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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/practice-approach/practice-standards/ensure-safety-and-wellbeing/definitions-of-abuse-neglect-and-harm/unable-or-unwilling-to-care-for-or-have-abandoned-te-tamaiti/
Printed: 14/06/2024
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Last updated: 09/07/2019

Unable or unwilling to care for or have abandoned te tamaiti

Parents are sometimes unable or unwilling to care for their tamaiti.

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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 content. The following resources provide support:
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Unable or unwilling to care for te tamaiti

There are many reasons that a parent may be unable or unwilling to care for te tamaiti, including death, incarceration, illness, substance abuse and financial instability or being unwilling to provide care, support or supervision for te tamaiti.

Unable or unwilling is used to describe a variety of behaviors. Specific examples vary but may include:

  • leaving te tamaiti with another person without provision for their support and without meaningful communication with te tamaiti for long periods of time
  • making only minimal efforts to support and communicate with te tamaiti
  • being absent from the home for a period of time that created a substantial risk of serious harm to te tamaiti left in the home.

Use Tuituia to explore the reasons why such actions have been taken and involve family, whānau, hapū and iwi early to ensure whakapapa and whanaungatanga links and connections are identified, supported and maintained.

Tuituia framework and tools


Abandonment is different to being unable and unwilling to care for a tamaiti as it is when there are no means of identifying the parent or whānau or family of a tamaiti who is left without care — for example, leaving te tamaiti in a basket on a doorstep with no means of identification and then no response to requests to claim te tamaiti.

No family group conference can be held without the identification of whānau or family, so the legislation does not require one to be held.