Pathways to care: Emergency Actions
Updated: 26 November 2019
Removing a mokopuna from their parents/caregivers is a significant and traumatic event, undertaken only when the mokopuna cannot remain safe in the care of their parents/caregivers. It is best carried out in a manner that minimises trauma to the mokopuna and ensures an agreed plan for meeting the wellbeing needs of the mokopuna. There are times however when because of immediate safety concerns the mokopuna is removed quickly without their parents’ consent. This document sets out the provisions available when a mokopuna needs to enter into care in an emergency situation.
Emergency action is only used to secure the safety and wellbeing of a mokopuna when all other intervention options have been considered.
Decisions to carry out emergency actions are made through robust practice consultation with the supervisor and practice leader, using the child and family consult. These are matters of professional judgment, however if there are more complex legal issues it may be useful to talk to Legal Services.
Once the decision is made that emergency action is required, the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 outlines powers to act for both the social worker and the Police. Most commonly used emergency actions are:
- s39 (place of safety warrant)
- s42 (search without warrant)
- s48 (unaccompanied children and young people)
- s78 (custody of child or young person pending determination of proceedings).
Other applications for emergency court orders may be for medical examinations (s49), interim restraining order (s88) or preventing removal of child from New Zealand (s205).
Once the decision is made to apply for a particular court order, an affidavit or statement of facts is required.
Steps to consider when carrying out emergency actions
- Consult with others and plan how you will approach carrying out the emergency action. Are there potential safety concerns to be aware of? Will the Police or other person in authority (eg Kaumatua) be able to support the situation to occur safely? Who might be able to support the family/whānau after the mokopuna has left the home?
- It may be a really challenging time in your relationship with the family/whānau – keep contact with them respectful; keep them as informed as possible whilst maintaining the safety of the mokopuna; keep them engaged so they can remain well connected to their mokopuna.
- This will be a very traumatic time for the mokopuna. Take steps to make the process as nurturing as possible for the mokopuna, such as obtaining clothing and items that are familiar to them. Try and work with the family/whānau to make this happen. Afterwards, spend time with the mokopuna to help them understand what has happened and why; answer any questions or worries they have; them know what contact they will have with their family/whānau.
- Seek support for yourself prior to, during, and following an emergency action being taken (if needed you can access the Employee Assistance Programme). Separating a mokopuna from their parent/caregiver is one of the most stressful situations that social workers will deal with; it can affect people in different and various ways.
Section 47 report to the Children's Commissioner
Where a mokopuna is placed in the custody of the chief executive under section 39, 40 or 42 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, and is released within five days from that custody, before being brought before the Court, a report is to be sent to the Children's Commissioner. Section 47 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 details the information required in the report.
A report is required even when a s139 temporary care agreement has been entered into following emergency action under one of the above sections as these agreements are not put before the Court.
The report is provided as soon as possible after the mokopuna leaves custody.
A report relating to the use of s42 is completed by the Police, and Oranga Tamariki provides the Police with the information required by s47, particularly focusing on the reason for returning the mokopuna to their parents’ care or entering into a s139 temporary care agreement.
The report is signed off by the Supervisor. Remember that this is a report to a key stakeholder so it is important that it is professional and addresses the safety of the mokopuna and your rationale for decisions.