Pathways to care: Care Agreements
Updated: 01 July 2016
This document sets out the provisions available when a mokopuna enters care through a voluntary agreement with the parents, guardians or usual persons having care of the mokopuna under the provisions of s139 and s140 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
Under these provisions the mokopuna comes into the care of the chief executive, or an approved service (under s396 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989), for a specific period of time – from 28 days to 2 years depending on the age of the mokopuna and the type of agreement.
The wishes and views of the mokopuna must be considered at all times. Mokopuna over the age of 12 must give written consent to a s140 extended care agreement.
The outcome is always for the mokopuna to return home, unless they are over the age of 15 and it is intended that they will transition to independence [s140(1)(d)].
Temporary care agreements
A temporary care agreement (s139) can be entered into with the parent/guardian/caregiver for up to 28 days, and can be extended for one further period of up to 28 days. There are a number of situations where a temporary care agreement may be appropriate:
- an unexpected event for a family/whānau that is otherwise coping: Many family/whānau have supportive networks to assist if a crisis arises. However, some may need an agency to assist; for example when the person caring for the mokopuna becomes ill or is hospitalised and there is no safe person available to provide care
- time out in a relationship breakdown: Relationships between a mokopuna and their family/whānau sometimes become strained. In these circumstances a temporary care agreement can allow for time out while plans are put in place to address the issues
- as part of a planned intervention where respite care is required
It is not appropriate to use a temporary care agreement when there are serious care or protection concerns, or where it is not expected that the mokopuna will return home at the end of the agreement.
Extended care agreements
An extended care agreement (s140) can only be entered into after agreement at a family group conference (FGC). Agreements are voluntary; their purpose is to provide for a time limited, well planned and carefully monitored strategy to address the needs of the mokopuna.
An extended care agreement offers a mechanism for support where:
- there are concerns about the care or protection of a mokopuna (note that the FGC does not need to agree that the mokopuna is in need of care and protection)
- a family group conference agrees that significant progress can be made towards resolving those concerns within a specified period
- a mokopuna aged 15 and above, is being assisted to achieve independence - s140(1)(d) agreement
- concerns are acknowledged, and a commitment exists to developing and implementing a robust plan to meet the needs of the mokopuna
- the family/whānau are willing to maintain contact with the mokopuna for the duration of the agreement (this is not necessary for a s140(1)(d) agreement).
- the mokopuna will return home at the end of the agreement - except in the case of a s140(1)(d) agreement when the mokopuna is supported to transition towards independence.
There is a transition period for tamariki currently in a specialised out-of-home placement with a section 141 care agreement.
Entering into care agreements
Temporary and extended care agreements are not entered into unless there is a clear plan that ensures:
- the return of the mokopuna to their home – s139, s140
- a successful transition towards independence – s140(1)(d).
If you are working with family/whānau where it seems likely that entering Oranga Tamariki care is the right option for the mokopuna, consult with your supervisor or practice leader.
Use the Tuituia assessment and child and family consult to support decision-making. Explore all the options with the mokopuna and their family/whānau, including whether providing support services and resources may resolve the concerns allowing the mokopuna to remain at home.
Check that the person(s) entering into the agreement actually has care of the mokopuna and that they fully understand the effect of the agreement, particularly in respect of the custody powers and the requirements for terminating the agreement. If you are concerned that the mokopuna or their family/whānau may not fully understand the agreement or its effect, seek assistance from your lawyer or suggest that they seek independent legal advice.
Ensure that the voice of mokopuna is sought and heard; remember that mokopuna over the age of 12 must give written consent to s140 extended care agreement.
Monitoring the plan
Time limits must be carefully observed. Once the agreement has expired there is no authority for the chief executive to retain the mokopuna in care.
If, during implementation of the plan, it appears the outcomes are off-track, reconvene the FGC to consider whether the mokopuna needs to stay in care for a longer period.
The FGC needs to consider what type of court order (if any) is required or in the case of a s140(1)(d) extended care agreement whether an extension (of up to 12 months) is needed.