Overseas placement: Key considerations
Updated: 26 February 2014
This resource provides you with some of the key factors to keep in mind when considering placing a child or young person overseas, making the placement, and after the placement has happened. Some sections provide specific guidance for different parts of the world; others outline guidance that is general across countries.
Determining immigration rules and eligibility to access health and education
Prior to a caregiver assessment being requested, the social worker should determine what immigration status the prospective caregiver has in Australia and, given the child or young person’s citizenship status, what eligibility the child or young person will have to live in the overseas country with the prospective caregiver.
In Australia access to health services is via Medicare. If the prospective caregivers are Australian citizens or have Australian permanent residence, they will be able to put the child or young person on their Medicard. If the prospective caregivers are not Australian permanent residents or citizens they will be responsible for paying all health-related costs themselves.
Talk to the prospective caregivers in detail about the child or young person’s educational progress. This is especially important when the child or young person has special educational needs as the provisions of specialised assistance vary from state to state.
Rest of the world
To live permanently in an overseas country other than Australia, the child or young person must be able to attain permanent residential status that allows them to freely access education, health and other social services. If this cannot be achieved, the chief executive cannot be satisfied that a move will be in the child or young person’s best interests.
Prior to agreeing with the decision for the child or young person to move, contact the relevant country’s Embassy or Consular office in New Zealand to determine immigration requirements.
In a s.19 family group conference matter, the care and protection co-ordinator will ask the family group conference to consider who will be responsible for arranging immigration-related issues.
Managing guardianship issues when the child or young person is overseas
Before a child or young person moves overseas, all parties need to be made aware of what issues require guardianship consent in advance of the child or young person’s move and be asked to agree as to how specific guardianship issues will be managed.
The overseas caregivers will need orders in their favour. It may be appropriate for them to have orders made in their favour under the Care of Children Act 2004 within the New Zealand court system. This is often connected to the child or young person’s immigration status and, when this matter is finalised, other matters such as guardianship are also finalised. The Care of Children Act 2004 expects that guardians will act jointly in exercising their guardianship roles and that a guardian will consult other guardians.
Completing the caregiver assessment
Prior to a child or young person moving overseas, caregiver assessment and approval from the overseas country is required for the prospective caregiver/s. The assessment and approval is required by the chief executive before Oranga Tamariki will support the chief executive’s orders being discharged in favour of the new caregiving arrangement. It is your role as social worker to discuss with the prospective caregiver, in advance of making a request, the assessment process just as you would for a New Zealand-based caregiver. You need to be assured that the prospective caregiver has the skills and commitment to care for the child or young person and they understand what the assessment process involves.
The social worker is also required to send to the prospective caregiver the standard Oranga Tamariki caregiver application forms. Completion of these enables you to attain names of the prospective caregivers’ nominated referees, contact details for their doctor, and their consent to carry out both New Zealand and the overseas country police checks (where applicable) and checks with their local statutory child protection service.
The Protocol for the Transfer of Care and Protection Orders and Proceedings and Interstate Assistance allows Oranga Tamariki to request a care and protection history check in Australia for the prospective caregivers. Complete the Interstate Alert (DOC 74 KB) and send it via your practice leader to the international casework advisor at National Office.
When you have completed the initial New Zealand checks and are satisfied with the result, request a full caregiver assessment by completing the Request for family/whānau caregiver assessment in Australia (DOC 171 KB) and sending it to your practice leader for endorsement. Your practice leader will then send it on to the international casework advisor. Include in your request a summary of the outcomes of the checks already carried out and a summary of the dialogue you have already had with the prospective caregivers. As the person most familiar with the child or young person’s needs and the overall case, outline any specific areas you would like the overseas report writer to explore with the prospective caregivers when they carry out the caregiver assessment.
In Australia a caregiver assessment will take between eight and 10 weeks to complete; in other countries the process may take several months. For further clarity as to what you can expect from countries we do not commonly work with, please discuss what is and is not possible with the international casework advisor.
Once the caregiver assessment is completed, the overseas report writer will send it to the international casework advisor, who will then send it on to the practice leader and social worker. Any areas that the international casework advisor thinks require particular consideration will be highlighted for you.
You then need to consider the recommendations made by the overseas report writer in light of the child or young person’s needs. This is a critical decision point in your planning.
Seeking approval for the overseas placement
To seek approval, compile a ‘dossier’ of information which includes copies of:
- all New Zealand and overseas checks (Police, child protection history, medical, references) carried out on the prospective caregivers
- a caregiver assessment that has been approved by an overseas authority
- written consent from the child or young person’s guardians
- endorsement from the child or young person’s lawyer and applicable Court minutes
- evidence of agreement that post placement reporting will be undertaken (request for transfer of casework tasks)
- the agreed plan approved by the Court
- written summary of the proposal which includes full financial arrangements, contact agreements and set up costs
- any assessments of the child or young person (e.g. psychological, educational, health) which will assist in demonstrating that the proposed placement meets the child or young person’s needs.
When the dossier is complete, your supervisor, practice leader, site manager and site lawyer will need to endorse it before it is submitted to your regional practice advisor.
Your regional practice advisor will then review the dossier and, when they are satisfied that it is complete, will endorse it by way of a memorandum. They will attach the memorandum to the dossier and send it to the international casework advisor.
The international casework advisor will review the documents, write an executive summary of the placement request and submit this to a lawyer for legal advice. They will then seek formal approval from the relevant DCE Services for children and familes.
The timeframe for approval will vary depending on the complexities of the case. Delays can occur when further information is needed before a decision can be made. Be sure to plan in advance and give yourself plenty of time to compile the dossier and make the request for approval so the plan for the child or young person stays on track. The relevant DCE Services for children and families decision is provided in writing to the international casework advisor who will then advise you of the decision.
Social worker allocation
Any child or young person who moves to Australia while in the custody and/or guardianship of the chief executive remains allocated to a Oranga Tamariki social worker until the child or young person is legally secure in Australia. Legal security can be achieved by the relevant Australian child welfare agency being granted orders, by the caregivers obtaining orders, or by the child or young person being safely secured back in the care of their guardians and legal status reverting to that parent/guardian.
The Protocol agreed between Australia and New Zealand allows for the allocation of a co-worker on cases where a child or young person involved with statutory child protection services has moved between New Zealand and Australia and vice versa.
The social worker from the home state remains in the key social work role until legal orders are transferred from the home state. To request the allocation of a co-worker, you’ll need to complete a Request for interstate transfer of casework tasks in which you ask the receiving state to agree in principle to carry out casework tasks (e.g. monitoring and reporting on progress) on your behalf after the child or young person has moved. Once this is endorsed by your supervisor and practice leader, the request is made to the overseas authority via the international casework advisor who will make the request to the receiving state via the interstate liaison officer of the receiving state. This agreement will also be included in the documentation you submit for the approval of the relevant DCE Services for children and families prior to the child or young person being placed.
Prior to the placement, a teleconference between you and the local office in the receiving state should occur. This provides you with an opportunity to discuss the detail of the casework tasks you have requested to be carried out, to share information, and to agree on a clear communication plan. As the key social worker you initiate this teleconference along with your supervisor, practice leader, and may include the international casework advisor and interstate liaison officer in the receiving state.
Usually it is not until the child or young person is placed that a co-worker is allocated. As the key social worker it is your responsibility to support the placement from New Zealand by regularly communicating with the caregivers, and child or young person. Initially this contact should take place weekly.
Rest of the world
Oranga Tamariki is able to make requests to other countries for one-off progress reports only if there is either an equivalent social service entity for which we have contact details for or an International Social Service contact in the country.
To seek assistance for a case matter, have early discussions with your practice leader, regional practice advisor and the international casework advisor to ensure there is a full understanding of what is and is not possible prior to the placement being progressed.
Payments to overseas caregivers
Payment to caregivers of children and young people in the chief executive’s custody who are living in Australia are not managed through our regular fortnightly board run system. These payments are managed as an ‘overseas payment’ through the financial accounting and systems team at National Office in Wellington. Payments are made via direct telegraphic bank transfer or by bank draft (cheque). Consult early with your practice leader and site manager to discuss the child or young person’s needs and the needs of the placement. For expert advice regarding managing the financial implications of an overseas placement, talk to your regional finance analyst.
Because the caregiver assessment will have been completed outside of New Zealand, you will need to create a caregiver record and set the caregivers up as vendors. Delays can occur between placement and first payment if the caregiver record, vendor details and approval for finances are not completed prior to the child or young person moving.
Where it is agreed that caregivers will pay for services or items in advance (e.g. school uniform) and then seek reimbursement from Oranga Tamariki, be sure that the caregiver understands the timeframe for reimbursement so they can realistically assess their capacity to meet these costs initially.
As with any placement of a child or young person in the custody of the chief executive, financial support is required. This includes board payments, clothing allowances, pocket money, Christmas and birthday allowance and other costs as agreed. Your site manager will decided whether it is necessary to pay a non-standard board rate to meet any shortfall in costs resulting from the exchange rate between New Zealand and Australia.
Rest of the world
If a child or young person is placed somewhere other than Australia, all of the obligations of the chief executive will be discharged before the child or young person leaves New Zealand. This means that payments to caregivers by Oranga Tamariki cannot be made.
When an overseas caregiver wishes to apply for legal orders for a child or young person placed permanently with them by Oranga Tamariki
Caregivers need to obtain their own legal advice. Be clear that you are not in a position to give them advice about the law.
When caregivers in Australia want to legally formalise their relationship with a child or young person who is in the custody and/or guardianship of the chief executive, the chief executive is unlikely to consent to the discharge of orders in his or her favour unless the proposed orders in favour of the new caregivers are the most appropriate in the circumstances.
A New Zealand citizen living in Australia who is caring for a New Zealand-born child or young person for whom the chief executive hold custody and/or guardianship orders can apply to the New Zealand Family Court for orders under the Care of Children Act 2004 when the guardians live in New Zealand, or when the Family Court still has Oranga Tamariki proceedings before it.
When the caregivers are citizens of Australia, they can apply for the equivalent of custody and/or guardianship orders for the child or young person they are caring for in their own state in Australia.
When the child or young person’s guardians reside in New Zealand, the Australia Court will require that all parties be served and, as occurs in New Zealand, a court process will occur to resolve any disputes.
Rest of the world
No child or young person in the custody of the chief executive can leave New Zealand without clear agreement being reached as to how all legal matters in the New Zealand court system will be regulated.
Transferring legal proceedings or orders overseas
The transfer of legal proceedings or orders under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 can only occur between Australia and New Zealand. Transfer of legal proceedings or orders does not happen in every case. For some children and young people, it is in their best interests that their caregiver makes an application for custody and guardianship orders in their own favour and that orders against the chief executive are discharged. This situation would not require a transfer to the receiving state.
In most cases, when the child or young person’s needs are being met continuously in their new placement in Australia, and there is no longer any need to monitor the placement, it will not be in the child or young person’s best interests to have orders transferred to the receiving state’s jurisdiction. It is preferable to have orders made to the caregiver so that the child or young person is legally secure.
Not all cases will be the same and early discussion with your supervisor, practice leader, site lawyer, regional practice advisor, international casework advisor, and the child or young person’s parents and caregivers will be important.
Service of Court documents
Your practice leader or site lawyer should forward the request to service documents to the international casework advisor. The request should include the application for orders and all other supporting documents, including the nature of the request, the name and contact details of the respondent living overseas, and a list of each document attached.
The international casework advisor will forward the request to a recognised social service agency. The social service agency in the serving state will make the arrangements to serve the documents and proof of service will be sent back to you via the international casework advisor.
Rest of the world
Your practice leader needs to make contact with the international casework advisor. In some countries the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be able to assist.
When the chief executive still has custody and/or guardianship of the child or young person, it is the responsibility of the Oranga Tamariki social worker to ensure that the child or young person’s immediate safety needs are met. Make contact with the allocated co-worker in Australia to ensure an assessment of the child or young person’s needs are undertaken and that appropriate steps are taken to address any care and protection needs. Issues pertaining to the day-to-day care, the emotional needs of the child or young person, management of contact, and decisions as to the long-term suitability of the placement will be reported to you by the co-worker and you (as key worker) will be expected to be available to discuss the issues and agree on a way forward.
Where the chief executive does not hold any legal orders in respect of the child or young person, it will be the responsibility of the child or young person’s Australian-based social worker to assess the situation.
Rest of the world
The placement breakdown will form part of the relevant country’s child protection process.
When Oranga Tamariki closes the case
A child or young person’s case remains allocated when the chief executive holds any legal orders under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and/or has on-going responsibilities by way of a family group conference outcome.
The role of Oranga Tamariki ends when:
- the child’s caregivers in Australia assume the legal custody or guardianship of the child or young person; or
- the existing orders in favour of the chief executive are transferred to the jurisdiction of the receiving state; or
- when the young person reaches an age beyond the jurisdiction of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 ; or
- the young person marries.
If the child or young person has been placed in Australia as a result of a family group conference, the chief executive’s involvement (if any) ends when the child or young person’s plan has been completed.
Rest of the world
Orders made under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and the Care of Children Act 2004 may or may not be recognised in overseas jurisdictions, however they are not enforceable overseas other than in Australia. In practice this means that the chief executive has limited ability to assess, monitor and remove a child or young person from an overseas situation if necessary.
If it is planned for a child or young person to be placed in a country other than Australia, all aspects of the child or young person’s on-going wellbeing needs to be planned for and resolved in advance of the child or young person leaving New Zealand.