Assessment and decision making — Policy

Updated: 01 April 2017

What's Important To Us

Assessment is central to all social work activity. It is the process of understanding the risks, challenges and achievements for mokopuna [1] and family/whānau we work with. Assessment is not an isolated event but a continual process of noticing, making sense of and responding to change and progress.

Assessment provides us with a roadmap for change. It helps us work with mokopuna, their families/whānau and other professionals involved in their lives. It informs quality decision making and planning for mokopuna, provides the focus for our interventions and keeps everyone on track.

We work in culturally responsive ways, seeking family/whānau-led solutions and collaborating with other agencies and professionals to improve outcomes for mokopuna. At all times mokopuna are at the centre of our work; they have the right to participate and express their views about actions or decisions that significantly affect them, and to have their views taken into account.

[1] Mokopuna describes descendent rather than being translated as a grandchild and does not denote gender or age. Mokopuna can be defined as “a reflection of one’s ancestors”, emphasising descent lines. Mokopuna in the context of the core business for Oranga Tamariki is about children and young people

This policy outlines the practice and process requirements for quality assessment and decision making, to ensure that every mokopuna who comes to our attention has a response that is unique to their needs, strengths, risks and circumstances.

Working with mokopuna and whānau Māori is a priority for Oranga Tamariki progressed through Te Toka Tumoana and considered alongside this policy.

Working with Māori - Te Toka Tumoana — Policy

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Tuituia needs, strengths and risks assessment

Assessing the needs, strengths and risks for mokopuna referred to Oranga Tamariki occurs at all stages of our work - from intake to case closure, informing planning and review, placement decisions and ongoing work with mokopuna, their family/whānau, caregivers and other agencies. The Tuituia assessment considers the needs, strengths and risks for a mokopuna, and their parents/caregivers.

The Tuituia assessment framework must be used to guide the assessment. Refer to the Tuituia assessment framework guidelines and the CYRAS handbook for guidance on the use of the framework and recording tool.

Resource: The Tuituia assessment framework guidelines

All assessment activity must involve direct contact with mokopuna, their parents/caregivers, significant family/whānau members and other professionals working with them and their family/whānau.

All work undertaken must be guided by the six elements of quality assessment:

  • is child centred and young person focused
  • is timely and has purpose
  • gathers relevant information
  • is free from bias
  • includes careful analysis
  • is recorded clearly in a useful manner.

Elements of quality assessment (PDF 334 KB)

It is the responsibility of every social worker and supervisor to be familiar with the elements and to evidence them in the written assessment.

The case evaluation tool (CET) guidance notes outlines each element in detail, including how to evidence each element and how to assess the quality of the work. The CET was designed to support reflective practice in both care and protection and youth justice assessments. The case evaluation tool can be used by:

  • social workers and supervisors to peer review work
  • supervisors as a guide when approving assessments
  • practice leaders and managers to provide more formal quality assurance of assessment practice.

Case evaluation tool (CET) guidance notes (PDF 777 KB)

Depth and breadth of the assessment

Assessment is central to all social work activity, occurring at all stages of our work – from intake to case closure. While the framework for assessment is the same for all mokopuna, the assessment itself is not.

The depth and breadth of the assessment must be tailored according to the purpose of the assessment, the nature of the concerns, the unique circumstances of each mokopuna and the context of our engagement with them.

The new 'subsequent children' provisions clarify and strengthen our obligations when we receive information (Reports of Concern) about people who meet these criteria. They are particularly high risk and we are required to undertake specific assessment of their risk of harming a 'subsequent child' in the same way as they harmed the previous child/mokopuna. The new provisions place a legal onus on the parents to demonstrate that they are unlikely to inflict this harm. The criteria is tightly specified for both the identification of these people and the assessment and information that must go to Family Court.

When a report of concern is received where a person involved meets the criteria of s18B, and as a consequence an s18A assessment is required, we must give specific attention to assessing and analysing the likelihood that the parent will inflict, or allow, the harm caused the previous child or young person to occur again with the subsequent child. A section 18A assessment is required when this person is or will become the parent of a subsequent child and have their care or custody. Section 18A requires that the assessment of that parent be brought to the attention of the Family Court, regardless of the outcome of the assessment.

It is the responsibility of the social worker in conjunction with their supervisor to determine the scope of any assessment undertaken. This means that there is a planned approach to the assessment where we outline the purpose of that assessment, the domain areas to be explored, the depth to which they are explored and how and from whom the information will be gathered.

For mokopuna who offend, all the dynamic risk factors must be explored across both the Mokopuna Ora and Kaitiaki Mokopuna dimensions.

The recording tool has been designed to enable the assessment to be added to and updated at any point as information is gathered.

Mokopuna must be given reasonable opportunities to freely express their views and be supported if they have difficulty in doing so. Any views expressed must be recorded in the 'child or young person’s views' section of the Tuituia report assessment.

When assessment and a report is required

Assessment informs quality decision making, planning and review for mokopuna. Therefore assessment will be undertaken and a Tuituia report completed and approved by a supervisor, at the following points:

Care and protection

  • undertaking a care and protection assessment (investigation or child and family assessment), including when a parent meets the criteria for s18B and s18A (subsequent child provisions)
  • entering into a family/whānau agreement – the report completed at the conclusion of the investigation or child and family assessment may be sufficient for this purpose and so a further report would not be required. It should be clear from the report that this is the agreed mechanism for addressing the concerns
  • referring for a care and protection family group conference - with the content of the report tailored for this purpose and the assessment updated with information gathered in preparation for the conference
  • when a social work report and plan is required in the Family Court
  • when reviewing a plan (via Court, a family group conference or family/whānau agreement)
  • when making placement decisions, including a return home. Refer to Returning mokopuna safely home for further guidance
  • when referring for a residential or high needs placement (hub referral) – with the assessment updated and the content of the report tailored for this purpose
  • prior to discharge from a residence or high needs placement - this is a major change in circumstances for mokopuna and requires the assessment of their needs, strengths and risks to be current, formally recorded and used to inform the next step
  • prior to case closure if this is outside the cycle of a plan review.

Key information: Returning children and young people safely home

Youth justice

  • prior to a youth justice family group conference for all mokopuna aged 10 to 13 years
  • prior to a youth justice family group conference for mokopuna placed on s238(1)(d) custody for a period of at least 72 hours
  • prior to a youth justice family group conference for mokopuna who also have current care and protection involvement
  • any other mokopuna where the pre-family group conference case consultation considers it necessary – this decision is recorded in the offending profile. Refer to Convening the youth justice family group conference policy for further guidance
  • when a social work report and plan is required for a formal Youth Court order
  • when a progress report (s308C) for a Supervision or Supervision with Activity Order to the Youth Court is required
  • on entry to a residence under a s311 Supervision with Residence Order
  • prior to discharge from a residence or high needs placement (other than custodial remands).

Convening the youth justice family group conference — Policy

Note: This is not an exhaustive list and there may be others times when the assessment and report is required to support a particular action or decision:

Recording the Tuituia assessment

The Tuituia assessment recording tool is where the social worker records their analysis of the needs, strengths and risks for the mokopuna and their parents/caregivers. The recording tool is available for use as soon as a mokopuna is entered as a client in CYRAS and can be added to and updated at any time throughout the life of the case.

The assessment must be kept up to date throughout the duration of the case.

It is not mandatory to use the assessment recording tool if the decision at the safety and risk screen is No Further Action (NFA) or Partnered Response (PR). However, a report must be completed.

Tuituia assessment flowchart (DOCX 283 KB)

The Tuituia report is the formal record of the assessment. The report has been designed to be multi-functional, enabling the assessment to be used at various points in the case. The content of the report can and should be tailored according to the purpose for which it is being used.

Some sections of the report are populated directly from information recorded in the assessment recording tool. Refer to the Tuituia Report Guidelines for detailed information on each section of the report and how it can be tailored.

Tuituia report guidelines (PDF 529 KB)

When the report is approved by a supervisor it creates a snapshot of the Tuituia assessment and ‘files’ it as a locked record in CYRAS. By creating a locked record of the assessment it enables comparisons to be made between two points in time.

The allocated social worker is responsible for recording and updating the Tuituia assessment and completing the assessment report in consultation with other government and non-government professionals working with the mokopuna, such as a care provider social worker, programme provider case worker or health and education professional.

Where a mokopuna has more than one allocated Oranga Tamariki social worker and/or residential case leader, they will work together to ensure the Tuituia assessment is current and relevant and fully reflects the circumstances for the mokopuna at that time.

Key and co social worker roles (PDF 141 KB)

Care and protection pathway decision making

Decision response

On receipt of a report of concern, the intake decision response guidelines must be followed to determine the appropriate pathway and time frame for response. Where the report of concern was received at the National Contact Centre, the site will use these guidelines to confirm or amend the response and time frame.

Resource: Intake decision response guidelines

The rationale for each decision must be recorded in CYRAS and approved by a supervisor.

When a care and protection assessment is for a subsequent child

The subsequent child provisions remind us that we need to be alert to people who have caused harm to children and young people in the past. The particular purpose of the s18A-D provisions is to ‘fast track’ the assessment of children who are born into a home where either parent or step-parent has caused the death of their mokopuna person or has had their mokopuna permanently removed from their care.

The s18A assessment is of that parent or step-parent who is providing or sharing the responsibility for the day to day care of a 'subsequent child'. These provisions were never intended to be applied widely. Therefore we have tight criteria for identification of this group and tight criteria for the report to court.

The level of specificity reflects the caution and careful consideration given to placing these matters before the Court on a presumption of the mokopuna being in need of care and protection without the FGC being held or other options pursued prior to that action. This is a clear signal of the desire for the Court to have oversight of these particular cases, and being involved in decisions about the appropriateness of that person having another mokopuna in their care.

Understanding what led to the removal of the mokopuna with no prospect of return, or death of a previous mokopuna, is required to determine the risks and needs for any 'subsequent child' cared for by the same person. It is also required to help us understand what help and support someone may need to parent safely in the future.

When a report of concern is made, and one or both of the parents meet the criteria of s18B, consideration must be given to whether an assessment must be completed as per s18A. The assessment uses the Tuituia framework as the guide, with particular attention to the Kaitiaki Mokopuna domain. Explore and understand all aspects of the parent’s behaviour in respect of the previous mokopuna.

Resource: Subsequent children s18B criteria

Pay specific attention to:

  • the circumstances of the previous child or young person’s case
  • the environment and triggers of the previous abuse or neglect
  • and how the parent’s behaviour or circumstances have changed, or not, since then.

For specific guidance to support this analysis, refer to: Key information: Subsequent children: s18A assessment by social worker

When the assessment is completed, the information gathered must be considered and analysed to form a belief about the likelihood (or not) of the kind of harm previously demonstrated, being repeated with the subsequent child.

The solicitor will help ensure the focus of the court documents meets the requirements of s18A in addressing the ‘kind of harm’; defining the role of parent or step-parent; and ensuring that the person meets the s18B criteria.

If the assessment reveals other concerns these must be dealt with in the usual way, and not included in the application to Court in respect of the s18A matters.

The social worker can only make either an application for declaration (s67) on grounds of s14(1)(ba) - the subsequent child grounds - or they will seek confirmation of the decision not to apply for an application (s18C).

Site Managers must allocate the right staff to undertake these assessments, work with solicitors and prepare Court documents.

The National Contact Centre will highlight, after reviewing the CYRAS history, if they believe a parent might meet the criteria for s18B (but is not already flagged), for the site to confirm and take the appropriate action.

In summary we must:

  • identify people who we know, or are notified, meet the criteria of s18B (S18B applies to a person when:
    • they have been convicted of the murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a child or young person they had custody or care of at the time of the child or young person’s death (s18B(1)(a)); or
    • they have had a previous child removed from their care with no realistic prospect of a return home (s18B(1)(b)). Where a child has been removed, this is further defined as:
      • a court declaration or FGC agreement made that the child or young person is in need of care or protection under section 14 (1)(a) or (b); and
      • and an order made under s101 or s110 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 or s48 of the Care of Children Act; and
      • a FGC or Court decision that there is no realistic prospect that the child or young person will be returned to the person’s care.)
  • assess these people when s18A criteria is met (we are notified they are parenting another child (under 14yrs), and they are not exempt because we have previously assess them as unlikely to inflict harm)
  • answer two questions for Court; that the person meets the s18B criteria, and whether they are likely to inflict or allow the kind of harm experienced by the previous child or young person
  • apply, on the basis of the assessment, for either a declaration under s67 or confirmation not to apply for a declaration
  • not hold a FGC prior to applying for a declaration
  • hold a FGC, as directed by court, where the Court is considering an application for declaration
  • ensure the written reasons provided by the court are considered in the FGC (where the court declined our application for confirmation not to apply for a declaration
  • ensure an appropriate person is designated by the site manager to represent the application for declaration and written reasons for FGC
  • ensure only designated staff update the s18B status on CYRAS (supervisor, solicitor)

More information about the subsequent child provisions can be found here:

Key information: Assessing safety and wellbeing when parents or caregivers have lost the care of other mokopuna

Subsequent children - a step-by-step guide (PDF 419 KB)

When a mokopuna is in hospital with a suspected non-accidental injury

When a report of concern is received about a mokopuna person who has been hospitalised with a suspected non-accidental injury and the perpetrator is unknown, consideration will be given to the immediate application for a Place of Safety warrant or other legal order to secure their safety. This decision will be made in consultation with a supervisor and/or practice leader, site solicitor and appropriate health representative. If custody is required and granted the social worker is to ensure that appropriate supervised security and supervised contact arrangements are implemented.

A multi-disciplinary process for decision making and planning must commence within 24 hours of the mokopuna being admitted to hospital. A plan will be developed prior to discharge which outlines: who will care for the mokopuna; how safety will be addressed and health needs responded to; the provision of required supports; roles and responsibilities of professionals; and the process for monitoring and review.

Key information: Multi-agency safety planning

Neglect of medical care

There may be times where concerns are raised about the care that a mokopuna is receiving in relation to their health needs, including dental issues. In these instances work alongside health practitioners will be required to address these concerns as they are frequently very complex in terms of medical needs and social concerns.

When you think you may be dealing with neglect of medical care, refer to the neglect of medical care guidelines. These set out the agreement between District Health Boards (DHB), Oranga Tamariki and the Police relating to the management of these cases.

Neglect of medical care guidelines (PDF 624 KB)

Definition of neglect of medical care

  1. Several factors are considered necessary for the diagnosis of medical neglect:
    • A mokopuna is harmed or is at risk of harm because of lack of health care (including care for dental and hearing problems).
    • The recommended health care offers significant net benefit to the mokopuna.
    • The anticipated benefit of treatment is significantly greater than its morbidity, so that reasonable caregivers would choose treatment over non-treatment.
    • It can be demonstrated that access to health care is available, but not used.
    • The caregiver understands the medical advice given.

      See 'Recognising and Responding to Medical Neglect in Paediatrics Vol. 120 #6 December 2007 - Carole Jenny MD, M' for more information.

  2. Neglect of medical care (including dental health and hearing problems), usually takes one of two forms and either of these situations has the potential to cause harm, lead to chronic disability, or be fatal:
    • Failure to heed obvious signs of serious illness.
    • Failure to follow the health care plan from the Health Care Team, once medical advice has been sought.

It is critical to understand why parents are appearing to resist and/or not engage with the recommended treatment plan and evidence this is your Tuituia assessment. There could be a number of reasons that parents do not follow through on the treatment plan and this should be fully understood prior to considering their behaviours as neglect of medical care.

Reasons for not following the treatment plan could include:

  • not understanding the need for the treatment and the consequences for the mokopuna of not receiving this treatment (interpreter or support person may be required or perhaps a fuller explanation of the presenting issues for the mokopuna)
  • difficulty with transport to appointment
  • financial barriers to getting the treatment
  • not being aware of appointments
  • cultural or religious objections to the treatment plan i.e. blood transfusions, surgery
  • not believing that the recommended treatment option is in the best interests of their mokopuna
  • choosing an alternative treatment plan.

Once the reasons have been fully explored and a belief is formed that neglect of medical care is occurring, this guideline should be implemented.

Offending profile

An offending profile is an initial screen and recording tool for a mokopuna who has offended. It helps to decide if further assessment is required.

The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for ensuring that the offending profile:

  • is prepared for, and completed at the pre-family group conference case consultation
  • is made available to the youth justice supervisor, social worker (where allocated), residential case leader (where the mokopuna is in residence) and others as required by the circumstances of the mokopuna, prior to the pre-family group conference case consultation.

An offending profile will be completed and recorded in CYRAS:

  • the first time a mokopuna is referred or directed for a youth justice family group conference
  • if a mokopuna reoffends and the offending profile is three or more months old.

The youth justice family group conference case consultation

The case consultation is an initial planning meeting in which the actions that need to be taken to prepare for the family group conference and the people who need to be involved, are identified.

A pre-family group conference case consultation is required for every mokopuna referred for a youth justice family group conference. The offending profile and other relevant information about the mokopuna are brought to the youth justice pre-family group conference case consultation.

The case consultation must be completed within five working days after the referral or direction for family group conference is received.

The decision as to whether a Tuituia assessment is required must be made at the case consultation.

The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for recording that decision and any other outcomes of the case consultation in the offending profile on CYRAS.

Information must be sought from the care and protection co-ordinator if a care and protection family group conference is being convened or has been recently completed for the mokopuna.

The case consultation will be attended by:

  • the youth justice co-ordinator and the youth justice supervisor
  • the care and protection social worker, care and protection supervisor and practice leader - where there is recent or current care and protection involvement for the mokopuna
  • the residential case leader - where a mokopuna is in a residence

The practice leader will chair the consultation for all children who offend and dual-status young people.

Convening the youth justice family group conference — Policy

Key information: the youth justice pre-family group conference case consultation

Child/young person and family consult

The consult supports decision making at any point in the social work assessment, planning, intervention and review process. The consult must be used at the following points:

  • during the care and protection assessment (child and family assessment or investigation) to inform the analysis and next steps
  • for all mokopuna (aged 10 - 13 years) who offend
  • for all mokopuna (aged 14 - 16) who offend and who have a care and protection intervention which is current or has been active within the last three months
  • when removal from or return home is considered
  • as the framework for the professionals meeting held when returning a mokopuna home.

Resource: Child/young person and family consult guidelines

Specialist assessments and screens

There are a range of specialist assessments, tools and screens which are used by social workers. Where a Tuituia assessment is recorded the information obtained must be used to inform the assessment and scaling. Specialist assessments and screens include:

Gateway assessments (care and protection)

A referral for a Gateway assessment must be made for every mokopuna who enters care under sections 78, 101, 102, 110(2)(a), or 140 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. Gateway assessment referrals may also be made for children and young people when:

  • they are already in the care of Oranga Tamariki but have not yet had a Gateway assessment
  • prior to a care and protection family group conference being convened - a Gateway assessment will help clarify and identify ways to address their health and education needs.

Gateway health assessments and education profiles

Information for parents about gateway assessments. (PDF 2.6 MB)

Information for caregivers about gateway assessments. (PDF 1.1 MB)

Education screens and health and education assessments (youth justice)

An education screen must be completed for every mokopuna referred for a youth justice family group conference.

Key information: The education screen

If the screen recommends further assessment, consent must be sought from the mokopuna to make a referral for an education assessment completed by an educational psychologist from Group Special Education.

Where health concerns are held for a mokopuna, consent must be sought from the mokopuna to make a referral for a health assessment to be completed by an approved youth justice health assessor.

The health and education assessment programme (DOC 99 KB)

The youth justice co-ordinator must seek the support of a family member for the mokopuna during the assessment process.

When a mokopuna who offends is brought into the care of the chief executive under sections 78,101,102,110(2)(a) 139 and 140 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 prior to the family group conference being held, the decision to proceed with either a Gateway assessment or health and education assessments will be made at the pre-family group conference case consultation. The most appropriate course of action to meet the needs of the mokopuna must be implemented.

Suicide, psychological distress and substance abuse (SKS)

The following screens will be used by Oranga Tamariki staff trained in their use:

  • Kessler and Suicide Screens: to screen for psychological distress and suicide
  • Substances and Choices Scale (SACS): to screen for substance abuse.

The screens are designed for use with mokopuna aged 12 years and over. If you have a concern regarding suicide for a child under 12 years or a mokopuna with an intellectual disability, talk to your local Towards Wellbeing advisor before applying the screens.

Key information: Using the Substance Abuse and Choices Scale (SACS) and suicide screening/assessment tools

These screens must be used when:

  • mental health, suicide, and/or substance use are potential concerns
  • significant events, trauma, behaviours and/or risk factors are present
  • when a mokopuna is held in Police custody
  • when a mokopuna enters a residence, and at any time during the residential stay when the mental health of a mokopuna is identified as a concern or potential concern.

However, the use of these screening tools is not required where:

  • a recent assessment has been undertaken by a mental health or alcohol and drug service provider that details the current level of assessed risk of suicide and/or self-harm


  • this assessment has been recorded on CYRAS


  • there has been no significant change to the circumstances for the mokopuna since that assessment was completed.

Even in these instances, consultation with a Towards Wellbeng advisor should still occur and this contact should be recorded on CYRAS.

Working with Pacific Peoples

Va’aifetu has been developed in response to calls from Pacific communities for us to do better for Pacific children and families that come to the notice of our service. In setting us this challenge, community leaders, elders, Pacific academics, and professionals in the non-government sector walked alongside our Pacific practitioners to ensure this package of knowledge represented important Pacific values, realities and world views in a meaningful way.

Va’aifetu is a practical guide on how to integrate culture into practice. It contains eight specific cultural frameworks to guide social work practice with children, young people and families of Cook Island, Niuean, Fijian (iTuakei), Indian-Fijian, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan and Tuvaluan cultures. The frameworks and practice guidance are shaped around relational principles particular to each culture, child rights and human rights principles.

When to use Va'aifetu

  • Va’aifetu must be used when working with Pacific families alongside existing practice tools as part of best practice
  • The application of Va’aifetu must be reflected in case records
  • Application is to be woven through the Assess-Plan-Implement-Review cycle.