Caregiver assessment and approval — Policy

Updated: 11 June 2018

What's Important To Us

When tamariki need to live away from their usual caregiver, they are entitled to a safe and stable place to call home, with approved caregivers who are able to meet their particular needs.

Our priority is to place Tamariki in homes where they will be loved, wanted and valued, where they have a sense of belonging and their significant connections can be maintained.  This might be with a:

  • member of their extended whānau, hapū or iwi
  • family/whānau they were not born to.

Tamariki who are involved with Oranga Tamariki have often experienced significant trauma and adverse circumstances. When completing caregiver or adoptive parent assessments the challenges of caring for these tamariki must be considered along with the supports required to enable tamariki to meet their full potential.

This policy outlines the requirements for the assessment and approval of family/whānau caregivers, non-family/whānau caregivers, and domestic and inter-country adoptive parents.

Please refer to the ways to care process for information on applying to be a caregiver, including all forms.

Resource: Ways to care process

Note terminology used

Applicant refers to: adoption and/or caregiver applications.

Adoptive parent refers to: both domestic and inter-country adoption.

Caregiver refers to: respite, transitional and permanent (home for life) caregivers.

Expand all

Parenting assessment vs caregiver assessment

A parenting assessment occurs when considering returning a tamaiti to a birth parent or person (e.g. step-parent, grandparent) that had the direct care of the tamaiti before they were placed in the custody of the chief executive. Link to Assessing Kaitiaki Mokopuna

A caregiver assessment occurs when a birth parent wishes to care for their tamaiti and they have never cared for them in the past.

Provisional approval

When tamariki in the custody of the chief executive need to be placed urgently with a family/whānau member who is not approved as a caregiver but has been identified as a safe care option, safety checks must be completed before provisional approval can be given by a supervisor.

Provisional approval must only be sought and given:

  • in exceptional circumstances
  • if the family/whānau member, other household member, or regular visitor has:
    • no convictions or criminal history that require a higher approval delegation than the site manager (link to the approval delegation section below)
    • no substantiated abuse findings
    • never had a tamaiti removed from their care in the past
  • if everything suggests the placement will adequately keep the tamaiti safe.

To grant provisional approval, the social worker for the tamaiti must complete:

  • identity checks of the family/whānau member, household occupants, and regular visitors 17 years and older
  • police checks (including checks on family violence call outs with the police) of the family/whānau member, household occupants, and regular visitors 17 years and older
  • CYRAS and TRIM checks of the family/whānau member, household occupants and regular visitors 17 years and older
  • an interview with the family/whānau member
  • a visit to the home of the family/whānau member to ensure it is safe and suitable, and that the family/whānau member is able to meet the needs of the tamaiti. Use Supervisor discretion outside normal working hours. If visiting the home is not achievable (this is only on rare occasions) a conversation must occur about the condition and safety of the home. A visit must occur within 48 hours of the tamariki arriving in the home.
  • The decision to provisionally approve a family/whānau member as a provisional caregiver rests with the supervisor of the site where the family/whānau member resides.

Out of area provisional approval

When the family/whānau member lives in an area different from the tamaiti, the social worker for the tamaiti will complete the identity check, Police, CYRAS and TRIM checks. The receiving site will assist with identify check if distance is an issue. The receiving site (where the family/whānau member resides) will complete the interview and home visit and make the decision about whether or not to provisionally approve the family/whānau member.

The receiving site decides if provisional approval is appropriate. The originating site, after careful consideration about the impact of moving the tamaiti away from family/whānau and community approves the placement.

After provisional approval is granted

Complete a full caregiver assessment within 25 working days from the date of placement. The provisional approval ceases to be valid after this time frame and will become an unapproved placement. Overdue approval can be monitored in Te Pakoro report 087 Caregiver Status.

If a full assessment is not completed because the placement is no longer needed, casenote this and close the caregiver record.

Types of care

Potential caregivers can apply to be assessed and approved for one or more of the following categories of care.

Respite caregiver — provides short periods of care to support the usual caregiver of te tamaiti.

Transitional caregiver — provides short-term care until tamariki can be returned to their family/whānau/usual caregiver, or until they're placed with a permanent caregiver.

Permanent caregiver (CYRAS identifies this as home for life) — becomes a lifelong family/whānau for a tamaiti by legal order, generally as joint guardians with the birth parents.

Family Home caregiver — provides care in an Oranga Tamariki owned property, to a number of tamariki, often unrelated, until longer term placements can be arranged.

Domestic adoption — birth parents choose approved adoptive parents as the legal parents for their tamaiti.

Inter-country adoption — approved adoptive parents become the legal parents for tamariki from overseas.

Family/whānau caregivers can only be approved for respite, transitional or permanent care.

If applicants want to be considered for more than one type of care arrangement, this will usually be:

  • respite and transitional care, or
  • adoption and permanent care.

Transitional care is generally not compatible with availability for permanent placement.

Key information: Combined applications for adoption/permanent care and transition care

Independent living arrangements are only considered for tamariki who are 16 or over; have adequate practical and life skills and are meaningfully engaged during the day - either at work or study.

Towards independence — Policy

Assessments for overseas placements

Before placing the tamaiti with someone who lives overseas, a recognised social service agency in the placement country must complete an assessment of the applicants.

If prospective caregivers have plans to move from New Zealand to another country at a later date, or have moved to New Zealand from another country, advised that Oranga Tamariki does not support tamariki being permanently taken out of New Zealand, except in exceptional circumstances. This is because tamariki will usually maintain a connection with the family/whānau, hapu and iwi, and there are risks in terms of the effect of legal orders and entitlements to services in other countries.

Approvals with conditions

Sometimes a particular caregiver is only suitable for tamariki of a particular age range or gender. In these instances, applicants approval can have conditions. This ensures that caregivers abilities are best utilised to ensure the best outcomes for tamariki.

Where caregivers have combined approvals (e.g. respite and transition), the decision on placing an approval condition must be made separately for each care type and recorded on CYRAS.

When caregivers have combined approvals (for example, respite and transition), consider applying approval conditions separately for every care type.

This can be changed at any time through a review and reapproval process.

Post-approval requirements for adoptive parents and permanent caregivers

  • permanent caregivers and domestic adoptive parents are invited to complete a family profile
  • inter-country adoptive parents are required to have a home study completed by a social worker.

Key information: Preparing a family profile for Fostering and Adoption

Key information: Inter-country Adoption Home Study Assessment Report

Timeframe for completing an assessment

For prospective caregivers, we must complete the assessment and approval within 90 calendar days of the date the applicant confirms they want to proceed with the final assessment.

If this timeframe can't be met, record the reason in a casenote on the applicant’s CYRAS record. Refer to the Ways to Care process for further information on timeframes.

Resource: Ways to care process

Assessments when the youth justice system is involved

Section 238(1)(c) Custody of child or young person pending hearing - delivery into custody of person approved by Chief Executive.

Before a person is approved to have the custody of the tamaiti or rangatahi for the purposes of section 238 (1) (c), the social worker must be satisfied that the proposed carer can provide safe and suitable care and meet the need of the tamaiti or rangatahi. The following checks must be completed ;

  • Identity checks and Police check of the proposed carer, all other household occupants and regular visitors aged 17 years and older
  • CYRAS and TRIM checks of the proposed carer, all other household occupants and regular visitors aged 17 years and older
  • Interview with the proposed carer and a visit to their home to ensure is it safe and suitable, and that they are able to meet the needs of the tamaiti or rangatahi.

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 — section 238(1)(c)

Section 238(1)(d) Detention component of placements

Tamariki in custody pending a Youth Court hearing (section 238(1)(d)) must be placed with an approved caregiver. Where a placement in a residence is not considered necessary, a community placement may occur. The full assessment and approval process applies. Provisional approval is not available in this situation.

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 — section 238(1)(d)

If you're considering placing the tamaiti within the community, you must fully consider the applicant's capacity to provide an appropriate level of detention. In particular, the placement must be appropriate to avoid:

  • absconding
  • further offending
  • loss or destruction of evidence
  • interference with any witness.

Tamariki must understand that they are not free to roam and that they commit an offence if they abscond. 

Resource: Detention considerations: Custody orders under s238(1)(d)

Approving an applicant with criminal convictions or special considerations

Approval of applicants who have convictions for serious offences involving the harm or exploitation of others will not occur unless there are extraordinary circumstances. This also includes household members or regular visitors who have convictions for serious offences.

Issues identified during the assessment process that highlight the need for approval by a Site Manager, Regional Manager, or Deputy Chief Executive, the assessment must be fully completed before asking for the signoff from the relevant delegation.

Forward the completed report to the relevant delegation to request an endorsement of the decision.  Where this is an out of area family/whānau caregiver assessment the Site Manager responsible for the area the applicant resides in will complete the signoff.

Where the issues identified would prohibit approval, stop the assessment and tell the applicant about the decision.

Relevant DCE North and South (in consultation with the Chief Social Worker/Director Professional Practice and a Ministry Solicitor)

Applicant, household member or regular visitor aged 17 years and older convicted of:

  • a sexual offence involving the harm or sexual exploitation of the tamaiti (including child pornography)

Note: Even after approval has occurred, the actual placement of the tamaiti requires the approval of the Regional Manager.

  • rape, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, abduction and grievous bodily harm against any person (including tamariki)

The decision to approve is only made in extraordinary circumstances.

Note: Any person who meets the criteria of section 18B(1)(a) is considered only in the most exceptional circumstances. They will not be considered for non-family/whānau approval for unrelated/unknown tamariki. Placement can only occur with the endorsement of the lawyer for the tamaiti. Include the agreement into the court plan for the tamaiti.  

Regional Manager or

Associate Regional Manager (prior consultation with the Regional Practice Advisor is required)

Applicants, household member or regular visitor aged 17 years and older has been convicted of:

  • any other sexual offence, including offences against adults, bestiality and pornography
  • any other offence involving the physical harm, abuse or neglect of tamariki and other violent or cruelty related offences (including offences against adults and animals)

Any applicant, household member or regular visitor aged 17 years and older who has had tamariki removed from their care through an Oranga Tamariki intervention in the past (i.e. family group conference decision or court order)

Site Manager (in consultation with Practice Leader)

Applicant, household member or regular visitor aged 17 years and older has been convicted of any other offence, including drug and alcohol related offences

Applicant, household member or regular visitor aged 17 years and older have a finding in CYRAS that they have abused or neglected a child or young person

Applicants who are Oranga Tamariki staff. Note: Where a staff member is approved as a caregiver, actual placement of the tamaiti requires the approval of the Regional Manager in the area that the staff member resides.

Concerns regarding household members and regular visitors 17 years and older

Where Police and/or CYRAS and TRIM checks highlight concerns in relation to household member or regular visitors tell the caregiver applicant/s of the concerns. Their response to the concerns is important and must be noted in the assessment, alongside their plans to mitigate any potential risks. In some instances the applicants may need some time to process the information.

The same delegation process for approval (above) is required when household members, regular visitors and applicants have convictions.

The assessment process — what we must do

The caregiver social worker completes these steps.

The key steps in the assessment process are the same for family/whānau caregivers, non-family/whānau caregivers or adoptive applicants. There are extra requirements for Family Home caregiver applicants.

The same level of rigour must be applied to assessments for all groups, and the needs and safety of tamariki must always be at the centre of decision making. The process allows for flexibility based on the context and circumstances of each individual applicant.

If concerns or issues are identified at any point in the assessment process which mean prospective caregivers should not be approved, you can decline the application without completing the rest of the assessment. The decision to assess and approve caregivers is at the discretion of Oranga Tamariki.

Adoptive applicants can request a full assessment even if issues are identified, but approval remains discretionary.

Key information: Undertaking the caregiver or adoptive parent assessment

Review the application form

Make sure all the required information is completed. You can help the applicant to complete the form if needed.

Get authorisation for use of personal information

Before you can access personal information from CYRAS or TRIM records to complete your assessment, you need individual consent from:

  • applicants
  • anyone who lives in their house
  • regular visitors to the home.

Complete identity checks

You must verify the identity of all applicants, household occupants and regular visitors to the home who are over 17.

Identity checks must be done before you process the application.


  • inter-country adoption applicants, you must view and photocopy the front page of their passport
  • non-New Zealand citizens, you must view and photocopy their visa for residence in New Zealand.

Complete police vetting, CYRAS and TRIM checks

You need to do police vetting CYRAS and TRIM checks for all applicants, household occupants and regular visitors who are over 17.

Key Information: Process for completing Police checks on prospective caregivers and adoptive applicants

Visit the applicant's home

Complete an assessment of the home and physical environment.

Resource: Considering the physical home environment

Interview referees

Do referee checks with at least two people who have known the applicants for at least two years, one of which must be a family/whānau member. All referees must be contacted and interviewed. A case note must be recorded for every referee interviewed.

Referee check form (DOC 126 KB)

If an assessment hui is held (for family/whānau applicants only), endorsement from those in attendance is equivalent to a referee check.

Interview the applicant/s

You must complete a face-to-face interview with each applicant. For family/whānau applicants, this can be done as part of an assessment hui.

For full details on preparing for and conducting the interviews, see Key information: Undertaking the caregiver or adoptive parent assessment.

Assess the findings and write a report

To complete the assessment, you'll need to analyse the:

  • documentary evidence
  • caregiver self-assessment/s
  • social work interviews

caregiver’s attributes which enable them to meet the needs of the tamaiti

specific needs of the tamaiti (if the assessment is for a specific tamaiti).

Key information: Analysis of the documentary assessment

Key information: The caregiver and adoption applicant assessment framework

Complete a report outlining your findings, with an analysis of the applicant's particular strengths, along with areas for development or areas that may require support. If the assessment is for caregivers for a specific tamaiti, the report must focus on the needs of the tamaiti and the ability of the applicant to meet these.

Your report will include your recommendation about the applicant's suitability to become a caregiver or adoptive parent.

The report must include details of the support the applicants will need to provide safe care for the tamaiti now and in the future.

The report template is in CYRAS.

Family Home caregiver assessments

Because the role of Family Home caregiver is a specific task, applicants don't have to attend the Ways to Care preparation programme, but they must attend the Safe Caring programme.

Issues related to caring in the Family Home must be discussed and incorporated into the assessment. As well as the assessment, Family Home caregivers must:

  • undergo a panel interview
  • be approved by the site manager, and
  • sign an agreement for provision of care in an Oranga Tamariki Family Home.

Placements as a result of a family group conference where the chief executive has no legal status

In situations where tamariki who aren't in the custody of the chief executive need a placement as a result of a family group conference, Oranga Tamariki representatives at the family group conference must be assured that the placement is safe and suitable for the needs of the tamaiti. You must use your professional judgment and, at a minimum:

  • complete identity, Police, CYRAS and TRIM checks on all household members
  • visit the home to check the safety of the environment
  • meet with the parents and prospective caregivers together to clarify the details of the care arrangement.

It may be appropriate for the identified person to seek legal advice in these circumstances. This is because taking on the care of a tamaiti without them being in the custody of the chief executive has implications for entitlements to support from Oranga Tamariki later on. The identified person must not be rushed nor expected to make immediate decisions so that they can consider the implications of this decision.

Key Information: Identifying safe care solutions when mokopuna can’t stay at home provides further guidance.

What the applicant must do

Complete the application form

You can help the applicant to complete the form if needed.

Get a medical assessment

Applicants must provide a medical assessment form that has been completed by their GP.

The cost of the medical assessment is covered by Oranga Tamariki for caregiving applications. Adoptive applicants (including joint fostering and adoption applicants) cover the cost of their assessment themselves.

Attend the workshops

Caregiver applicants and domestic adoptive applicants must attend the Ways to Care preparation. The Safe Caring programme must also be completed by all prospective caregivers including those applying to be permanent (home for life) caregivers. Their attendance and engagement during the programmes must be considered as part of the assessment.

Resource: Ways to Care preparation programme

Resource: Safe Caring (on behalf of the Chief Executive)

Where there are exceptional circumstances that prevent family/whānau caregiver applicants from attending the above workshops, they must have access to the relevant learning from these modules through alternative means.

Applicants wanting to apply to adopt from overseas must attend the inter-country adoption course.

Ways to care intercountry adoption module (DOC 36 KB)

Complete a self-assessment

All applicants except adoptive applicants must complete the self-assessment form.

Self-assessment for caregivers (DOCX 63 KB)

Attend face-to-face interviews

Each applicant must attend a face-to-face interview. For family/whānau applicants, this can be done as part of an assessment hui.

Out of area family/whānau caregiver assessments

When prospective family/whānau applicants live in a different area to a specific tamaiti, the social worker for the tamaiti will complete the identity check, Police, CYRAS and TRIM checks. The receiving site will assist with identify check if distance is an issue. The receiving site (where the family/whānau member resides) will complete the interview and home visit and make the decision about whether or not to approve the family/whānau member.

The social worker for the tamaiti should complete:

  • the identity, Police, CYRAS and TRIM checks. This information will provide a basis for deciding whether the assessment process should continue. Where distance does not allow the originating site to complete the identity checks these will be done with the assistance of the receiving site
  • an assessment of the needs of the tamaiti as evidenced in the latest Tuituia assessment.

The caregiver social worker in the receiving site will:

  • complete all other tasks required for the full assessment to be completed (e.g. medical, referee, self-assessment, visits to the home and interviews). This may also include the identity checks
  • liaise with the social worker for the tamaiti to ensure that the applicant has the right supports to manage the care of the tamaiti
  • make sure the applicant attends the Ways to Care and Safe Caring programmes
  • assess all information and write the report recommending the suitability of the applicant to provide care.

If holding an assessment hui, the social worker for the tamaiti must attend, either in person or via telephone or video conference. The receiving site must provide a staff member to facilitate the assessment hui.

Whilst there may be some negotiation between sites on specific task completion the receiving site will always complete the caregiver assessment report and make the decision about whether to approve or decline the applicant. This includes provisional approval.

When approving the applicant, the receiving site must provide on-going support to the caregiver, which includes reviewing the support package for the placement.

The originating site must approve the placement of the tamaiti with the caregiver.

Declining applicants

If you've reached a preliminary decision to decline an application for caregiving or adoption, you must:

  • tell the applicants of this and the reasons why in a personal interview, with a supervisor present
  • give the applicants a letter outlining the reasons for the decision to decline.

Give applicants 10 working days to comment on or correct information that they believe is incorrect. If the decision stays the same after considering the revised information, the applicants must receive written advice of the decision by the decision-maker. Also ensure they receive information about the Oranga Tamariki feedback and complaints process.

Locate the templates for the interim decision letter and the decline letter on CYRAS.

Review of approved caregivers and adoptive families

If there is a significant change of circumstances in caregiving or adoptive families, approvals need to be reviewed. Significant changes include:

  • a bereavement or loss
  • changes to the family or household composition, for example a relationship breakdown
  • following the permanent placement of a tamaiti, and before placing another tamaiti.
  • an allegation of abuse or criminal charge/conviction
  • when an approved caregiver or adoptive parent wishes to change their approval type
  • when a caregiver has been approved to care for a specific tamaiti and wishes to care for another tamaiti
  • any other time a review is warranted.

Where there are additions to the family or household composition, for example a new partner joins the household, complete another caregiver assessment process as this person will be a new applicant. This process will include a review process for the existing caregiver to look at how the new household structure will impact on the care they are able to provide, and consider their current approval status alongside that of the new applicant.

Key information: Adoptive applicant support and review

Caregiver support — Policy

Caregiver review — Policy

Assessing applicants who are Oranga Tamariki staff

Oranga Tamariki staff can be considered for any caregiving or adoptive roles, as long as they're not applying to be a caregiver or adoptive parent for tamariki they have directly worked with.

Their assessment must be completed by someone who works at a different site. In some cases it might be appropriate to commission an NGO to complete the assessment (and support the placement).

The approval must be carefully considered and managed to ensure there is no conflict of interest.