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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/caring-for-tamariki-in-care/allegations-of-harm-in-care-or-custody/
Printed: 28/06/2022
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Last updated: 14/12/2021

Allegations of harm in care or custody

The safety and oranga (wellbeing) of te tamaiti or rangatahi in care or custody is our first concern when there are allegations of harm or concerns for oranga.

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 concerns for oranga (wellbeing) of tamariki or rangatahi in care or custody when the allegation is not against a caregiver.  

We have different processes for caregivers and for complaints, or allegations of crimes other than harm:

Allegations of harm to tamariki by caregivers

Allegations involving section 396 providers

Allegations of criminal behaviour by caregivers other than harm

Dealing with complaints about caregivers

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 or rangatahi to determine the appropriate pathway and response time.   

For all allegations of harm of tamariki or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi 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 their concerns.

2 Create a report of concern

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

Any change to the decision response determined by the site must be 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 3–9 are not a sequential process. The oranga (wellbeing) needs and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi, and the needs of their whānau or family and the caregiver
  • how the needs, including the cultural needs, of te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and the caregiver will continue to be met 
  • the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and the caregiver 
  • how we will maintain transparency and objectivity.

We consult with the social worker for te tamaiti or rangatahi (if they are not an allocated social worker) to plan our assessment or investigation and we continue to consult throughout the assessment and investigation.   

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 or rangatahi and all other tamariki or rangatahi who may be at risk of harm. 

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

We develop and implement a plan.  

We review the plan throughout the assessment or investigation with te tamaiti or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi
  • the ongoing physical and emotional safety, cultural needs and oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • we support and enhance the rights, participation and decision-making of te tamaiti or rangatahi, their parents, family, whānau, hapū, iwi, caregivers and support network as early as possible
  • the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi, parents, whānau or family and caregivers are heard and considered.

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

Deciding whether or not to move te tamaiti or rangatahi

Before deciding to move te tamaiti or rangatahi from their caregiver, we:

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

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

5 Advising parents

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

When working with tamariki or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi.

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

When working with children or young people from other cultures we seek advice from a culturally competent practitioner or person to help engage with the child or young person’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

6 Engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi

Throughout the assessment or investigation, we talk with te tamaiti or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi 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

7 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.

We record our assessment or investigation in a way so that tamariki, rangatahi, 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 supports were put in place. This ensures te tamaiti or rangatahi and their 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

8 Informing te tamaiti or rangatahi

The most appropriate social worker who has a relationship with te tamaiti or rangatahi informs te tamaiti or rangatahi of the outcome of the assessment or investigation, ensuring te tamaiti or rangatahi has the support they need during the discussion. We discuss with te tamaiti or rangatahi and 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 or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi 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 or rangatahi.

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

9 Informing parents and others

The investigating social worker informs the parents of te tamaiti or rangatahi and everyone involved of the outcome of the assessment or investigation and records this in CYRAS.