Subsequent children: s18A assessment by social worker

What's Important To Us

Evidence shows that past behaviour is often a good predictor of future behaviour. There is significant risk of harm to mokopuna who are parented by someone who has had a child or young person previously removed due to abuse or neglect, or who has been convicted of the murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a previous child or young person in their care or custody.

The subsequent child sections (s18A-s18D) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 provide for greater oversight from the Family Court to help ensure children’s safety and wellbeing when parents have had previous children permanently removed due to abuse or neglect, or have been convicted of causing the death of a child they cared for.

In these situations, it is assumed any subsequent child these parents are caring for is in need of care or protection. In your care and protection assessment, completed through working closely with the parents, you need to decide whether the subsequent child is or isn’t safe with their parent. You then need to report this to the court.

This resource is designed to be used alongside the resources for Tuituia to assist social workers to complete a thorough assessment which will meet the requirements of the legislation relating to subsequent children.

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Assessment overview

Alongside the full and thorough assessment, as guided by the Tuituia assessment framework, there are some specific areas to address when assessing a subsequent child (aged 0-13 years).

Further information about the wider assessment can be found in Assessing safety and wellbeing when parents or caregivers have lost the care of other mokopuna

The key question the social worker must consider is whether or not the parent is likely to inflict the kind of harm on this subsequent child as they inflicted, or allowed to be inflicted, on the previous child. The test cannot be more onerous than that. This question does not ask for the parent to be safe in all respects. If there are other matters of concern, outside the kind of harm relating to the s18A assessment, these need to be addressed in the usual way, with options including non-formal resolution.

The assessment must identify:

  • how the parent meets the criteria for s18B (evidence of declaration or FGC agreement, relevant order made, and decision of no return home); and
  • that they are in fact the parent of the subsequent child (‘parent’ as defined by the Act, and they have, or are likely to have care or custody of the child); and
  • what was the specific kind of harm inflicted or allowed to be inflicted on the previous child.

You will need access to the previous child’s assessment and court decisions. What was the nature of the harm the parent inflicted or allowed to be inflicted on the previous child? Was it physical, emotional or sexual harm or neglect?

The circumstances at the time of that harm provides you with the context to compare to the current situation and determine what is different. The guidance in the Tuituia domains below is designed to assist with that.

Work closely with your site solicitor to ensure this is adequately identified and addressed in the assessment.

The principles of the CYP&F Act apply to every assessment and outcome decision. You should be able to access the full range of outcome options for any other matters, regardless of the court’s consideration of the subsequent child matters. Where decisions are clear, take the opportunity to use the early access to court to secure the necessary orders. An application for declaration will not necessarily result in care orders.

As the court is specifically dealing with the subsequent child matters, the Tuituia assessment and report are completed as usual but are not filed in court as they may contain matters outside of the court’s remit.

The s18A specific information and analysis in Tuituia can be copied into the ‘s18A Assessment by social worker’ court template. This information and analysis will form the basis for your application and affidavit. If requested, the stand-alone s18A assessment can also be provided to the court.

Kaitiaki Mokopuna

Safe parenting factors (mental health, intellectual functioning, offending, personal resilience, physical health, substance abuse). The following factors are to be assessed:

  • Do both parents meet the criteria of s18B? If one parent does not, is that parent fully aware of the past concerns, and can they act protectively, or do they minimise or deny the risk?
  • Does the parent who meets the s18B criteria accept responsibility for the previous abuse/neglect? Explore parental remorse related to the previous child’s experience.
  • If substance abuse was a factor in the past harm, what is its intensity (frequency, severity and impact) now compared with the past?
  • If mental health or intellectual disability was a factor in the past harm, what is the degree to which this affects the parents’ ability to provide care for the child now, and how does this compare with the past? Has anything changed?
  • Have there been convictions for family violence and/or engagement in programmes to address this? Are there protection orders in place?
  • Does the parent hold a position of responsibility or authority? How do they use their power over others?

Safety and basic care (protecting from harm and risk). The following factors are to be assessed:

  • Do the parents have a plan/strategy to ensure the safety of the child? Who else is involved in their safety plan for current/future children?
  • Are there strategies for managing any relapse?
  • Are there other adults present in the home? What is their role with the family, parent and child? Are they a protective factor?
  • Where there is/was family violence, is there a clear safety plan? Can it work for the child/children?

Relationship with the child or young person (view of the child or young person; emotional interaction). The following factors are to be assessed:

  • What are the parent’s role and responsibilities with the child? A clear understanding of this is important, especially in step-parent situations.
  • Was the interaction between parent and child a concern in the past? Observe the current interaction between parent and child – what, if anything, has changed?
  • How does the child view their parent? Talk to the child about this (in an age appropriate way).
  • If the subsequent child is not yet born, what is the parent’s attitude to the pregnancy? Does the pregnancy closely follow the removal of a previous child?

Skills and knowledge (knowledge; parenting skills; willingness and capacity to change). The following factors are to be assessed:

  • What was the previous harm and the context in which it occurred, and how has the context changed? For example, how long ago did it occur, were there any triggers for the abuse etc?
  • What was the age of the parent at the time the previous child was removed? This should be considered alongside the parent’s current age. Maturity needs to be evidenced by new strategies, improved self-awareness etc.
  • What is the parent’s current attitude to learning and change? If they have changed how was that achieved, what did they do? Has changed occurred because the parent consciously sought to change? (also see ‘additional information’ table below) How will they maintain the change? You can use the previous child’s Tuituia or other assessments to compare.

Te Ao Hurihuri

Networks of support (social and community relationships; cultural connectedness and supports; community services and resources). The assessment should include: detail of access to and use of networks of support (see ‘additional information’ table below); detail of previous programme involvement, including type of programme, attendance, engagement, completion.
The following is to be assessed:

  • Is the parent engaged with a clinician or other professional?
  • Is the parent willing to seek a report from the provider or professional? If not, why not?
  • Discuss the information gathered with the parent - how do they respond? Are they defensive or reflective? Do they blame others or accept responsibility?

Resources available (housing, financial resources, employment). The following is to be assessed:

  • What are the external stressors and how do they impact upon parenting and safety? The stressors may include financial, housing or employment stressors, living with disability, elderly care, migrant/refugee status etc. Stress can trigger dangerous behaviour so explore the parent’s coping strategies.

Family/whānau, hapu iwi (extended family connections and relationships, family/whānau history and functioning). The following is to be assessed:

  • Does the parent’s own history influence their behaviour, functioning or beliefs? This is especially important if the parent has experienced abuse or trauma themselves. Can the parent reflect on their past experiences and how do they manage this?
  • What is the parent’s support network; is it pro-social or anti-social? Include religious, community, interest group/clubs, and iwi. Does the parent affiliate to a gang (gang culture may reinforce violence, or substance use approaches to resolving problems)?
  • Does the parent’s family/whānau support them? Are they aware of the past concerns? Have they colluded with past abuse or acted protectively?

Mokopuna Ora

The following is to be assessed:

  • Is the subsequent child aware (if age appropriate) of a sibling removed from their parent’s care? What are their views on this? Do they feel safe?
  • Do the subsequent child and previous child have any relationship/attachment?
  • Does the subsequent child have a support network and positive adults they can trust? Will that network act protectively if needed?
  • How is the subsequent child similar or different to the previous child in terms of vulnerabilities and strengths?
  • If appropriate, comment on the current wellbeing of the previous child (if the previous child is still involved with the parent).

Additional information

Probation Request

Agency

Information to be requested to assist the assessment

Oranga Tamariki

Recall all/any TRIM files and thoroughly review the CYRAS history. Request legal files to ensure that the parent meets the s18B criteria (copies required of declaration/order/ no return home decision for previous child - if already flagged, the required documents will be attached to the previous child’s record).

Police and Probation

Request copy of the Police record for the parent, including any family violence incidents as well as convictions.

For parents who meet the criteria for s18B(1)(a) (convicted of the murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a child in their care at the time of death), request information from Probation about any parole conditions, and progress since conviction and/or release from prison.

S66 applies – information will assist in determining whether there are care or protection concerns under s14(1)(ba) and this information will contribute to proceedings.

Health

General health

The parent should request a report from their GP for relevant medical information – consider whether Oranga Tamariki will cover the cost of this. The report should focus on any issues related to the parent’s previous history with abuse of child(ren) – if necessary, the social worker can write to the GP to outline what is required.

Drug and alcohol (if an issue with previous child)

The parent should request a report from their drug and alcohol service provider. The report will cover start and end date of the involvement, details of the services provided, the level of engagement of parent, any progress/change made, and details of any concerns.

Consider the need for a drug screen (cost to be covered by Oranga Tamariki).

Mental health (if an issue with previous child)

The parent should request a report from their mental health service provider. The report will cover start and end dates of the involvement, details of the services provided, the level of engagement of parent and any progress/change made, and details of any concerns.

If the parent is unwilling to request any reports, section 66 applies if the provider is a government agency. Information will assist in determining whether there are care or protection concerns under s14(1)(ba) and this information will contribute to proceedings - therefore, the social worker can request the report.

Community/social service providers, NGOsiwi The and iwi

The parent should request a report from any relevant community/social service provider, NGO or iwi involved with the parent (and child if relevant) eg Plunket, Family Start, Barnadoes.

The report needs to detail the start and end date of the involvement, details of the services provided, any changes the parent has made and/or results achieved, and should include any residual concerns.

Others – personal support network testimonials/referees

The parent can ask any family/whānau member, community member (eg church leader or tutor) or friend who is willing to provide a character reference.