Allegations of abuse, neglect, or harm of tamariki by caregivers — Policy

Updated: 19 September 2018

What's Important To Us

It is important that we understand the difference between an allegation of abuse, neglect, or harm by a caregiver and a complaint about the conduct of, or care provided by, a caregiver, as our response will be different.

All allegations and complaints should be taken seriously and responded to with sensitivity. While the safety and well-being of the child or young person is at the forefront of our response, we must preserve the dignity, integrity and well-being of the caregiving whānau.

How to respond to allegations, including keeping tamariki safe, carrying out the assessment or investigation, and managing the outcome report and review.

Who this policy applies to

This policy applies when an allegation of abuse, neglect or harm of tamariki has been made against:

  • Oranga Tamariki approved caregivers
  • section 396 provider caregivers.

When this policy doesn't apply

This policy doesn't apply to complaints, or if the allegations are of criminal behaviour other than abuse, neglect or harm.

Dealing with caregiver complaints

Expand all

Investigation or assessment

An allegation that a tamaiti is being, or is likely to be, abused, neglected, or harmed by their caregiver must be recorded as a report of concern and investigated or assessed by Oranga Tamariki following our usual processes.

As with any allegation of abuse, neglect, or harm, the process for understanding and resolving the concerns must:

  • be prompt and thorough
  • be tamaiti-centred
  • be transparent and unbiased
  • demonstrate fairness, accountability and consistency.

Policy: assessment and decision-making

Who's involved in the assessment or investigation

The investigation or assessment must be carried out by two Oranga Tamariki social workers, who must not be the allocated social worker for te tamaiti or the caregiver social worker. This helps to prevent a conflict of interest for the investigating social workers and enables the allocated social worker for te tamaiti and the caregiver social worker to focus on supporting te tamaiti and the caregiver.

The investigating social workers must seek information from the social worker for te tamaiti and the caregiver social worker to assist with planning and undertaking the investigation or assessment.

The site manager/youth justice manager must be immediately advised of any allegations of abuse, neglect, or harm of a tamaiti by an Oranga Tamariki caregiver. This will then be escalated through management lines in accordance with the serious issues processes.

Refer to the Child Protection Protocol (CPP) to identify when the Police must be informed of the concerns. If in doubt, refer the allegation for a CPP consultation.

Child protection protocol (CPP) (PDF 811 KB)

Advising te tamaiti of the outcome of the investigation or assessment

Te tamaiti must be advised of the outcome of the investigation or assessment verbally. Details of this conversation must be recorded on the CYRAS record for te tamaiti.

Te tamaiti must be told:

  • by the investigating social workers with support from the social worker of te tamaiti
  • in an age appropriate manner
  • what actions were taken to investigate or assess the allegation made against their caregiver
  • the findings of the investigation or assessment.

Advising the caregivers of the allegation

We must provide all caregivers with clear information about the allegation as soon as is practical and inform them that we will complete an investigation or assessment of the allegation.

Caregivers must be informed:

  • of the investigation or assessment process and timeframes
  • that they will be advised of the outcome at the completion of the investigation or assessment
  • that their caregiver status will be reviewed at the completion of the investigation or assessment
  • they can access support through the Critical Support Service at Fostering Kids NZ 0800 693 278.

Caregivers must also be provided with the Fostering Kids NZ Allegation support for caregivers information sheet and Supporting caregivers to provide safe and nurturing homes brochure.

Allegation support for caregivers information sheet — Fostering Kids NZ

Supporting caregivers to provide safe and nurturing homes — Fostering Kids NZ

Advising section 396 provider caregivers

Oranga Tamariki must tell a section 396 provider about an allegation against one of their caregivers before we contact the caregiver.

We must also tell the caregiver that the section 396 provider has been informed of the allegation and will receive a copy of the draft and final outcome reports.

If there is uncertainty about the extent of disclosure of information to the section 396 provider, seek legal advice.

Complaints and allegations against section 396 caregivers

If the matter has been referred to Police

The caregiver must be advised that the matter has been referred to Police.

The supervisor and their police counterpart will discuss:

  • the level of detail to give the caregiver
  • when to tell the caregiver — the Police may request that full details of the allegation are not disclosed immediately if this may jeopardise their criminal investigation
  • how to tell the caregiver about the allegation.

The supervisor must ensure that police know there is a 20 working day timeframe for Oranga Tamariki to complete their investigation or assessment.

Other parties we must advise

Oranga Tamariki must also ensure that the:

  • regional Social Service Accreditation Assessor
  • regional Partnering for Outcomes manager
  • Operations Manager, Social Services Accreditation

are advised of the allegation when it is received and again at the outcome of the investigation or assessment.

Advising parents

Unless it's believed that doing so will put te tamaiti or the caregiver at risk of harm, we must advise parents as soon as possible of the allegation.

We must advise parents of:

  • tamariki who are the victim of alleged abuse, neglect, or harm
  • any other tamariki placed with that caregiver.

Parents must be informed if te tamaiti will remain with the caregiver, or be placed in an alternative living arrangement, and the rationale for either decision.

The investigating social workers, the social worker for te tamaiti, and the caregiver social worker will discuss how and when the parents will be informed about the allegation and the placement decisions, taking into consideration any safety concerns for the caregivers or tamariki that may arise as a result.

If we believe advising the parents poses a risk of harm

The site manager must be advised if we believe that advising a parent poses a risk to tamariki or the caregiver.

The site manager, in consultation with a Ministry solicitor, may decide to withhold information about an allegation and placement from a parent. Where the social worker for te tamaiti is a youth justice social worker, the youth justice manager must be consulted in this decision-making.

If we decide not to advise the parents

If we decide not to advise the parents, we must:

  • casenote the rationale and who was involved in the decision-making
  • inform the Regional Manager.

Building safety — making a plan for te tamaiti

When an allegation of abuse, neglect, or harm of a tamaiti by a caregiver is made, the safety of te tamaiti — and any other tamariki in the caregiver's home — is our foremost concern.

  1. A plan must be developed and implemented that ensures the immediate safety of te tamaiti.
  2. This plan must be reviewed throughout the investigation or assessment to ensure their ongoing physical and emotional safety.
  3. The safety of all other tamariki in the home must also be considered. This may include a section 15 report of concern for other tamariki in the home and may include the caregiver’s tamariki.

Deciding whether to move te tamaiti

We must consider whether it's in the best interests of te tamaiti to remain in their placement or be placed in an alternative placement for the duration of the investigation or assessment.

If we decide to move te tamaiti

If we decide to move te tamaiti, we must:

  • consider the potential harm this decision could cause to the attachment between the caregiver and te tamaiti
  • base the decision on thorough assessment by the social worker for te tamaiti in consultation with the investigating social workers
  • have the decision approved by a supervisor
  • record the rationale for the decision in CYRAS
  • communicate the decision and rationale with the caregiver, te tamaiti and the parents.

Transitioning between placements

If te tamaiti is moved but could return

We must put a plan in place to ensure safe contact can occur between te tamaiti and the caregiver to maintain the ongoing relationships

If the investigating social workers form a view during the course of the investigation or assessment that te tamaiti could safely return to the caregiver before the full assessment or investigation and review process is complete, we must:

  • base this decision on thorough assessment by the social worker for te tamaiti
  • discuss this with the caregiver social worker
  • agree the decision with the supervisor for the investigation and the caregiver social worker’s supervisor
  • record in CYRAS the rationale for the decision and the plan for keeping te tamaiti safe while in the placement
  • communicate the decision to the social worker for te tamaiti.

The social worker for te tamaiti is responsible for placement decisions, and te tamaiti may or may not return to the caregiver despite their availability.

The full assessment or investigation and the caregiver review must still be completed.

If te tamaiti will stay with the caregiver

We must:

  • base this decision on thorough assessment by the social worker for the tamaiti
  • have the decision approved by a supervisor
  • record in CYRAS the rationale for this decision and the plan for keeping the tamaiti safe while in the placement
  • communicate the decision to the caregiver, te tamaiti and the parents.

If at any time in the course of the investigation or assessment, the investigating social workers believe that the initial safety considerations for the tamaiti have changed, this must be acted upon.

Building safety

Support for te tamaiti

Throughout the investigation or assessment process, there must be ongoing communication with te tamaiti to ensure that they are kept informed and have opportunities to express their views.

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

Support for caregiver

While the safety and well-being of the child or young person is at the forefront of our response, we must preserve the dignity, integrity and well-being of the caregiving whānau.

When a caregiver is the subject of an allegation of abuse, neglect, or harm they must be supported during the investigation or assessment by:

  • their caregiver social worker if they are an Oranga Tamariki caregiver
  • their provider agency if they are a section 396 provider caregiver.

The level of support required will be led by the caregiver.

Support from the caregiver social worker

The caregiver social worker is not part of the investigation or assessment into the allegation but will be there to offer support to the caregiver. Support can be offered by:

  • explaining the process of investigation or assessment and any police processes
  • checking how the caregivers and their families are feeling and coping throughout the process
  • offering practical assistance
  • being available to the caregiver to answer questions about the process and what happens next.

Support from Fostering Kids NZ

Oranga Tamariki has a contract with Fostering Kids NZ to deliver support, information, and advice to caregivers who are the subject of an allegation of abuse, neglect, or harm.

When they are advised of the allegation, caregivers must be:

  • provided with written information about the allegation support service offered by Fostering Kids NZ
  • encouraged to make contact with Fostering Kids NZ as soon as they learn of an allegation on criticalsupport@fosteringkids.org.nz or 0800 693 278.

Fostering Kids NZ also have a lawyer available to advise caregivers if this is required.

Allegation support — Fostering Kids NZ

Other forms of support

Caregivers must also be encouraged to seek support from family/whānau, friends, and any other person or service they wish to nominate.

Oranga Tamariki staff must not provide support for caregivers during investigation interviews as this is a potential conflict of interest.

The need for support by a person of the same culture must be considered and facilitated if possible. An interpreter must be offered if required.

Outcome report

When the investigation or assessment is complete, the investigating social workers must write an outcome report where the allegations, investigation or assessment process, and the outcome are documented.

This report must outline:

  • the nature of the allegation
  • details of the investigation or assessment including relevant background information on the tamaiti and the caregiver
  • the assessment and analysis of the information gathered
  • the findings of the investigation or assessment.

The draft outcome report must be approved by the supervisor and given to the site manager for agreement in principle.

Providing caregivers with the draft outcome report

The supervisor must communicate the outcome to the caregiver verbally and/or provide a copy of the draft outcome report to the caregivers in the manner that they have requested (eg, email, post, courier, hand delivery). This must occur within 20 working days from the time the report of concern was made.

If the caregiver is:

  • being supported by Fostering Kids NZ, they can consent to a copy of the draft outcome report being provided directly to Fostering Kids NZ
  • approved by a section 396 provider, the provider must also be given a copy of this draft report.

Once the caregivers have had the opportunity to review the draft outcome report, they must be given the opportunity to provide comment and feedback by way of a meeting, telephone conversation, or in writing, whichever is their preference.

Along with the draft outcome report, the caregiver must be provided with:

  • the contact details of the staff they can provide feedback to
  • the date that feedback is required by.

Finalising the outcome report

Once feedback is received, the outcome report must be:

  1. finalised by the investigating social workers
  2. approved by their supervisor
  3. signed off by the site manager.

This must occur within 25 working days from the date the report of concern was received. The timeframe may be extended if the caregivers require more time to consider the draft report and provide feedback.

The finalised report must be provided to:

  • the caregiver
  • the site manager
  • the caregiver social worker
  • the social worker for te tamaiti
  • Fostering Kids NZ, where the caregivers have consented to this
  • section 396 providers, where applicable
  • the youth justice manager, where applicable
  • Regional Manager
  • Manager Caregiver Support

Template: Outcome report (DOCX 73 KB)

If our investigation is completed before the Police investigation

The interests of tamariki and caregivers are best served by a timely response from Oranga Tamariki and this should not be compromised to align with the Police timeframe. There will be instances when our investigation will be completed before the Police complete their criminal investigation into the allegation.

We must follow the Child Protection Protocol when working with Police, by:

  • keeping lines of communication open at all times
  • using the escalation process when needed.

Child protection protocol (CPP) (PDF 811 KB)

Timeframes

This timeframe is shorter than the usual investigation or assessment timeframe.

From the day the report of concern is received:

  • the investigation or assessment must be completed and the draft outcome report approved within 20 working days
  • the outcome report must be finalised by the investigating social workers and approved by their supervisor and site manager within 25 working days.

Extending the timeframe

The site manager can extend the timeframe for completing the investigation or assessment in exceptional circumstances.

A written document outlining the delay, the reason for the delay and a reasonable timeframe for the investigation or assessment to be completed must be provided to:

  • the caregiver
  • the regional manager
  • the section 396 provider, if the caregiver is a section 396 caregiver
  • Fostering Kids NZ if they're involved.

Te tamaiti must also be advised of any new timeframe. This also applies to the parents, unless a decision has been made to not inform them of the allegation.

Caregiver review

Once the outcome report is approved, the caregiver must have their caregiver approval status reviewed.

This will be completed by:

  • the caregiver social worker for Oranga Tamariki caregivers
  • section 396 providers for section 396 provider caregivers. They must provide a copy of their review report to Oranga Tamariki.

The review is informed by the findings of the investigation or assessment. It determines:

  • what happens with the caregiver’s approval status
  • any support or training needs.

Where te tamaiti has remained with, or is to return to, the caregiver, their social worker must also be consulted regarding the specific needs of te tamaiti.

Caregiver review meetings

The review report

The review report must:

  • include recommendations regarding the caregiver’s approval status
  • outline any actions required by the caregiver or support needs for the specific tamaiti.

You can also make recommendations on the types of tamariki placed with the caregiver.

Providing the report to the caregiver

Within 10 working days of the date the outcome report was approved, the caregiver social worker must:

  • communicate the outcome of the review to the caregiver verbally, and/or
  • provide a copy of the draft review report to the caregivers in the manner that they have requested (eg email, post, courier, hand delivery).

If the caregiver is being supported by Fostering Kids NZ, they can consent to a copy of the draft review report being provided directly to Fostering Kids NZ.

Along with the draft review report, the caregiver must be provided with:

  • the contact details of the staff they can provide feedback to
  • the date that feedback is required by.

Once the caregivers have had the opportunity to consider the draft review report, they must be given the opportunity to provide comment and feedback by way of a meeting, telephone conversation, or in writing, whichever is their preference.

Finalising the review report

Once the feedback from the caregivers has been received, the review report must be finalised within 15 working days of the date the outcome report was approved.

The timeframe can be extended if the caregivers require more time to consider the draft report and provide feedback.

The caregiver’s CYRAS record will also be updated to reflect the outcome of the review.

For Oranga Tamariki caregivers, the site manager must then provide them with a letter confirming the outcome of the review within 5 working days of receiving the finalised report.

The site manager can extend timeframes for the review in exceptional circumstances. In such cases, the caregiver must be informed about the delay, the reason for the delay, and provided with a reasonable timeframe to expect the review to be completed.

Post-review actions

If the caregiver’s approval status does not change but they have tasks to undertake

The caregiver social worker must monitor the completion of these and ensure they are completed within the expected timeframe.

If additional support is to be provided to support the caregiver and/or te tamaiti

This plan will be clearly recorded and monitored by both the caregiver social worker and the social worker for te tamaiti to ensure the support is provided and is adequate to meet the needs of te tamaiti.

If the caregiver is reassessed by a section 396 provider

The provider is responsible for ensuring that any tasks and additional support is put in place and that a copy of the review report is provided to their local Social Service Accreditation Assessor. The Social Service Accreditation Assessor is responsible for ensuring that any identified tasks are completed. The social worker for te tamaiti may also ask the provider for confirmation that the identified tasks have been completed or are underway.

Recording requirements

When the allegation is received, we must change the caregiver's status to 'under investigation' on their CYRAS record.

We must also:

  • record the outcome report and review report on the caregiver’s CYRAS record and paper file
  • change the caregiver’s status to reflect the final outcome of the review.

On the CYRAS record of te tamaiti, we must:

  • record the new report of concern/investigation or assessment
  • make sure the caregiver's details are recorded as "primary caregiver" — including section 396 provider caregivers.

Section 396 providers must provide Oranga Tamariki with a copy of the review report for their caregivers. We must record this in CYRAS.