiti. These could be people who are not in New Zealand on a permanent immigration status, for example those on a visitor’s visa etc.
We must verify any caregiver applicant’s immigration status.
Approval of whānau or family members who are on a temporary immigration status should only be given when they have:
- been identified to provide respite care and support for te tamaiti
- a relationship and attachment to te tamaiti, such as a grandparent who is travelling to New Zealand to help their son or daughter with care of the tamaiti.
Who can be a referee
Caregiver and adoptive parent applicants must provide 2 referees who have known them for at least 2 years, including:
- 1 referee who isn't related to the person and not part of the person’s extended family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group
- 1 referee who is a member of the person’s extended family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group and is able to comment on the applicant's interactions with tamariki.
Any referee must be able to attest to the applicant’s cultural capability and interaction with tamariki.
Policy: Caregiver and adoptive parent assessment and approval
If applicants can’t provide the name of a family member
From time-to-time an applicant may not be able to provide the name of a family member who is able to provide adequate information on the applicant’s suitability to care. This could be for a number of reasons and requires further discussion with the applicant.
Things to consider are:
- the applicants motivation to care
- the applicant’s family composition (have they had children of their own?)
- the nature of the relationships between the applicant and their family
- any history of family conflict
- if they have concerns for their own safety
- the implications of the applicant being born overseas and moving to New Zealand whether as a migrant or refugee. (If the applicant came to New Zealand as a migrant or refugee we must explore their experience of and the impact family displacement may have had.)
- if caring for tamariki Maori, how the applicant will maintain and support the child’s connection to whakapapa and those that have whanaungatanga responsibilities for tamariki
- what support would the applicant require to ensure tamariki are supported to develop their cultural identity, including supporting visits to their marae, engagement with te reo, involvement with significant cultural activities
People’s view of what family means to them differs individually. Some might consider close friendships and people within their own community as part of their family support network.
Whether the referee is a family member or not, you must be satisfied that they have had ongoing and regular contact with the applicant and are able to attest to the applicants involvement with and care of children.
Analysing this information provides us with a better understanding of the applicant’s views around the importance of family relationships, how connected they are to family and what supports the referees are willing to provide the applicant.
Reference for fostering and adoption form (PDF 176 KB)
Policy: Caregiver and adoptive applicant assessment and approval
If you consider a referee isn't appropriate
Discuss the reason for this with the applicants and ask them to supply the name and contact details for another referee.
Applying to be a caregiver or adoptive parent — referee forms
Follow up contact with the referee can either be by telephone or in person. This contact gives you with the opportunity to:
- acknowledge their assistance
- clarify any outstanding issues
- ask for any additional information they may not have addressed in their written reference.
When to contact referees
It's important to consider the timing of contacting the referees.
If you're unsure about the information given in a reference, you may decide to wait until after meeting with the applicants for the assessment, and then contact the referees to check your impressions.
What to do if concerns are raised
If a referee makes a statement which raises a concern about the application, the concern must be thoroughly explored with them and consideration given to how this informs your assessment.
You should make sure referees are aware that their comments aren't confidential to you and may need to be taken up with the applicants.
Before addressing any concerns, consider the context of the reference, such as the cultural context or accuracy of referee's statement.
Talk with your supervisor and discuss further with the applicants.