Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/caring-for-tamariki-in-care/maintaining-whanau-or-family-relationships-when-te-tamaiti-or-rangatahi-is-living-away-from-home/
Printed: 24/02/2024
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Last updated: 05/09/2023

Maintaining whānau or family relationships when te tamaiti or rangatahi is living away from home

We establish, maintain and strengthen relationships between tamariki, rangatahi and their family, whānau, hapū and iwi when they are living away from home. For court-directed contact, we provide robust information to guide decision-making.

Ngākau whakairo

All tamariki, mokopuna Māori, rangatahi and whānau or family have the right to be cared for and nurtured through mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. This is fundamental to working effectively and relationally with whānau or families in ways that heal, restore and uplift mana. Rights, values and ethics guide our thinking and underpin everything we do.

Our practice is relational, inclusive and restorative with all whānau and families we work with.

Section 5(c)(1) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 states that the primary responsibility for caring for and nurturing the wellbeing and development of a child or young person lies with their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group.

Our priority needs to be engaging with significant and safe whānau or family within hapū, iwi and the community who can assist us to understand our assessment and inform safety planning and decision-making with whānau or family.

We value narratives as cultural identity by understanding the experiences, values, beliefs and connections of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. It is important that whānau or family are given the time to hear and understand what Oranga Tamariki kaimahi are concerned about and that they are supported and enabled to respond and create their own solutions.

Te Mātātaki 2021 – findings from the first national survey of tamariki and rangatahi in care | orangatamariki.govt.nz

Independent Children’s Monitor report | orangatamariki.govt.nz

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child | United Nations Office of the High Commissioner Human Rights

Support to establish, maintain and improve whānau connections – section 31 of the Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018

Policy: All About Me plan

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Whakapapa for Pacific peoples

Whai mātauranga

We begin with te ao Māori sources of knowledge, methods and social work approaches. These are supported by complementary sources of knowledge and research that promote working effectively for Māori, and offer benefit to all tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and families. We work collaboratively to invite in the stories and lived experiences of whānau or family to help us understand the situation while drawing on a range of professional opinion and views.

Whakapapa – working with whānau Māori

Tamariki and rangatahi are intrinsically linked to their whānau or family and cannot be seen as separate. In practice, this means ensuring that the use of pepeha, karakia and waiata as part of connection and relationship building are meaningful, authentic practices rather than token gestures.

We ask whānau or family to help us determine and understand the values, beliefs and tikanga they use.

Whakapapa is the core of traditional mātauranga Māori. Whakapapa means bloodline connections. Other Māori terms for whakapapa are kāwai and tātai. Kauwhau and taki refer to the process of tracing whakapapa.

Whakapapa is important to te tamaiti or rangatahi as it connects them with their tūpuna, whānau or family, whenua, iwi and marae. It's how they learn about their family history and trace their whakapapa, knowing who they are and where they are from. As the core of mātauranga Māori, whakapapa provides tamariki and rangatahi with identity and history.

Kaumātua are responsible for knowing, recounting and teaching the whakapapa of the iwi, hapū or whānau or family through kōrero, waiata, karakia and carvings and often hold a rākau whakapapa – a stick (like a walking stick) with small ridges running down the length of it, representing ancestors and generations – when they are speaking.

Whānau or family contact is not just parental contact. It includes wider family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group where there are whakapapa links and whanaungatanga obligations that will support mana tamaiti or rangatahi. This may also include other social groups such as neighbourhoods, sports, community events and projects.

Whai pūkenga

Our practice must be skilful, appropriate, current and continuously developing and improving. Professional practice skills and behaviours are part of our professional kete. They promote intentional practice – these include relational skills, analytical skills, facilitation, advocacy, professional reasoning, theorising and communication.

Why whānau or family contact is important

Whānau or family contact is important for all tamariki and rangatahi who are unable to remain living in their usual home regardless of ethnicity or culture.

Research article: Birth family contact for children in care: how much? how often? who with?

The research suggests that well-planned and positive whānau or family contact can benefit tamariki and rangatahi:

  • It assists with whānau or family reunification – there is a widely reported association between the frequency and reliability of whānau or family contact and tamariki or rangatahi returning home or spending less time living away from home.
  • It helps maintain and build attachment and connectedness with whānau or family and other significant people. Tamariki and rangatahi living away from home have identified that the maintenance of relationships based on familiarity and 'something in common' is of key importance to them, with these connections meeting their emotional needs for love, a sense of belonging, stability and continuity. This contact also connects them to their whakapapa and whanaungatanga. For te tamaiti or rangatahi, knowing whānau momo (family traits) affirms the connections to identity and belonging.
  • Tamariki and rangatahi living away from home benefit from contact with a range of whānau and family members – siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins – as well as other people important to their whānau and family, community or culture, such as elders, whānau or family friends, and neighbours.

Purpose of whānau or family contact

Whānau or family contact for tamariki or rangatahi living away from their home also assists with:

  • assessment of parent–child interactions and relationships, and parenting skills and capacity when working towards a return home or to support better relationships
  • opportunities for education and modelling of specific skills and abilities – for example, behavioural distress management, communication skills and learning how to play.

Kaitiakitanga

Kaitiakitanga is the roles, responsibilities and obligations to protect, keep safe and sustain. When tamariki or rangatahi are unable to live at home, maintaining their relationships and connections through contact should also include those wider connections to the environment and the spiritual world, not just to the people in their lives. This needs to include consideration of how tamariki and rangatahi Māori can connect to their hapū, iwi, marae and whenua, even if they live in another area of Aotearoa New Zealand or overseas.

The same considerations are required for Pacific children and children of other cultures to connect to their language, cultural traditions, church, village and land. For tamariki or rangatahi of other cultures, explore the importance of language, traditions and places with their family.

Work closely with the whānau or family to identify who can help te tamaiti or rangatahi with this knowledge.

Seek advice from site kairaranga ā-whānau or cultural advisors if necessary to help find and connect with the people who can help with this.

Whakapapa also recognises the whanaungatanga responsibilities of the whānau, hapū and iwi.

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Whakamanawa

Whakamanawa is the manifestation of potential that identifies and removes barriers to enhance tamariki oranga (wellbeing). Maintaining whānau or family contact allows for the sharing of stories and history that help tamariki and rangatahi understand whānau or family traits and empowers tamariki and whānau or family to reach their full potential.

The short-term benefits of maintaining whānau or family contact include helping to alleviate some of the emotional and psychological distress that te tamaiti or rangatahi may experience when they are living away from home.

The long-term benefits for te tamaiti or rangatahi maintaining whānau or family contact include:

  • a greater understanding and connection with their whānau or family, their culture and whenua, which helps strengthen their identity and gives a sense of belonging
  • an ability to view their whānau or family in a realistic way, enabling them to have appropriate expectations of their whānau or family and relationships
  • an opportunity to develop relationships in a safe and supportive environment
  • a sense of stability, continuity, predictability and security.

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Whai oranga

All tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family have the right to consistent quality practice that is oranga focused, supported by the mana-enhancing paradigm for practice and applied through practice models.

Practice considerations

Contact arrangements are informed by the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi and consider their needs, rights and wishes. The views of family, whānau, hapū and iwi also need to be considered and decisions made with them that reflect these interests and views.

Ensure any accessibility needs are considered to meet the needs of disabled tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family.

Gender and sexual diversity specific or additional support may also be needed where there is takatāpui (takatāpui is a traditional Māori term meaning intimate companion of the same sex) or fafa (fafa is sometimes used as an abbreviation for Fa'afafine, the name of a third gender referring to a person who was born male but raised female).

If the whānau or family is unhappy with the sexual or gender identity of te tamaiti or rangatahi, ensure contact arrangements have support in place that can manage any potential challenges.

Extra care needs to be taken at tangihanga and significant gatherings, particularly if there are unresolved matters.

Support whānau connections

Supporting tamariki with their health needs

Types of contact

Contact includes:

  • face-to-face visits to people and places
  • letters, cards, emails, text messages, messages through social media and phone calls
  • drawings, stories or schoolwork  
  • swapping photographs or gifts
  • attending special events (such as sports and school events like prizegiving)
  • visits to meet key family, whānau, hapū, iwi, marae and whenua where te tamaiti or rangatahi can learn their whakapapa and understand their place and connections.

Contact is an important factor in building oranga, belonging, safety and security for tamariki and rangatahi who are living away from their usual home.

Starting contact, and deciding on frequency and duration

When and how often contact occurs depends on the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi, their specific situation, age, maturity and developmental stage, and their whānau or family wishes. Contact is not just with parents but includes siblings (where they are not living together), cousins, whānau or family and important people to te tamaiti or rangatahi.

When te tamaiti or rangatahi first moves to an out-of-home care arrangement, we should arrange contact with key whānau or family as soon as possible, especially when the care arrangement has been unplanned. Hold a hui ā-whānau as soon as possible.

If contact with parents is difficult, make sure there is contact with wider whānau or family such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins. Kōrero with te tamaiti or rangatahi to find out from them who are the important people in their whānau or family and who they want to spend time with.

If their new care arrangement is planned, make contact preparations beforehand. A hui ā-whānau will bring people together to consider all the issues and opportunities for contact to happen and to ensure everyone understands what they are responsible for.

Early contact with whānau or family, friends and other significant people may help te tamaiti or rangatahi settle into their new home. Caregivers need to understand the importance of contact between te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents and whānau or family, and they need to support contact occurring.

For tamariki and rangatahi Māori maintaining whakapapa knowledge and whanaungatanga responsibilities, extra support and resourcing may be necessary to ensure the right people are involved in developing those connections. We consult with the whānau and our kairaranga ā-whānau or appropriate Māori staff to ensure we are connecting with the right people. This ensures we are valuing narratives as cultural identity.

Throughout our casework and decision-making, we:

  • involve te tamaiti or rangatahi and the family, whānau, hapū, iwi and community in decision-making
  • are open with whānau or family, engage with them and, as they have time to consider and reflect on what has happened and why, encourage them to bring different options and ideas forward
  • consult widely with supervisors, kairaranga ā-whānau and cultural advisors
  • are open to reflection and the need to change and review contact plans to ensure changing needs and dynamics are recognised and met
  • record changes in the All About Me plan and communicate them to everyone involved
  • encourage and support te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family to develop new connections and understandings of who they are and where they belong. Māori concepts of oranga tell us that, as we strengthen the oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi by connecting them to significant events, people and places, the benefits are far-reaching and positive.

Deciding if the contact arrangement is safe for te tamaiti or rangatahi

A whānau or family hui needs to be held and is paramount when arranging contact. Principled practice ensures everyone understands the purpose of our engagement and recognises and understands how we interact with others.

If te tamaiti or rangatahi is under a court order or a family group conference plan, the whānau or family needs to understand the social worker's responsibilities and reporting requirements. This must be balanced with the needs and wishes of te tamaiti or rangatahi and the whānau or family. Discussing this in a hui ā-whānau gives the opportunity for transparent sharing of information and planning together.

The physical and emotional safety of te tamaiti or rangatahi is a priority when planning for whānau or family contact.

The need for safety influences decisions about: 

  • who te tamaiti or rangatahi has contact with
  • what type of contact occurs
  • whether contact is supervised or unsupervised
  • where contact visits are held
  • the duration of contact visits, the time of day they occur and what activities are engaged in.

Safe contact

If there have been sufficient concerns that meant te tamaiti or rangatahi has been moved into a new care arrangement, safety planning around contact is important.

A new care arrangement away from the usual home of te tamaiti or rangatahi can be traumatic for them and their whānau or family. Be aware that people may be upset and angry, and encourage them to focus on the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi and help them manage adult issues away from te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Make a realistic assessment of the nature and degree of any risks to the physical or emotional safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi from whānau or family contact:

  • Listen to what te tamaiti or rangatahi says regarding how they feel about contact with particular people – be aware that their views and opinions may only emerge over time in the context of a trusted relationship.
  • Talk with family, whānau, hapū and iwi about who they see as being important for te tamaiti or rangatahi to have contact with and any concerns that they may have.
  • Speak with people who have observed the behaviour and interactions of te tamaiti or rangatahi with those who they are having contact with – for example, carers, other whānau or family members, teachers and therapists.
  • Observe interactions during contact where te tamaiti or rangatahi is adamant that they feel unsafe but cannot or will not explain why, or where they display stress or distress or refuse to participate in contact arrangements – a thorough and comprehensive assessment is critical.

Distress about contact may not necessarily be about safety – it could be connected to developmental issues or stresses associated with other experiences, such as separation anxiety, grief and loss, or loyalty conflicts.

Decisions to cease, restrict or impose conditions on contact, even temporarily, can be very distressing for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family and this distress and disappointment may manifest as anger.

We need to work with and support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to understand the reasons why such decisions are necessary and what is required to maintain or return to previous contact arrangements.  

Work with the whānau or family to identify alternative contact arrangements that could be put in place and who could help within their family, whānau, hapū, iwi or community.

Be transparent and maintain open communication while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Oranga definitions

Whānau or family dynamics

Dynamics within the family, whānau, hapū or iwi can mean there may be challenges to having meaningful and positive contact.

We need to consider previous events and understand how relationships can change and be developed. Maintaining and developing relationships with safe whānau or family can help understand their history, any underlying generational trauma and resilience.

Continued whānau or family contact may be difficult for both the carer and te tamaiti or rangatahi. For instance, a whānau or family carer moving from being a grandparent to having a caregiving role may experience changes in existing relationships with other whānau or family members. In this situation, the position of te tamaiti or rangatahi in the whānau or family also changes, which could affect their existing relationships.

Whānau or family members may also be upset that their whānau or family member has taken on the care of te tamaiti or rangatahi and view it as a betrayal or colluding with authorities.

If contact causes ongoing disruption or high levels of stress or distress, careful assessment is needed to resolve any negative impacts. Arrange a hui ā-whānau to discuss the concerns and seek a way forward with a focus on te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Making contact arrangements

Te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents, whānau or family and caregivers should all participate in the development of contact arrangements. If the contact is to be supervised, the contact supervisor needs to be fully briefed about the arrangements, any risks and any other safety issues.

Contact arrangements need to be regularly reviewed to make sure they are meeting the needs and interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Discussions should consider:

  • the purpose, frequency, type and length of contact
  • how contact can be safe and enjoyable for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents and whānau or family with a focus on maintaining or rebuilding the relationship between them
  • any additional supports that may be required to manage accessibility issues for disabled tamariki
  • how to support if te tamaiti or rangatahi shows distress
  • what will happen if there is adult behaviour that is unacceptable or creates safety issues for te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • how to manage contact not happening when the adults are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or other reasons contact may not occur (such as illness).

When caregivers can work alongside te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents and whānau or family, teaching and modelling the standard of care and protection te tamaiti or rangatahi needs and deserves, this can result in positive and lasting change.

Maintaining breastfeeding

If a pēpi is being breastfed, it is their right to have this continue. Breastfeeding not only supports physical health and wellbeing but also encourages bonding and emotional attachments and maintains important spiritual and cultural beliefs.

All efforts should be made to make sure breastfeeding of pēpi can continue.

Breastfeeding – caring for and nurturing a pēpi

The feeding routine should be carefully noted in the All About Me plan that is provided to the caregiver. The roles and responsibilities of everyone involved should be made clear once this has been negotiated. If the arrangements include pēpi being breastfed after hours or in the weekend, ensure this is recorded in a separate casenote in CYRAS so the national contact centre can find the plan easily, if required.

Sibling contact

Although not ideal, there will be situations where siblings are not able to continue to live together with the same caregiver. Relationships between siblings are important and contact should be maintained.

Also consider that te tamaiti or rangatahi may also have significant relationships with their cousins, and factor this into contact arrangements.

Sibling and cousin contact can help te tamaiti or rangatahi:

  • build a foundation for lifelong relationships
  • develop better models for peer relationships
  • maintain knowledge of self and of their immediate and extended whānau or family
  • make sense of their situation
  • develop their identity.

In situations when siblings or cousins are living in different towns or cities, we need to ensure there is a clear, consistent contact plan for the sibling or cousin group.

Contact should be planned and regular and, wherever possible, include informal interactions and the ability to meet face to face, such as at celebrations and birthdays.

Contact in residential facilities

Being placed in a residential facility can be an extremely stressful, frightening and isolating experience – contact with whānau or family is very important for te tamaiti or rangatahi and every effort should be made to have contact as soon as possible and on an agreed, ongoing basis. If there are geographical barriers, think about how to promote other types of contact using technology, in addition to face-to-face visits.

Supervised contact

Supervised contact may be required when there has been:

  • previous care or contact situations where the safety of te tamaiti or rangatahi has been compromised
  • serious physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional harm
  • whānau or family dynamics that are focused on adult behaviours and concerns and issues are played out in front of tamariki or rangatahi during contact, including impacting on where te tamaiti or rangatahi is currently living.

We need to assess each situation and the need for supervised contact and reassess this regularly.

Child/young person and family consult

People who can supervise contact include and may also be a combination of:

  • whānau or family or friends assessed by a social worker as being suitable and safe – we need to explore this option thoroughly and consult with our kairaranga ā-whānau or site cultural experts
  • community organisations providing a specialised service approved by Oranga Tamariki
  • a pool of selected and trained individuals approved by Oranga Tamariki
  • Oranga Tamariki social workers, resource workers or youth workers.

When we undertake the approval process for prospective contact supervisors, we assess their attitudes, knowledge, skills and personal attributes, and complete police, referee and medical checks. Approval can only be given by a supervisor.

When te tamaiti or rangatahi has moved permanently to a new home, contact with their whānau or family can be supervised by the caregivers. This provides te tamaiti or rangatahi with the opportunity to experience their permanent caregivers in the parenting role as their supporter and protector, and helps the parents and caregivers develop a relationship with each other.

Supporting parents and significant whānau or family when te tamaiti or rangatahi does not live nearby

There will sometimes be situations where a parent or significant whānau or family members (such as siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins) live in a different part of the country or overseas.

The social worker for te tamaiti or rangatahi has a responsibility to:

  • keep in touch with the parents and whānau or family members
  • make sure whānau or family know what is happening for te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • facilitate contact and visits that need to happen, including making connections to whenua, marae, villages and places of significance
  • encouraging contact through technology such as Facetime, Teams, email and texts – consider what resources may be needed for this.

Contact with whānau or family members in prison

If a parent or close whānau or family of te tamaiti or rangatahi is in prison and it is in the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi to have contact with them, including visits, we need to consult with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents, guardians, whānau or family and caregivers, and consider:

  • if the visit will help te tamaiti or rangatahi maintain their connection to and relationship with that person
  • how te tamaiti or rangatahi willbenefit from the visit
  • the purpose of the visit

If it is agreed that ongoing contact is important, there are several ways to do this. These include sending letters or cards and making phone calls if face-to-face visits are not possible. The social worker will be able to discuss these options with the prison.

It is up to the person in prison to decide who they want to visit them and to initiate the approval process.

Contact between tamariki or rangatahi and their parent or close whānau or family member in prison can support the prisoner's rehabilitation and help whānau or families move forward after release. However, the safety and oranga of tamariki or rangatahi should always be considered.

Ara Poutama Aotearoa (Department of Corrections) supports positive contact between prisoners and tamariki and rangatahi through general visits and, in some prisons, through special whānau or family days.

Approving te tamaiti and rangatahi to visit a prisoner

Tamariki or rangatahi under 18 years must be approved before they can visit a prisoner.

A prisoner wanting visits from te tamaiti or rangatahi must initiate the application. We can then ensure that whānau or family understand what is required to allow visits. If we are unsure, we contact the prison staff to seek clarity.

If there are no court orders prohibiting contact, a Child Visitor Application Form will be sent to the guardian of te tamaiti or rangatahi to complete and return to the prison – these forms are not available online. The application form provides details about the identity of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their relationship to the prisoner. Tamariki or rangatahi will not be allowed to visit the prison if they have not been approved beforehand. 

For tamariki or rangatahi who are in the custody of Oranga Tamariki, the allocated social worker will also need to provide consent for the visit. The social worker will seek the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi, and a guardian must sign the application form.

All approved tamaiti or rangatahi visitors must be accompanied by an approved adult.

Advising of the decision

If te tamaiti or rangatahi is approved, their guardian will receive a letter to confirm this. The letter must be brought to prison every time the approved tamaiti or rangatahi visits.

If te tamaiti or rangatahi is not approved, the guardian will receive a letter to advise them. If te tamaiti or rangatahi is not approved, they cannot visit.

Special conditions

Ara Poutama Aotearoa (Department of Corrections) can apply conditions to visits by tamariki or rangatahi under 18 to certain prisoners, where appropriate. This is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Visiting a prison

If te tamaiti or rangatahi is visiting a prison, we prepare them by explaining what happens when you visit a prison and reassure them they will be kept safe during the visit.

The contact plan needs to consider who will accompany te tamaiti or rangatahi during the visit. An approved adult may be a caregiver, whānau or family or a social worker. The approved adult will also require visitor approval from the prison.

The prison is responsible for making sure that everyone is kept safe during contact visits. The allocated social worker needs to discuss with the prison any conditions that they want in place during a contact visit before the visit.

If we have concerns about te tamaiti or rangatahi, we contact the prison staff. Staff are trained to recognise signs of abuse and neglect. They are expected to take appropriate action to safeguard every tamaiti or rangatahi coming to a prison visit.

Recording the contact plan

Record the contact plan, including any restrictions, in the All About Me plan, and ensure everyone involved, including te tamaiti or rangatahi, has a copy and understands their role in the arrangements.

If contact occurs after hours or during weekends, make sure there is a casenote on CYRAS that will help the national contact centre manage any problems or issues that may occur.

Responses to contact

It is normal for te tamaiti or rangatahi in a care arrangement away from home to have physical and emotional reactions to visits with whānau or family. These reactions are not necessarily a sign that the visit did not go well or that there is something wrong with the care being provided to te tamaiti or rangatahi. Feelings can resurface during contact, and it is not unusual for te tamaiti or rangatahi to express their response through emotional and behavioural distress. Te tamaiti or rangatahi may express anger towards their caregivers and/or their whānau or family before, during and after contact.

The social worker, parents, caregivers, whānau or family and other support people (such as a counsellor or teacher) need to reassure te tamaiti or rangatahi by helping them talk about and understand their feelings.

Te tamaiti or rangatahi may feel:

  • happy and relieved to see their whānau or family
  • confused, especially about why they cannot go home – the younger te tamaiti is, the more confused they will be about having 2 sets of 'parents'
  • angry about what has happened to them, or fearful of someone
  • sad and angry about being separated from whānau or family – they may feel like they have lost everything familiar and do not understand what is happening
  • feel that being moved from their home is their fault
  • worried about being disloyal to their parents or whānau or family by liking their caregivers
  • worried about whether their siblings and parents are okay
  • defensive when they sense criticism of their whānau or family.

Te tamaiti or rangatahi returning home

The frequency and intensity of contact is the key to a successful return home. This should be reflected in the All About Me plan.

Returning children and young people safely home

As the date approaches when te tamaiti or rangatahi is returning home, contact between them and their parents or caregivers should increase in frequency and duration and include unsupervised, day-long, overnight and weekend visits. This should be reflected in the All About Me plan.

Permanent care arrangements with caregivers

If it is decided that te tamaiti or rangatahi cannot return to the care of their parents or previous caregivers, any planning needs to be mindful of how relationships with people and places of significance will be maintained.

Contact should still be in the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi. This is achieved through strong, supportive relationships and connections. Te tamaiti or rangatahi has the right to positive and enduring relationships with their family, whānau, hapū and iwi.  All tamariki and rangatahi have the right to:

  • continue relationships and connections that are important to them and recognise and respect their values, cultural beliefs and practices
  • know their whakapapa, history and links to significant places, marae, villages, communities and whenua.

When preparing for a care arrangement to become permanent, talk with the parents, whānau or family and caregivers to achieve a whānau or family decision around contact arrangements.

Hold a hui ā-whānau and work with the site kairaranga ā-whānau, Māori specialist staff and cultural advisors, especially if there are conflicts or disagreements, to ensure the right people are at the hui to support decision-making that best meets to needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi. Where possible, contact can occur as often as te tamaiti or rangatahi needs and wants, and in ways that support and maintain connections (such as phone calls to talk about significant events, attending sports events, or sharing meals together).

If face-to-face contact with a parent, particular whānau or family member or previous caregiver is not appropriate or safe, whānau or family connections can be maintained through contact with siblings, extended family or whānau, hapū and iwi, and the use of photographs and stories.

Policy: Ensuring a safe, stable and loving home for tamariki in care

Support for permanent caregivers

Ending or suspending contact

The decision to end or suspend contact between te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents or other significant people should not be taken lightly. We need to weigh up the benefits of contact against the risks involved. However, delaying a decision to end or suspend contact may place te tamaiti or rangatahi in a potentially dangerous situation.

Criteria for ending or suspending contact might include:

  • health reasons – but consider if shorter times or other means of contact can replace arrangements
  • the need to change to supervised contact due to adult behaviour
  • a restraining order being in force
  • abuse or neglect of te tamaiti or rangatahi during contact
  • threatened violence towards te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • ongoing negative adult behaviour that affects the oranga (wellbeing) of te tamaiti or rangatahi and the stability of their care
  • continued non-attendance or poor attendance by the parent or other significant people, which affects te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • parents or other significant people repeatedly violating the agreed terms of the contact arrangements, which causes harm to te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • te tamaiti or rangatahi not wanting to continue the contact.

If contact is ended or suspended, ensure:

  • the decision is regularly reviewed with the parents, caregivers, whānau or family and te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • everyone understands the reason by holding a hui ā-whānau to discuss this decision.

Record on CYRAS why this decision has been made.

When face-to-face contact has been ended, there are other ways of providing te tamaiti or rangatahi with knowledge about their whānau or family. Consult with their parents, family, whānau, hapū, iwi or cultural experts to identify someone who can:

  • give te tamaiti or rangatahi knowledge of their whakapapa
  • help them learn their stories, history, marae, hapū, iwi, village or community and whenua – ideally, te tamaiti or rangatahi should visit places of significance.

Recording life events

Ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi has a record of important life events that captures key information such as whakapapa, whenua, places of significance and visits te tamaiti or rangatahi makes to such places. A book where photographs, letters and records of achievement could also be included is one way of recording life events. This record should follow te tamaiti or rangatahi throughout their care journey and be updated regularly.

Maintaining a record of important life events

Working on the book with te tamaiti or rangatahi can also provide openings to talk about the various transitions and changes that they have experienced.

Whai ākona

Our practice is deepened when we continue to test, reflect on and develop our ways of being and working. This means we are self-aware, up-to-date and current and have the right supports around us.

We consult regularly with our supervisor and use site processes such as care clinics and child and family consults to ensure our practice is reflective and reflexive and is meeting the needs, best interests and oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.