Caregiver assessment and approval — Policy

Updated: 01 April 2017

What's Important To Us

When mokopuna 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 mokopuna 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 a:

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

Mokopuna 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 mokopuna must be considered along with the supports required to enable mokopuna 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.

Note terminology used

Applicant refers to: adoption and 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

Types of care

Applicants can apply for one or more of the following categories of care:

  • Respite caregiver – provides short periods of care to support the usual caregiver of the tamaiti
  • Transitional caregiver — provides care until the tamaiti returns to their family/whānau/usual caregiver, or until they're placed with a permanent caregiver, or are living independently.
  • Permanent caregiver (CYRAS identifies this as home for life) — become lifelong family/whānau for a tamaiti by legal order. Permanent caregivers are generally joint guardians (additional) with the birth parents.
  • Family Home caregiver – provides care in an Oranga Tamariki owned property, often to unrelated tamariki until longer term placements become available.
  • Domestic adoption under the Adoption Act 1955. This is when adoption occurs through the New Zealand Family Court and they issue an adoption order. For tamariki born in New Zealand, the birth parents choose approved adoptive parents to become the legal parents for their tamaiti. Surrogacy arrangements are also progressed through the New Zealand Family Court as are some adoptions involving overseas tamariki (where the country of origin of the tamaiti is not one that is a signatory to the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption).
  • Inter-country adoption under the Adoption (Inter-country) Act 1997 is when two countries involved in the inter-country adoption are both signatories to the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The Central Authority in each country administratively progress the adoption. Oranga Tamariki is the Central Authority in New Zealand. Approved adoptive parents become the legal parents for the tamaiti from overseas and an Article 23 certificate is issued as evidence of the adoption. An Article 23 certificate issued under the Convention has the same effect as an adoption order.

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

If applicants want to apply for more than one type of care arrangement, this will most often be:

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

For more information on the combination of care applications refer to Combined applications for adoption/permanent care and transition care.

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

Independent living arrangements: The chief executive is able to support a tamaiti, who is 16 or over and who wishes to live independently, by way of an additional guardianship order and/or a support order. It is important to note that the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 does not provide authority for the chief executive to permit a tamaiti to live independently while they are in the custody of the chief executive. To support a release of a custody order to enable independent living, it is important that the tamaiti has adequate practical and life skills and that they are engaged during the day, either at work or study. Refer to Towards Independence policy for guidance.

Towards independence — Policy

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.

Timeframe for completing an assessment

Complete the caregiver assessment and approval within 90 calendar days from the date the applicant confirms they want to proceed with the assessment.

Record the reason in a case-note on the applicant’s CYRAS record if this timeframe is not met. Ensure that all who should know about the delay are aware of the new timeframe that you are working to. Refer to the Ways to Care process for further information on timeframes.

Refer to the Ways to Care process for further information on timeframes.

Resource: Ways to care process

The assessment process — what we must do

The key steps of assessment are the same for family/whānau caregivers, non-family/whānau caregivers and adoptive applicants. There are extra requirements for Family Home caregiver applicants. The caregiver social worker/adoption social worker completes these steps.

Apply the same level of rigour to the assessment of all applicants. The needs and safety of the tamaiti must always be at the centre of decision making. The process allows for flexibility depending on the context and circumstances of each individual applicant.

The decision to assess and approve caregivers is at the discretion of Oranga Tamariki.  At any time during the assessment if issues, convictions or CYRAS information raise concerns then the caregiver social worker/adoption social worker will decide whether the caregiver assessment should proceed further. It is not necessary to have completed the full assessment process before to making a decision a decline. Any decision to decline must be robust and made with good identifiable reasons.  

When forming a view that approval is unlikely for an adoptive applicant they can request a completed assessment. This is because a decision to approve or not approve an adoption ultimately rests with the Court.  Refer to the section below on ‘Declining Applicants’.

Some concerns about the applicants may not prevent approval and the assessment should continue. Robust consideration and discussion about the issues of concern must occur. Refer to the section below on ‘Approving an applicant with criminal convictions or special considerations’.

Key information: Undertaking the assessment

The assessment process

1

Application form (PDF 355 KB)

All applicants (whānau and non-whānau) must complete an application form (with help from the adoption/caregiver social worker if needed). Where applicants are married or in a de facto relationship both parties are

Upload (save) as an attachment in the Carer Record.

If this form is submitted electronically it must be signed by the applicant when the Identity check is completed.

2

Identity checks

The caregiver social worker/adoption social worker must verify the identity of all applicants including household occupants and regular visitors to the home who are 17 years and older. Upload (save) a copy of ID with date stamp and your verifying signature onto the Assessment Checklist. Complete identity checks before processing the application – this must occur prior to completing CYRAS, TRIM or Police checks.

Evidence of identity needs to be a primary form of ID (passport, birth certificate, firearms licence) and another form of ID (e.g. driver’s licence, 18+ card, community services card). One form of ID must have photo identification.

For inter-country adoption applicants, you must view and photocopy the front page of their passport.

For non-New Zealand citizens, you must view and photocopy their visa for residence in New Zealand.

3

Authorisation for use of personal information (PDF 244 KB)

The caregiver/adoption social worker must get individual consent from the applicants, along with household occupants and regular visitors to the home. If the household occupants are under 17 and not the children of the applicants, their guardian must sign a consent form. If anyone refuses to give consent, the assessment cannot progress.

Where applicants have been, or are currently caregivers for another organisation or section 396 provider, they will need to complete the release of information form to enable information from their caregiving file to be accessed.

Note: Where applicants are recent migrants to New Zealand they could be asked to request their medical information and overseas police checks from Immigration New Zealand.

4

CYRAS, TRIM and Police checks

The caregiver social worker/adoption social worker will complete CYRAS, TRIM and Police checks on all applicants, household occupants, and regular visitors to the home who are 17 years and older.

If there are other tamariki living in the home who are not the tamariki of the applicant, a CYRAS check of those other tamariki is necessary. Their guardian will need to sign a release form for this to occur. Competent tamariki can also sign their own release form, however their guardians should be informed.

Complete an international police check for each country in which the applicant, household occupant or regular visitor has lived for 6 months or more (whether on one visit or intermittently in the last 10 years).

If anyone refuses, the assessment cannot progress.

Key Information: Process for completing Police checks

Please note: there may be other household occupants or regular visitors who are under 17 who may have an opportunity to be with our tamariki unsupervised (e.g. friends, partners of tamariki, and proposed babysitters.

You will need to speak to the applicants about the interactions between those under 17 years and our tamariki.

Note: Where applicants are recent migrants to New Zealand they could be asked to request their medical information and overseas police checks from Immigration New Zealand.

5

Ways to Care and Safe Caring training

Caregiver and domestic adoptive applicants must attend the Ways to Care preparation

All applicants must complete the Safe Caring programme (adoptive applicants are exempt). Attendance, engagement and learning during the programmes are part of the caregiver assessment.

Where family/whānau caregiver applicants are unable to attend the above programmes, they must have access to the relevant learning from these modules through alternative means (e.g. one-on-one engagement).

A casenote must be added to CYRAS setting out the topics covered and analysis of the applicants understanding of the information covered.

Applicants wanting to apply to adopt from overseas must attend the inter-country adoption course (DOC 36 KB).

 

Self-assessment (DOCX 63 KB)

All applicants except adoptive applicants must complete the self-assessment form (DOCX 63 KB).

Link to Undertaking the caregiver and adoptive parent assessment

6

Referee checks

Complete referee checks (using the Referee check form (DOC 126 KB)) with at least two people who have known the applicants for at least two years. One of these checks must be with a family/whānau member. Contact all referees to interview them. Record a case note with every referee interviewed.

If holding an assessment hui (for family/whānau caregiver applicants only), endorsement from those in attendance is equal to one referee check.

7

Medical assessment

Applicants must provide a medical assessment form. This must be completed by their GP.

Oranga Tamariki covers the cost of medical assessments only for caregiving applications.

Adoptive applicants (including joint fostering and adoption applicants) cover the cost of their medical assessment.

 

8

Visit the applicants’ home

 

Complete an assessment of the home and physical environment, guided by the Considering the physical home environment resource.

 

9

Interview the applicants

 

Complete a face-to-face interview with each applicant. For family/whānau applicants, some of these conversations may start in the assessment hui. For full details on preparing for and conducting the interviews, see Key information: Undertaking the assessment .

The caregiver social worker/adoption social worker must also have met all adults (including those 17 years and older) residing in the home.

 

Assess the findings and write a report

 

Complete the assessment by analysing the:

Complete a report (the template is in CYRAS) outlining your findings. Include an analysis of the applicants’ particular strengths, along with areas for development. Detail what support the applicants will need to provide safe care for the mokopuna now and in the future. Your report will include your recommendation about the applicant's suitability to become a caregiver or adoptive parent.

Note: For caregiver assessments, the caregiver social worker and the social worker for the tamaiti must work together on the assessment. Each will have a specific role in the process. The social worker for the tamaiti is responsible for providing an assessment of the needs of the tamaiti. The caregiver social worker is responsible for assessing the applicants’ ability to meet those needs, completing the report and seeking approval.

 

Approving applicants

The approval letter template is on CYRAS.

Supervisor approval is required for all assessments where applicants, household members and regular visitors have no criminal convictions, there have been no substantiated abuse or neglect findings against them by Oranga Tamariki, and there is no dispute over the decision to approve.

In all instances where convictions or concerns are identified in relation to the applicant, household members or regular visitors the approval must be escalated to the appropriate level (see section below ‘Approving an applicant with criminal convictions or special considerations’.

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.

Assessing applicants who are Oranga Tamariki staff

Oranga tamariki staff can apply for any caregiver or adoptive role but only for tamariki they have not had any direct work with.

Caregiver assessments of Oranga Tamariki staff must be undertaken by a different site in which they work. The staff member’s Site Manager must liaise with the Site Manager from a different Site to arrange for the caregiver assessment to be undertaken. Thus applicant staff must tell their supervisor about their wish to be assessed as caregivers.

The assessment and approval process must be carefully considered and managed to ensure there is no conflict of interest. In some cases it might be appropriate to commission a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to complete the assessment.

The caregiver assessment must identify management of any potential conflicts of interest going forward.

Both Site Managers must be in agreement to support the approval of the caregiver assessment. The caregiver assessment must then be escalated to the Regional Manager in the area where the staff member/caregiver applicant resides for approval before placement. 

Family Home caregiver assessments

The assessment of prospective Family Home caregivers will follow the same steps as above, apart from some small differences:

  • Applicants do not have to attend the Ways to Care preparation programme, but they must attend the Safe Caring programme
  • Incorporate discussions about issues related to caring in the Family Home into the assessment
  • The applicants must undergo a panel interview. Gain Site Manager approval and sign an agreement for provision of care in an Oranga Tamariki Family Home.

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.

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.

Assessments when the youth justice system is involved

Section 238(1)(c) Social worker approval

When placing the tamaiti under section 238(1)(c) complete the following checks before a social worker can approve a prospective caregiver:

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

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)

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 and review — Policy