Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/transitioning-between-placements-or-out-of-care/when-tamariki-and-rangatahi-move-between-care-arrangements/
Printed: 29/11/2022
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 03/11/2022

When tamariki and rangatahi move between care arrangements

We support te tamaiti or rangatahi effectively as they enter care, move to live with a new caregiver, move into or out of a residence, return home or live permanently with a new whānau or family.

Updates made to this guidance

This guidance has been updated in line with changes to the policy. This includes strengthening regarding safety needs and concerns, updating information in the safety plans and the All About Me plan, sharing information with the people involved in the transition including whānau or family, and additional supports to be provided where relevant, such as ensuring they have a support person who can advocate for them.

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

Who this guidance is for

This guidance is for social workers working with tamariki and rangatahi who are coming into care, moving between homes or moving out of care.

Policy: Working with tamariki and rangatahi in residences

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

It does not cover guidance for social workers working with rangatahi moving to an independent living situation.

Policy: Transition to adulthood — Maintaining contact

Assessing life skills

Policy: Transition to adulthood — Advice and assistance

Understanding the challenge of moving between care arrangements

Te tamaiti or rangatahi will feel sensitive, uncertain and vulnerable in any situation where they move to live somewhere new. They are at risk of feeling they have no control over their lives and wellbeing. Even if te tamaiti or rangatahi doesn’t show obvious signs or doesn’t speak openly about the change, the impacts can be deep, shaking confidence and stability, and potentially impacting on mental and physical wellbeing — short and long term. We need to support te tamaiti or rangatahi effectively through trauma-informed practice.

Trauma-informed theory

The time it takes for them to settle and feel safe, secure and at home depends on their age and stage of development, views and wishes, connection with the new caregiver, reason for being in a care arrangement (such as youth justice residential homes), relationship with their current caregiver and urgency of need.

It may take less time if te tamaiti or rangatahi is moving into whānau care with people they already know and have a connection with (for example, 6 weeks instead of 9). However, if te tamaiti or rangatahi doesn’t know their caregiver, it may take weeks or months for them to feel completely settled and safe in their new home. A social worker will only know this by remaining in regular contact with them and engaging with them in honest conversations about how things are progressing.

Tamariki and rangatahi being moved to a residential setting may need further support for their move. Social workers need to liaise with the residential staff to identify and manage their role within this area.

See and engage tamariki

Assessing the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi

Throughout the move to a new care arrangement (before, during and after), social workers need to assess and reassess the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi using the Tuituia assessment framework. This helps identify ongoing and emerging needs that te tamaiti or rangatahi has through this time. We should let them know what their rights are and support them to ensure they can exercise their rights to receive the supports they need.

We should:

  • talk with them about how they feel about the change in their care arrangements, how this will impact on their day-to-day activities and people they will meet
  • check that they feel safe with the new people they encounter
  • talk with them about the important people who supported them previously, such as their previous caregiver or residential staff, and explore how they might stay connected where possible.

Their voice should be considered at all stages when they're moving between care arrangements.

A critical part of assessment and decision-making before any move takes place is anticipating and minimising potentially negative impacts from changes that need to be made. Each step should be planned to minimise disruption.

We should check that we have understood their needs in the assessment process, and we have responded to them accordingly. Our assessment should be recorded in CYRAS.

Keeping siblings together

One important focus is keeping siblings together when changes in care arrangements need to occur. This is our priority, and separating siblings should only be a very last resort, as we know this can bring grief and disruption, impacting very negatively on the natural roles and responsibilities that siblings may have in caring for each other. The decision needs to be led by whānau or family, but with the consideration of what is best for each sibling. Assessing and deciding on changes in care arrangements should always allow te tamaiti or rangatahi to maintain important relationships with their brothers and sisters. These relationships need to be understood, recognised, fostered and protected when care arrangements are changing.

Moving from youth justice homes

The impacts of moving from youth justice homes on the wellbeing of rangatahi also need to be understood by social workers. In particular, they may be returning to an environment that makes it difficult for rangatahi to sustain the changes in behaviour they may have achieved while in care. This could be due to community and peer group factors, as well as factors within the whānau or family. Good communication and acknowledging and assisting rangatahi to work through any challenges will help support a successful move to a new care arrangement.

It’s also important to remember that te tamaiti or rangatahi will have both current and developing needs — for example, a change in home will likely result in grieving, as existing relationships end, and potential anxiety, as new friendships may need to be fostered.

Support networks for te tamaiti or rangatahi when they're moving

Social workers should review the current plans for te tamaiti or rangatahi to identify their strengths and needs. This also gives them a sense of what support networks are in place for te tamaiti or rangatahi now and what needs to be sustained so that they can build a sense of continuity with the people in their lives, including their siblings, whānau or family, teachers, friends and community interests, such as sports clubs, kapa haka groups and so on.

For tamariki Māori, moving between care arrangements can also present an opportunity where new care arrangements can continue to support important whakapapa connections.

Ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi has access to someone who can advocate for them during their move.

If they have concerns or want to make a complaint about those concerns, you should record these concerns and follow up appropriately.

VOYCE Whakarongo Mai helps connect tamariki and rangatahi with advocates and trusted adults to ensure the voices of tamariki and rangatahi are heard.

Using the Tuituia recording tool

Maintaining a record of important life events

Whakamana te tamaiti or rangatahi through advocacy

Planning the move carefully

The plan to support a move to a new care arrangement needs to keep the wellbeing and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi at the centre of decision-making — this includes a focus on their safety, stability, key relationships, health, development and healing from harm and trauma.

Some key considerations in planning include:

  • ensuring there is always a plan in place for tamariki and rangatahi coming into care or moving between care arrangements
  • making sure the plan is thorough and done as early as possible — and it includes dates
  • thinking ahead, as a precautionary measure, to any back-up plan for the future if, for any reason, the home doesn’t work at any point
  • ensuring their needs and any new needs or information that arises through the change in their care arrangement, including safety concerns, are considered in the plan
  • making sure the views, needs and strengths of te tamaiti or rangatahi are heard and put into plans
  • making sure the views of former and prospective caregivers, family, whānau, hapū, iwi or family group, residence managers (where applicable) and other support people such as teachers are also included in planning
  • making sure plans strengthen and maintain key relationships for te tamaiti or rangatahi, including with siblings, family, whānau, hapū, iwi, family group, friends, household pets and key support people
  • making central the oranga (wellbeing) and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi within the plan, including considering their strengths and needs, their cultural identity, barriers to social participation, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression
  • remembering the importance of belongings, life stories and other taonga for te tamaiti or rangatahi, and making sure they can bring these with them — or have a safe place to keep them
  • making sure the plan has tangible steps that caregivers (and residence managers if applicable) and others will take to ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi is well supported when they move to live in a new home and will have their needs met
  • ensuring the plan is developed in partnership with whānau or family and other key people, and the written copy of the plan is shared with those involved in the move between care arrangements, such as the whānau or family, the caregiver social workers, residence managers, caregivers and significant others
  • making sure we minimise disruption for te tamaiti or rangatahi, avoiding changes to their early childhood settings or schools and other services wherever possible
  • making sure plans include key information and supports for te tamaiti or rangatahi, so key information about te tamaiti or rangatahi can be accessed quickly and can be shared with important people such as a new doctor or a contact at a new school.

Policy: All About Me plan

In the area of youth justice, the plan to support the move to a new care arrangement also needs to take into consideration any legal requirements as per the order or wider plan that may be in place. These may include section 311 Supervision with Residence Orders or section 283k Supervision orders following a move from a residence.

While considering the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi, we need to also keep in mind the impact on parents when their tamaiti or rangatahi is moving either out of their care or between youth justice homes. This is a traumatic time for them also and wherever possible we need to talk with them about what supports they may need to help them through these times. They remain a very important connection for te tamaiti or rangatahi. Ensuring they have the right support when their tamaiti or rangatahi is moving to a new care arrangement can directly contribute to the maintenance of their relationship with their tamaiti or rangatahi.

Recording the plan

Social workers need to record assessment and planning information and the steps that need to be taken to support the move in the All About Me plan for te tamaiti or rangatahi. There may be an existing All About Me plan that te tamaiti or rangatahi has that can be updated with new assessment information, to support the move to the new care arrangement, including oranga and safety considerations. However, if they are entering our custody for the first time, they need a new All About Me plan that identifies their needs during the move.

Policy: All About Me plan

Maintaining a record of important life events

Policy: Working with tamariki and rangatahi in residences

Monitoring and reviewing the plan

Once the plan is in place for the move, with all necessary steps and supports noted, the plan needs to be monitored to see how things are going for te tamaiti or rangatahi in the new home and to ensure it is working for them.

Social workers need to visit te tamaiti or rangatahi with increased regularity when they move to live in a new home to both help them settle and also monitor their plan. The frequency of visiting should be assessed, taking into account the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their new caregiver and caregiver social worker, and recorded in the All About Me plan. Social workers also need to check in with the caregiver, caregiver social worker, whānau or family and others in the community or circle of support for te tamaiti or rangatahi, to see how things are progressing in their new home. Whānau or family and others connected to te tamaiti or rangatahi all have a whanaungatanga role in supporting them through the move between care arrangements.

Rangatahi Māori may have an existing support network or one that can be strengthened through whakapapa and whanaungatanga relationships within their hapū, iwi or marae that can be drawn on particularly during these times. 

If areas of the plan are not meeting the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi effectively, the plan and actions to meet those needs should be updated, as the plan is an iterative, working document. The plan needs to remain in place until the home is stable.

If te tamaiti or rangatahi has moved to a residential placement, then regular contact with te tamaiti or rangatahi, as well as with the residential staff responsible for their care, is vital.

This information should be shared with those involved in the move between care arrangements and recorded in the All About Me plan for te tamaiti or rangatahi. A written copy of the agreed plan should be shared with whānau or family, the caregiver social workers, residence managers, caregivers and significant others.

Policy: All About Me plan

Policy: Visiting and engaging with tamariki in care

Helping prepare te tamaiti or rangatahi for the move

There are things that the social worker can do to help prepare te tamaiti or rangatahi for their move.

They can:

  • ensure key support networks are ready and there for te tamaiti or rangatahi when they're moving between care arrangements — or as soon as possible afterwards
  • ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi can bring their belongings with them — or that they’re stored safely if this isn’t possible
  • wherever possible, enable the former caregiver to farewell te tamaiti or rangatahi from their home, and enable the new one to welcome them — if they are moving to a new site, it is useful for the former social worker to farewell them and for the new social worker to welcome them
  • where possible, support te tamaiti or rangatahi to meet their new caregiving whānau or family or the people who live in the residence ahead of time
  • work with the residential manager for te tamaiti or rangatahi if they are moving to a residence, to ensure they have as much information as possible about the living environment before they arrive there — and the social worker should discuss this with them
  • plan for key events such as te tamaiti or rangatahi needing to attend a court hearing to minimise disruption where possible.

Social workers need to engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi directly as soon as it is clear that a new care arrangement may be needed. This should be face-to-face and the sooner this happens, the more prepared te tamaiti or rangatahi can be for the possible change.

If the move occurs as part of a legal process, such as in a Youth Court setting, social workers need to ensure they talk with te tamaiti or rangatahi about this as soon as possible and keep them informed throughout the move. They need to do this in a way that allows te tamaiti or rangatahi to process what is happening and why, and what may occur. It is important to avoid a situation where te tamaiti or rangatahi is surprised to be in the legal setting. Social workers need to ensure they communicate this with te tamaiti or rangatahi in a way that acknowledges their developmental needs.

To communicate effectively with te tamaiti or rangatahi, social workers need to:

  • explain what is happening to te tamaiti or rangatahi in ways that are appropriate for their age and stage of their development
  • ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi has access to someone they feel comfortable with, to advocate for them
  • provide as much information as they can to te tamaiti or rangatahi about the new care arrangement — this includes a ‘Welcome to our home’ booklet
  • be as honest as possible in communicating and talking with te tamaiti or rangatahi, using language they understand — this can be supported through the use of the ‘Welcome to our home’ booklet and the ‘Voices of children’ engagement cards
  • give te tamaiti or rangatahi lots of opportunities to share their feelings, worries, concerns or complaints, hopes and dreams about the change and use this to guide the decision-making process
  • talk to te tamaiti or rangatahi about the possible length of time the move is for and what will happen next.

Information and visits for prospective placements  

If the move between care arrangements is the result of an allegation of abuse, neglect or harm against the current caregiver and it is not appropriate for te tamaiti or rangatahi to remain in the home, the social worker may want to talk to their supervisor about what and how best to share this information with te tamaiti or rangatahi. Where appropriate, the social worker should let them know about the investigation process and the timeframe for sorting things out.

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

Helping prepare caregivers for the move

Social workers working with tamariki and rangatahi moving between care arrangements need to work closely with their caregiver social workers as part of a team approach. Caregiver preparation is an important factor in the overall success of the move between care arrangements for te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Some basic things the social worker can do to help the caregiver prepare for the move of te tamaiti or rangatahi to their home are as follows:

  • Engage with the new caregiver early and set the scene before the move begins.
  • Help the caregiver to create or review their ‘Welcome to our home’ booklet so it can be tailored for te tamaiti or rangatahi.
  • Start the process of building a relationship between the caregiver and te tamaiti or rangatahi early so attachment can transfer from the former caregiver to the new one with more ease.
  • Where possible, prior to the move, provide the caregiver with an up-to-date All About Me plan so they know key information about te tamaiti or rangatahi and can welcome them in the right way.
  • Discuss the plan so the caregiver knows their role in supporting goals for te tamaiti or rangatahi and let them know that you will be monitoring the plan with their input.
  • Help them be aware of and plan for any contact between te tamaiti or rangatahi and their former caregiver and whānau or family as appropriate, and others in their support network — ensuring they understand how this can help reduce anxiety and support settling in for te tamaiti or rangatahi.
  • Provide whānau caregivers with as much support as non-kin caregivers — avoid assuming whānau or family or those linked by iwi or hapū to te tamaiti or rangatahi are able to manage with less support than caregivers who are not linked this way.
  • When caregivers (including whānau caregivers) express worries, no matter how small, respond to them immediately. Te tamaiti or rangatahi should always live with safe whānau or family in the first instance, so it is equally important to respond to whānau or family needs immediately as it is to non-kin caregivers.
  • Use hui ā-whānau or family meetings with whānau or family to help put the right supports in place when te tamaiti or rangatahi moves to them prior to the move and then on an ongoing basis.
  • Share information about the school or early childhood provider of te tamaiti or rangatahi with the new caregiver, including the schedule of visits before the move and when the move is expected to happen.
  • Encourage and support new caregivers to start engaging with the school or early childhood provider and getting to know the staff.

Social workers also need to support caregivers and te tamaiti or rangatahi by getting everyone together to work out the appropriate arrangements for the move. This includes te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and support network, the current and new caregiver, and the caregiver social workers.

The former caregivers may also need support to identify and express their feelings about the change. Other tamariki or rangatahi in the home (either those in care or the caregivers' own tamariki) may also require support to cope with the loss of a household member.

The social worker’s relationship with the current and prospective caregivers’ social workers is important and requires regular conversations to share the progress made.

Social workers also need to share information with caregivers so they know what support Oranga Tamariki can provide them with, including:

  • providing transportation for te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • financial assistance to provide care during the move
  • how to respond to the trauma or behavioural needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • what local resources and supports are available.

Rangatahi may move from a youth justice residence back to whānau or family (or caregivers), so it’s important to ensure effective communication with whānau or family occurs throughout the time the rangatahi is in the residence.

These moves may be complex, and rangatahi and whānau or family may have underlying anxiety about the move home. There will be dynamics that exist within the home environment that need to be navigated effectively from both a whānau or family and a rangatahi perspective. These need to be carefully considered as they can sometimes sabotage successful moves and the compliance of rangatahi with legal orders concurrent with their move.

Policy: Caregiver support

Urgent moves between care arrangements

Social workers need to work around issues that can arise and avoid, where possible, abrupt home changes which can create significant harm to te tamaiti or rangatahi.

If a home change needs to happen quickly for te tamaiti or rangatahi for safety reasons, the social worker should:

  • plan as much of the move as they can to make the move as smooth as possible for te tamaiti or rangatahi — if there are any areas requiring fuller planning after the move has happened, they should complete this planning as soon as possible after the move has occurred and build this into the appropriate section of the All About Me plan
  • reassure te tamaiti or rangatahi that they will be there for them and keep them informed
  • actively seek to manage and minimise the impact of the disruption
  • always make any decisions about te tamaiti or rangatahi shifting homes with the participation of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family and caregivers
  • involve hapū, iwi and others important to te tamaiti or rangatahi in the conversations about moving between care arrangements, keeping them well informed and connected as much as possible.

The social worker should also:

  • consider if it is appropriate for te tamaiti or rangatahi to safely remain in their current home with extra supports or services until they can be moved somewhere new in a way that is less rushed and disruptive
  • refer to the Oranga Tamariki trauma-informed practice approach to guide their interactions with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family at these difficult times, especially when things are challenging and circumstances may need to change
  • ensure any critical information, including the oranga and safety concerns, are understood and are recorded and shared with others who need to know as soon as practicable – this includes information shared in the All About Me plan and the caregiver support plan.

For te tamaiti or rangatahi, this means social workers will:

  • explain what is being done and who will be there to support them through this uncertain time
  • reassure them about any concerns they have
  • set regular times and dates when they will contact them (face to face is best) to see how they are doing and remind them they are there for them
  • be sure to let them know how to get hold of them or their supervisor if they have any questions.

After the move

The social worker listens to the wishes of te tamaiti or rangatahi and consults with their supervisor, and then decides whether it is in the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi to maintain or re-establish ongoing relationships — both with the whānau or family or other caregivers. If it is in the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi, they arrange the best process for maintaining contact or re-establishing contact once the move has taken place.

When there are decisions for ongoing contact with previous whānau or family or other caregivers, after the move, the social worker should set up some contact for te tamaiti or rangatahi with them. This should already be planned with the current caregivers as part of the preparation period.

Where contact is with previous caregivers who are not whānau or family, contact may diminish over time depending on circumstances. Having some ongoing contact initially can help te tamaiti or rangatahi to know that their previous caregiver wishes them well in their new home.

When te tamaiti or rangatahi is in their new home, they need to know that it is normal and acceptable for them to miss whānau or family, other caregivers or the place they have just left. They need to be given permission to grieve, and some short-term counselling might be really useful.

Social workers should encourage new caregivers to help te tamaiti or rangatahi vocalise and express their feelings and thoughts in whichever way feels right for them.

Considerations for tamariki and rangatahi in youth justice custody

Tamariki and rangatahi in youth justice custody after appearing in the Youth Court or District Court are also required to have plans in place for when they move to a new care arrangement. These include tamariki and rangatahi remanded into youth justice residences and those in community remand homes. Many of these tamariki and rangatahi will be returning home after being on remand in a youth justice residence or community remand home, or spending time in a drug or alcohol residential rehabilitation centre.

Custody of child or young person pending hearing — section 238(1)(d) of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Some tamariki and rangatahi will be returning home to their whānau or family or caregivers after having served sentences of supervision with activity, or supervision with residence orders.

These residential orders are generally followed by supervision orders with specific conditions for varying periods. These conditions need to be considered when formulating plans for the move of te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Supervision with residence order — section 311 of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Custody order associated with drug or alcohol rehabilitation — section 297B(5) of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Custody order associated with supervision with activity order — section 307(4) of Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Rangatahi who are subject to an order made under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 can be placed in the custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive in certain situations and will also require plans for the move.

Remand of defendant — sections 173, 174 and 175(1A)(a) of Criminal Procedure Act 2011