Upcoming changes for this policy
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 policy. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice shift
Change made to policy
We have a separate policy covering casework responsibilities if a prospective caregiver, or a prospective provisional caregiver, lives in a different area from te tamaiti.
Policy: Casework responsibilities when our work involves more than 1 site
Who this policy applies to
This policy applies to all people wanting to provide care on behalf of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive or to adopt a tamaiti.
Who this policy doesn’t apply to
This policy doesn’t apply:
- to prospective caregivers of a section 396 provider care partner, who go through the provider’s assessment and approval process
- when te tamaiti is returning to the care of a birth parent, or the person that had the direct care of te tamaiti before they were placed in the custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive – in these cases a parenting assessment is completed
- to independent living arrangements.
The purpose of the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant assessment
The purpose of assessing a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant and their household is to enable us to determine their suitability to provide care.
We must consider their ability to:
- provide an appropriate standard of care for te tamaiti
- provide a safe, stable, and loving home for te tamaiti
- respond to the needs and advance the wellbeing of te tamaiti
- value te tamaiti for who they are and promote and support their identity and aspirations
- support te tamaiti to maintain and strengthen their whakapapa connections
- recognise and support the practice of whanaungatanga in relation to te tamaiti
- provide a new family for a tamaiti in need of adoption.
When a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant assessment must be completed
Caregivers must be assessed and approved as suitable to provide care on behalf of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive before tamariki can be placed with them.
In urgent situations, this may be a provisional assessment.
Adoptive applicants must be assessed and approved before a social worker can:
- offer their profile to birth parents considering adoption
- issue a placement approval that enables the lawful placement of a tamaiti in a home for the purposes of adoption
- assemble an inter-country adoption home study.
An adoptive applicant must be assessed, but not necessarily approved, in order to provide a report to the Family Court pursuant to the Adoption Act 1955.
We must complete the assessment and approval process within 90 calendar days of the date the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant confirms they want to proceed with a full assessment.
If this timeframe can't be met, you must record the reason in a casenote on the prospective caregiver’s or adoptive applicant’s CYRAS record.
Assessing the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant and their household
We must assess the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant and their household as a whole.
We must assess:
- the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant’s experience, skills (including understanding trauma) and attitudes relevant to their ability to provide safe, stable, loving care
- the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant’s ability to respond to the needs, and advance the wellbeing of a tamaiti
- the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant’s cultural competency, including their ability and willingness to promote and support cultural identity and connections for te tamaiti and ability to foster and support whanaungatanga
- the needs, strengths and circumstances of the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant and their household
- the safety, adequacy and appropriateness of the physical caregiving environment – their willingness and capacity to provide a smoke and vape free environment must be included in a home visit
- what support and capability building the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant and their household might need to help them provide care.
The assessment must also consider:
- the types of care the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant is seeking to provide
- the needs of the particular tamaiti being placed or considered for adoption — if there is an identified tamaiti in mind
- the likely effects on te tamaiti and the household if te tamaiti is placed with a particular household, including the effect on other tamariki within the home.
If the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant is in a different area from te tamaiti, we must work together to ensure that the caregiver assessment is completed.
Information for prospective caregivers
We must ensure that information is provided to prospective caregivers.
This will enable them and their household to understand:
- the criteria and process for the assessment and approval of caregivers
- the level of care expected from the caregiver and what will happen if it’s not provided
- the impact that caregiving may have on the caregiver’s life and household, including their tamariki
- the support, training and resources that will be available to the caregiver, including information about what financial support and respite care is available
- why they must inform us whenever there is a significant change in their circumstances or their household
- that the best interests of te tamaiti are our primary focus when we make decisions that affect them
- the need for connection between te tamaiti and their family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group and how this will be facilitated
- the effects of trauma on the behaviour and development of te tamaiti
- appropriate ways to respond to difficult and challenging behaviours
- available services or other means to support recovery and prevent further trauma
- the effects of trauma on family/whānau, hapū, iwi
- the importance of the views of te tamaiti and their participation in making decisions that affect them
- the decisions a caregiver can and can’t make and the decisions te tamaiti can and can’t make, about day-to-day care arrangements
- the right of te tamaiti to keep personal belongings and have somewhere safe to store them
- the rights of legal guardians and how we uphold them
- the feedback and complaints process including:
- how te tamaiti can make a complaint
- how the caregiver can support te tamaiti to make a complaint
- what support is available to the caregiver if a complaint is made against them by te tamaiti
- how a caregiver can make a complaint.
For detail about information about the caregiver that we must provide tamaiti prior to placement refer to the Transitions within care policy.
A suitability check requires us to gather and consider specific information about individuals, such as police vetting and referee checks, to inform our overall assessment of suitability and risk.
A suitability check is required for:
- the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant
- members of the caregiver’s or adoptive applicant’s household who are 18 years or older.
We must also consider carrying out a CYRAS check and police vet for household members aged 14 to 17 years.
We have discretion about a suitability check for people aged 18 years or older who:
- have connections to the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant or their household and
- are likely to have regular unsupervised or overnight contact with tamariki in custody or care or the adopted tamaiti.
If we decide not to carry out a suitability check on a person who is not a household member but meets the criteria above, we must record our rationale for not completing the suitability check. This decision must be made in consultation with a supervisor.
Conducting suitability checks
Individuals undergoing a suitability check must be interviewed to gather and explore information to assist our assessment. We must consider whether they pose, or would pose, any risk to the safety of te tamaiti and, if so, the extent of that risk.
You must have the consent of the person you’re suitability checking to carry out a police vet or check of CYRAS and TRIM. If a person declines to give their consent for these checks consult with your supervisor and Oranga Tamariki Legal Services.
As part of a suitability check we must gather and consider the following information:
- identity confirmation
- police vet information and a risk assessment of the information obtained
- residential addresses from the previous 5 years
- referee checks
- medical report – for the prospective caregiver or adoptive parent only
- immigration status – of the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant only
- CYRAS and TRIM records.
We must also consider any information from other sources that’s relevant to the assessment — for example, information about previous caregiving for another agency, or a volunteer role they perform in the community. This could be information we seek or information that is volunteered to us.
A person undergoing a suitability check must confirm their identity.
For inter-country adoption applicants we must view and photocopy pages 2 and 3 of their passport.
We must obtain a New Zealand Police vet from the New Zealand Police Vetting Service for all individuals undergoing a suitability check. Consent of the individual is required.
We may also require police vetting:
- from overseas jurisdictions
- of other individuals, such as a rangatahi who is aged under 18 who resides in the home.
Information obtained from a police vet must be taken into account in the assessment of the suitability of a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant.
All individuals undergoing a suitability check must provide a list of their residential addresses for the previous 5 years.
All individuals undergoing a suitability check must provide the names of at least 2 referees (referees can be shared) who have known them at least 2 years including:
- 1 referee who is not related to the person and not part of the person’s extended family, and
- 1 referee who is a member of the person’s extended family.
Prospective caregiver and adoptive applicants must name at least 1 referee who knows them as a group and can comment on their interactions with one another. For example, a referee who knows the prospective caregivers as a couple or a family unit.
We must contact at least 2 referees named by each person to request information to assist our assessment.
Prospective caregivers or adoptive applicants must provide a medical report from their doctor.
Oranga Tamariki will pay the fee for this report and reasonable fees for any associated consultation, investigation or examination for prospective caregivers and joint prospective caregivers and adoptive applicants.
People applying only to be adoptive applicants pay these expenses themselves.
The prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant must provide evidence of their citizenship, permanent residency or other immigration status.
Prospective permanent caregivers, short-term caregivers (was known as transition caregivers) and adoptive applicants must have New Zealand citizenship or a New Zealand permanent resident status with no travel restrictions.
For New Zealand citizens, evidence of their citizenship should be gained through their identity confirmation check. No further evidence of immigration status is required.
Search CYRAS and TRIM records
We must search CYRAS and TRIM records for information about all individuals undergoing a suitability check.
We must seek each person’s consent to:
- search our records for information about them
- share their information contained in our records with others as relevant to the assessment and approval of the applicant.
If concerns are identified through suitability checking and a decision is made to continue with our assessment, special considerations apply for approval.
Where concerns identified through suitability checking would prohibit approval, stop the assessment and tell the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant about the intention not to complete a full assessment.
Prospective adoptive applicants can request that a full assessment is completed even if issues are identified, but approval remains discretionary.
If the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant is in a different area from te tamaiti
We must work together to ensure that the caregiver assessment is completed.
If the assessment is for a prospective Family Home caregiver
In addition to the usual requirements of a caregiver assessment, assessment for a prospective Family Home caregiver must include:
- exploration and assessment of issues specifically relating to providing care in a Family Home
- a panel interview.
If the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant is an Oranga Tamariki staff member
We must manage caregiver and adoptive applications from staff members carefully to ensure there’s no conflict of interest.
Assessment of an Oranga Tamariki staff member who is a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant must be completed by someone who works at a different site or, where appropriate, an NGO may be commissioned to complete the assessment.
Oranga Tamariki staff cannot be considered for any caregiving or adoptive roles involving tamariki they are directly working with.
Youth justice — custody of a tamaiti or rangatahi pending hearing
Where a tamaiti or rangatahi appears before the Youth Court, the court has a range of options for custody, including ordering that te tamaiti or rangatahi be:
- delivered into the custody of any person approved by the chief executive for the purpose 238(1)(c)
- detained in the custody of the chief executive, an iwi social service, or a cultural social service 238(1)(d).
If the assessment is for custody under section 238(1)(c)
If the Youth Court has ordered a tamaiti or rangatahi to be delivered into the custody of a person approved by the chief executive under section 238(1)(c), a full caregiver assessment and approval is not required.
The social worker must take steps to be satisfied that the proposed carer can provide safe and suitable care and meet the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
The social worker will:
- complete identity checks, police vetting and CYRAS and TRIM checks for all members of the household
- interview the proposed carer to ensure they can provide safe and suitable care and meet the needs of te tamaiti
- visit the home to check the safety of the environment.
If the assessment is for detention under section 238(1)(d)
If a tamaiti detained under section 238(1)(d) is placed in a community placement, not a Youth Justice Residence, they must be placed with a caregiver who has been approved following a full caregiver assessment.
Provisional approval is not available in this situation.
In addition to the usual requirements of a caregiver assessment, assessment for a prospective caregiver for a section 238(1)(d) community placement must include assessment of their capacity to ensure that the requirements of detention are met.
In particular, the community placement must be appropriate to avoid:
- further offending
- loss or destruction of evidence
- interference with any witness.
You must ensure that a tamaiti or rangatahi subject to a section 238(1)(d) order knows that they’re not free to roam and that they may be charged with a criminal offence if they abscond.
Assessment of a placement as a result of a family group conference where the chief executive has no legal status
If whānau or family decide that a tamaiti who isn’t in the care or custody of the chief executive needs to be cared for by someone other than their parent or usual caregiver as a result of a family group conference, we must be assured that the placement is safe and suitable for the needs of te tamaiti.
At a minimum, a social worker will:
- visit the home to check the safety and suitability of the environment
- meet with the parents and proposed carers together (where possible) to clarify the details of the care arrangement
- complete identity checks, police vetting and CYRAS checks (with consent) for all members of the household aged 18 years or older.
It may be appropriate for the person being proposed as a carer to seek legal advice in these circumstances.
We must help proposed carers to understand:
- their authority to make decisions and carry out responsibilities for te tamaiti for whom they don’t have custody or guardianship
- the impacts on future entitlements to support from Oranga Tamariki if they take on the care of te tamaiti without them first being in the custody of the chief executive.
If it has been agreed that the carer will apply for an Unsupported Child Benefit, we must also offer to support their application to Work and Income.
Assessments for a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant living overseas
Placement of tamariki with someone who lives overseas requires an additional level of assurance as our ability to monitor and support them is limited after placement.
Before agreeing to place te tamaiti with someone who lives overseas, a recognised social service agency in the placement country must complete an assessment of the prospective caregiver to ensure the placement is viable and in the best interests of te tamaiti.
If a request is received from the Family Court to report on an adoption application for an applicant who is habitually resident overseas, contact the Central Authority for Inter-country Adoption at National Office to discuss how to get independent information about the applicant’s circumstances.
For further information, you can enquire with the NZ Central Authority.
Once the assessment is complete
After our assessment is complete we must decide whether to approve or decline the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant, prepare an assessment report and follow the relevant decline or approval process.
Writing the report
The assessing social worker will complete a report about the prospective caregiver’s or adoptive applicant’s suitability to become a caregiver or adopt. This must also be done for those assessments that were stopped when concerns that would prohibit approval were identified.
The report will include:
- analysis of the prospective caregiver’s or adoptive applicant’s strengths
- areas that would require development or support if approved, including any risks and how these would be mitigated
- their cultural identity and connections
- their willingness and ability to promote and support cultural identity and connection for tamariki
- the safety, adequacy and appropriateness of the caregiving environment
- a recommendation as to whether or not the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant should be approved.
If the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant has been assessed to provide care for or adopt a specific tamaiti the report will focus on:
- the assessed needs of te tamaiti
- the prospective caregiver’s or adoptive applicant’s ability to meet those needs.
The report template is in CYRAS.
Deciding to decline a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant
The assessing social worker can decide to decline a prospective caregiver if:
- the prospective caregiver has been convicted of any offences
- other individuals who have undergone a suitability check have been convicted of any offences.
The decision to decline a prospective caregiver for any other reasons, such as health issues, sits with the supervisor.
The decision to decline an adoptive applicant always sits with the supervisor.
If you reach a preliminary decision to decline a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant you must:
- tell the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant of your preliminary decision and the reasons why in a personal interview, with a supervisor present
- give the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant a letter advising the reasons for the decision to decline them
- give the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant 10 working days to comment on or correct information that they believe is incorrect before the assessment decision is finalised.
If, after considering the revised and/or additional information the decision to decline the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant stands, the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant must receive:
- written advice of the decision from the decision-maker
- information about the Oranga Tamariki feedback and complaints process.
Templates for the interim decision letter and the decision to decline letter are on CYRAS.
Approving a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant
A supervisor can approve a prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant if:
- a social worker has completed an assessment and has recommended approval
- the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant has not been convicted of any offences
- other individuals who have undergone a suitability check have not been convicted of any offences
- there is no dispute over the decision.
Special considerations apply for approval if the prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant or any other individual who has undergone a suitability check:
- is an Oranga Tamariki staff member (prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant only)
- is being considered as a prospective Family Home caregiver (prospective caregiver only)
- has a conviction
- has had tamariki removed from their care through an Oranga Tamariki intervention in the past (family group conference decision or court order)
- has a finding in CYRAS that they have abused, neglected or harmed a tamaiti.
Approval of intercountry adoptive applicants is done by the New Zealand Central Authority for Intercountry Adoption at National Office.
Approval with conditions
A prospective caregiver may be approved to provide care for defined groups of tamariki, for example for a specific tamaiti or particular age range or gender. This must be recorded on CYRAS.
If a caregiver is approved to provide more than 1 type of care, for example respite and transition, the decision to place an approval condition must be made separately for each care type and recorded on CYRAS.
The approval conditions may be varied and new approval granted through the caregiver review process.
Inter-country adoptive applicants can only be approved to apply to adopt from 1 specific country and the approval must identify the age and nature of special needs of the tamariki that the applicants have been approved to adopt.
Approval requiring special consideration
If issues requiring special consideration are identified during the assessment process and we wish to approve the applicant, we must fully complete the assessment before seeking approval from the relevant delegation.
When the decision is made to progress the assessment, advise the person with the relevant delegation that a request for special consideration approval is pending.
Only under extraordinary circumstances will special consideration for serious offences involving the harm or exploitation of others be granted.
Delegated approval for special consideration
This table shows the delegated approvals.
DCE Care Services (in consultation with the Chief Social Worker/DCE Professional Practice and a Ministry Solicitor)
Prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant or other individual aged 18 years or older who we have suitability checked and has been convicted of:
The decision to approve will only be made in extraordinary circumstances and for a specific tamaiti or rangatahi.
Placement can only occur with the approval of the relevant DCE North or South.
Any person who meets the criteria of section 18B(1)(a) will only be considered in extraordinary circumstances and for a specific tamaiti related to them. Placement can only occur with the endorsement of the lawyer for te tamaiti.
Operations Manager CGRS (prior consultation with Practice Advisor CGRS required)
Prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant or other individual aged 18 years or older who we have suitability checked and has been convicted of any other:
Prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant or other individual aged 18 years or older who we have suitability checked and has had a tamaiti removed from their care through an Oranga Tamariki intervention in the past (family group conference decision or court order).
CGRS Manager (prior consultation with the Practice Advisor CGRS required)
Prospective caregiver or adoptive applicant or other individual aged 18 years or older who we have suitability checked and has:
Prospective caregivers or adoptive applicants who are Oranga Tamariki staff. Placement with an approved caregiver who is a staff member requires the approval of the Regional Manager in the area that the staff member resides (prior consultation with Operations Manager CGRS required).
CGRS Manager and Site Manager
Prospective Family Home caregivers.
An agreement for provision of care in an Oranga Tamariki Family Home must be subsequently signed.
Following approval the caregiver social worker must work with the caregiver and:
- wherever possible, develop a caregiver support plan
- develop their Welcome to Our Home booklet.
Following the approval of adoptive applicants:
- domestic adoptive applicants are invited to complete a family profile that can be shown to expectant parents proposing to place their tamaiti for adoption
- inter-country adoptive applicants are required to provide information for the home study completed by a social worker for the consideration of the relevant authority in the country they are making application to.
Provisional assessment for urgent placements
If a placement of a tamaiti needs to be made in an urgent situation, and it’s not possible to carry out a full assessment of the prospective caregiver within the available time, provisional approval may be granted.
Before provisional approval is granted we must carry out a provisional assessment of the prospective caregiver’s suitability to provide care.
The provisional assessment must include:
- confirmation of identity of the prospective caregiver and other household members 18 years or older
- police vet of the prospective caregiver and other household members 18 years or older who consent to be checked
- a CYRAS check of the prospective caregiver and other household members aged 18 years or older
- an interview with the prospective caregiver, which may be in person, by phone, or by audio-visual link such as Skype
- a visit to the caregiver’s home, unless we aren’t reasonably able to visit, which should only occur in exceptional circumstances — if a home visit doesn’t take place, a conversation must occur about the condition and safety of the home and a visit must occur within 48 hours of placement
- a risk assessment based on the information provided
- any other steps we consider necessary to ensure we’re satisfied that the prospective caregiver can provide the required level of safety for te tamaiti.
Provisional approval for urgent placements
The approving supervisor must be satisfied that:
- an urgent need for placement exists
- the prospective caregiver can provide the required level of safety for te tamaiti before granting provisional approval.
Provisional approval won’t be given if the prospective caregiver or a household member aged 18 years or older has:
- a conviction requiring higher approval than CGRS Manager – refer to
Delegated approval for special considerations
- had tamariki removed from their care through an Oranga Tamariki intervention in the past, for example through a family group conference decision or court order
- a finding in CYRAS that they have abused, neglected or harmed a tamaiti.
If provisional approval is granted
If a person is provisionally approved as a caregiver we must:
- record all checks undertaken in their caregiver record
- record the reason for an urgent placement requiring provisional approval
- complete a full assessment of the caregiver’s suitability as soon as practicable — this must not be more than 25 working days from the date of placement
- closely monitor the placement until the full assessment is completed.
The close monitoring arrangements and the rationale for them must be recorded in the All About Me plan for te tamaiti and the caregiver support plan.
If full assessment is to be pursued, it is the responsibility of the social worker for te tamaiti to arrange for the full assessment by liaising with the caregiver social worker.
The full assessment must include all steps, including completion of application documents, suitability checks, and information provision.
If a full assessment isn’t completed within 25 working days, the provisional approval ceases to be valid and the placement becomes unapproved.
If a full assessment isn’t completed because the placement is no longer needed, this should be recorded and the caregiver record closed.