When children move - Frequently asked questions
Updated: 26 February 2014
Below are a list of questions and answers about overseas placements and travel.
What do I need to know about the Hague Convention on abduction?
New Zealand is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. While the Ministry of Justice is the Central Authority for the Convention, Oranga Tamariki acts as the ‘operational arm’ for the Ministry of Justice when it needs assistance with practical care arrangements for any child who has been abducted under the terms of the Convention.
Oranga Tamariki becomes involved in these case matters once a warrant has been issued and the relevant DCE Services for children and families has been asked by the Abduction Convention Central Authority in the Ministry of Justice to assist. When this happens the international casework advisor will liaise with your site manager to initiate a response. Any necessary casework will be managed between the international casework advisor and the respective site staff concerned as it will involve some liaison with the Central Authority within the Ministry of Justice.
What is the role of the international casework advisor?
Your international casework advisor is responsible for providing your regional practice advisor, practice leader and site manager with information about what is required when managing a case which has international components.
The international casework advisor sits within the International Adoption and Child Protection team at National Office. This team manages international casework for care and protection, intercountry adoption under the Hague Convention, international surrogacy cases, and is responsible for administering the New Zealand Bureau of International Social Service.
The international casework advisor is part of the network of Interstate Liaison Officers in Australia, and accesses the International Social Service network throughout the rest of the world. The team has key external relationships with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration New Zealand and the Department of Internal Affairs.
What is the Protocol for the Transfer of Care and Protection Orders and Proceedings and Interstate Assistance?
The Protocol describes how New Zealand and Australia work together to promote the best interests of children and young people, what to do when there are concerns for them and, when it is in the best interests that children and young people move between Australia and New Zealand, how to achieve this.
Under the Protocol, with the assistance of the Australian authorities, we are able to be satisfied that the care and protection plan for the child or young person is in their best interests, being monitored and progress reported back to us. New Zealand can also make requests to our equivalent state authority in Australia for casework to be undertaken on our behalf in Australia; Australia can make the same requests of Oranga Tamariki in New Zealand.
Requests can include caregiver assessments for permanent or holiday placements, transfer of casework tasks, permanent transfer of legal proceedings or orders, and one-off visits to monitor and report on progress of a particular child or young person’s situation. Contained within the Protocol are agreed timeframes in which requested tasks are to be completed. For example, the receiving state has eight weeks to complete a full caregiver assessment, and four to six weeks to complete a caregiver assessment for the purposes of a holiday.
All requests, in the first instance, are sent to Australia via the international casework advisor.
What happens if I am worried about the safety of a child or young person overseas?
The Protocol for the Transfer of Care and Protection Orders and Proceedings and Interstate Assistance allows reports of concern and alerts to be sent between New Zealand and Australia as part of the care and protection of children and young people. Where any person holds care and protection concerns for a child or young person living in Australia, they should be encouraged to contact the Oranga Tamariki National Contact Centre to make a report.
If you as the social worker wish to report care or protection concerns for a child or young person who is living in Australia, complete the Interstate Alert template (DOC 74 KB) and send it on to the Contact Centre who will forward it to the appropriate Australian authorities.
Where a concern for a child or young person living in any country other than Australia comes to your attention the international casework advisor will be able to advise you how to report the concern to the recognised authority in the overseas country.
Are there any countries where children and young people can't move?
Consideration should be given on a case by case basis to the particular needs of the child or young person and whether the country to where it is intended they move will have sufficient services and resources available to meet the needs. Generally it will not be appropriate to move children and young people overseas when they have issues of offending that have not been addressed in New Zealand first. Care should also be exercised in making the decision to move a child or young person with high and complex needs overseas.
In 2005 Child, Youth and Family reviewed its practice in relation to the placement of children and young people in the Pacific. As a result it was decided that the placement of all children and young people involved with Oranga Tamariki in Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tokelau and other Pacific countries is not to occur unless there are exceptional circumstances and the chief executive agrees to the placement. This position was taken as a result of there being no specific protocols negotiated and agreed with Pacific countries.
Where do I get help translating documents?
When working with a case where the country involved does not have English as its first language, any request or document should be translated prior to sending it. At a national level Oranga Tamariki has a relationship with the Department of Internal Affair’s translation service. Your regional practice advisor can assist you with getting a quote for translation when needed.
If the document being translated is likely to be required for Court purposes, it is preferable to work with a translator who is familiar with translation for official purposes. In New Zealand it is likely that the translator will need to file an affidavit identifying their level of expertise in the language and then affix the original document and the translated version. When you send documents overseas, include both the original and translated versions. Make inquiries with the intended recipient to ascertain whether they have specific requirements for the translator.
I need to make a casework request to a country other than Australia - how do I do this?
Oranga Tamariki acts as an Affiliated Bureau of the International Social Service (ISS). ISS is an international network of social service organisations which provide casework services across borders. All referrals to and from ISS are made through the international casework advisor.
The ISS network is used by Oranga Tamariki when an equivalent statutory child protection agency in an overseas country could not be identified. ISS has particular experience in searching for family/whānau members.
If you decide, following consultation with the international casework advisor, that a referral through the ISS network is the most effective option available to progress a case, complete an ISS case summary template. Requests may range from caregiver assessments to monitoring and reporting. The international casework advisor can advise you to make the referral and give you an estimated timeframe for a response.
How do I manage referrals from Australia?
All referrals to New Zealand from Australia are managed under The Protocol for the Transfer of Care and Protection Orders and Proceedings and Interstate Assistance. Referrals may include placement requests, caregiver assessments, case work transfer requests (e.g. monitoring the placement), and transfer of proceedings and orders to New Zealand.
In the first instance an international casework advisor at National Office will receive the referral from the sending state in Australia. The referral will then be sent to the relevant site manager and/or practice leader who will then manage how this work is allocated.
Custody and/or guardianship orders remain in place in the sending state as does responsibility for all payments to support the placement.
Any issues presented to you by the caregiver should be answered by the key worker in the sending state. As long as the orders remain in the jurisdiction of the sending state all decisions are made there.
In cases where Oranga Tamariki is acting on behalf of a child welfare equivalent from Australia, the Australian key worker is the decision maker. Oranga Tamariki may be monitoring and assisting but do not have the power to make a placement change or agree to an action without the prior authorisation of the Australian key worker.
I want to make a request for a s132 report to be completed in Australia - what needs to happen?
Australia has a Federal Family Court that deals with custody matters and the Court employs social workers to undertake preparations of the reports that are equal to our s.132 reports.
In the event that Oranga Tamariki are directed to complete a s.132 report for someone in Australia, the Court Registrar needs to be advised to make direct contact with the manager of Child Dispute Services (at the Family Court of Australia on +61 7 3248233) to request an equivalent of a s132 report be completed as Oranga Tamariki cannot provide this service for families in Australia.
What if plans are being made for a child or young person to move to another country but they don't have a legal immigration status in New Zealand?
Where Oranga Tamariki are involved with a child or young person who does not have a legal immigration status in New Zealand, you need to ascertain on what immigration status the child or young person entered New Zealand and how they have ended up without a legal immigration status. This information can be gained either by talking with the family/whānau or by way of an official information request made to Immigration New Zealand for information. It is not possible to request information on adults without their consent.
Under s66 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, you need to be clear that your request for information pertains to the care and protection of the children or young people you hold concerns for. You do not need to share all the personal care and protection history with Immigration New Zealand in your request, rather state for what purpose you are requesting the information.
What factors should be kept in mind when escorting a child or young person to their overseas placement?
International air travel involves many steps – check in, numerous security checks, long walks to transit lounges/boarding gates, coping with the flight, luggage drop offs and collection. Arriving in the new country brings a new time zone, more queues, security checks and baggage collection. Remember that children and young people will be managing their own feelings of leaving behind their family/whānau, friends and usual way of life and dealing with the anticipation of what their new life holds.
The decision as to who is an appropriate escort will be made in consultation with the family/whānau and new caregivers. Where there are no available family/whānau members, talk with your practice leader about who is available to take on this role.
Any person accompanying the child or young person will need a letter from the chief executive's delegated authority explaining their role and relationship to the child or young person and what authority they have been given. This letter may be asked for by airline staff, customs staff or airport security at any time during the journey. Any international travel undertaken by a social worker on a case-related matter requires approval by the relevant DCE Services for children and families. This approval is progressed via their practice leader and site manager in the form of a memo.
If you are accompanying a child or young person overseas, keep the following items in your carry-on luggage:
- mobile phone set up with global roaming
- your mobile phone number so you can give it to others both home and away in the event you need to get in touch with them
- direct telephone numbers for relevant Oranga Tamariki staff back in New Zealand
- your tickets, passport and travel documentation
- the child or young person’s tickets, passport and travel documentation
- a letter signed by your site manager explaining your role/relationship to the child or young person
- your social worker photo ID
- any medication required by the child or young person (and yourself if applicable)
- caregivers’ address and contact details
- your itinerary, including accommodation details
- the local area taxi phone number
- names of the local social worker, their physical address and phone details
- copies of custody orders
- foreign currency for incidentals and sufficient funds on credit cards for unplanned expenses (before you travel check with your bank that your credit card/debit card will be accepted in ATMs in the overseas country)
- details for Air New Zealand and other relevant airline carriers in the event you need to change flights.
Leave a copy of your itinerary and contact details with your family/whānau, supervisor and site manager, and keep all receipts for work-related expenses while you travel.
Remember that while travelling with a child or young person overseas you are in the loco parentis role and are responsible for making sure that the child or young person’s needs are being met at all times.
What documentation should accompany the child or young person overseas?
- Passport: To travel out of New Zealand, everyone requires their own passport. Give yourself plenty of time to make these arrangements. If a child or young person is under the age of 16 years, a parent or guardian is required to sign the passport application form. A young person aged 16 and older can sign their own passport application. For those children, young people and Oranga Tamariki staff who already hold a passport, bear in mind that most countries require a minimum of six months validity left on the passport at the time of arrival in the overseas country. The passport is to be held on the child or young person’s file until it is needed. Make sure that the child or young person has a copy of the photo page of their passport in their luggage.
- Birth certificate: It is it is important to have a copy kept on the child or young person’s file in New Zealand to ensure we have the correct information in the event that the passport is lost.
- School reports
- Medical records (including immunisation records)
- Court orders
- Care plan
- Any other documents specific to the case which you think the caregiver will need.
As is the case for a child or young person moving to a new home within New Zealand, a care plan is to be provided to the new caregiver overseas. This occurs even when the chief executive is no longer the custodian/guardian.
A covering letter to the caregiver should accompany the copies of the important documents for children and young people who remain in the chief executive’s custody or guardianship. The letter should outline the role the chief executive has in this child or young person’s life, by what authority the placement has been made, and confirmation of what ongoing role the caregiver has with the child or young person. This letter may then be used by the caregiver with medical providers, schools and when accessing other social services. In Australia this includes accessing the family tax rebate with Centrelink and medical services.
Do I need to organise travel insurance?
A comprehensive travel insurance plan should be in place to cover the time between the child or young person leaving New Zealand and their being able to access services in the receiving country once the move has occurred. Seek advice from the Financial Accounting & Systems team about travel insurance options.
A child or young person going overseas on a school trip or holiday will need insurance for the entire duration of the trip. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advice relating to the kind of travel insurance that should be acquired.
Travel insurance will provide the necessary health cover for the duration of the trip. If the child or young person is in the custody or guardianship of the chief executive, then the chief executive requires the social worker to ensure travel insurance is in place.
If the child or young person is not in the chief executive’s custody or guardianship but the matter is considered in a family group conference, then it is recommended that the social worker and/or co-ordinator raises the issue of insurance with the family group conference.
What do I need to think about when transitioning a child or young person to their new home overseas?
When planning the transition of a child or young person to an overseas placement, it is important to assist the child or young person to make a connection with the caregiver prior to the move. An international move should always be carefully planned and is generally not as simple as placing a child or young person within New Zealand.
Establishing a connection with the intended caregiver will assist in developing the child or young person’s sense of belonging and increase their personal ownership over what is happening for them. It may be that the child or young person has not visited their new home prior to the move. The ‘culture shock’ a child or young person may experience should not be underestimated. They may experience feelings of homesickness, loneliness, grief and loss, even if they were highly motivated to move. It is your role as social worker to assist the child or young person, along with the family/whānau and new caregivers, to prepare for and manage the move smoothly.
The international element of an overseas placement makes planning more difficult, and you may need to be more creative in how you enable the connections to be made between the child or young person and their intended caregivers.
Some ideas to enable connections to be made include encouraging those involved with the move to use phone calls, email, Skype to have regular conversations, and networking sites like Facebook to share photos of the house and its surroundings. This will help focus the child or young person and demystify where they are going. Google the geographical area in which the child or young person is moving to and familiarise yourself with it so you can discuss the move with the child or young person from an informed position. Assist the current caregiver with accessing information. Ask their overseas caregivers to send information about the school the child or young person will attend to assist in the preparation.
You also need to ensure that practical details such as confirming the child or young person’s baggage allowance are taken care of. As with any move, make sure that you have allowed for costs to transport any belongings that are meaningful to the child or young person.