Searches of children or young people in Care and Protection and Youth Justice Residences
Updated: 07 February 2017
This key information outlines the requirements for searching children and young people in residences.
Our children and young people have rights and they deserve to know what to expect from us. When we carry out a search or inspection we inform them, and we undertake searches and inspections with the greatest care and sensitivity.
Children and young people in Oranga Tamariki residences receive information — on admission and regularly during their stay — about their rights and responsibilities and the procedures in respect of searches.
What the policy says
The Working with children and young people in residences policy says that:
Before we do a mail search or search a child or young person, we must have reasonable grounds to believe they are in possession of an unauthorised item.
We must ensure there is consistency, clarity and quality in the relationship we have with children and young people. This is key in managing any search or inspection.
Search training must be undertaken before any staff member can undertake a search.
We must ensure a search or inspection complies with:
- sections 384A - 384K of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and
- Part 4 of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Residential Care) Regulations 1996.
There is no authority for any staff member to search or inspect or seize an item unless there is a justifiable belief on reasonable grounds that a search or inspection is required.
Before we undertake a search we must have reasonable grounds to support our beliefs that a child or young person has in their possession an unauthorised item. An unauthorised item is any item that is believed to be harmful or that may not be lawfully possessed in the residence. A suspicion alone is not sufficient to search or inspect.
Before a search
- Complete Oranga Tamariki training “How to complete searches”.
- If staff believe that a child or young person has an unauthorised item, they consult with the Residence Manager or team leader.
- Staff should say and write down why they believe a search or inspection is necessary and the grounds for that belief.
- The Residence Manager gives permission for a mail inspection and a strip search. A team leader can give permission for a scanner, pat down search or a room search.
- Choose the most acceptable and least invasive search method for the situation. A strip search is not an option until a pat down search or a scanner search has first been conducted.
- The gender preference of the child or young person is considered by staff when doing a pat down or strip search.
- Make sure the child or young person understands why we're doing the search, how any seized items could be managed, and that any seized items may be used in criminal proceedings.
- Give the child or young person the opportunity to hand over the items being searched for prior to commencing a search.
During a search
- Scanner, pat down or strip searches are to be carried out in the presence of another member of staff, a police officer or a parent/guardian/usual carer.
- When a scanner, pat down or strip search is carried out the second person must be the same gender as the child or young person, unless the second person is a parent/guardian/usual carer.
- The scanner, pat down or strip search is not carried out in view of another child or young person.
- Searches are carried out with decency and sensitivity toward the child or young person.
After a search
- The details of a search are recorded on a search form and in the log book, including items seized and what happened to these.
- Completed search forms are given to a Team Leader.
- If an incident occurs during the search, a SOSHI report is completed.
- If the child or young person wants to complain about a search, they are provided with a Whaia Te Maramatanga form.
An electronic scanner is passed over the clothed body of the child or young person. It does not touch them. The scanner will detect metallic objects.
Pat down search
A staff member runs or pats their hands over the child or young person's body, and inside or outside clothing, but not inside underwear. They can insert a hand into any pockets or pouches of clothing, but not underwear. They also conduct a visual search which requires the child or young person to:
- remove, raise, or open any outer clothing (except when the young person being searched has no clothing or only outer clothing is being worn)
- turn out their pockets or pouch, hem folds and cuffs
- open their mouth
- display palms of hands
- display soles of feet
- lift/raise their hair
- remove any head covering, gloves, socks, shoes.
Following a scanner or a pat down search, a strip search can occur if you believe on reasonable grounds that it is necessary to detect a harmful item. The focus of a strip search is on the potential for harm and the belief that the child or young person has on them an article, drug, or substance that is likely to harm them or another person.
- The child or young person is told that the purpose of the search is to ensure safety of themselves and other residents. Remind the child or young person of the seizure provisions.
- A strip search does not occur in view of another child or young person and it does not occur in view of a staff member who is not of the same gender as the young person.
- A strip search is carried out in the presence of another member of staff or a police officer of the same gender. Alternatively the second person can be a parent/guardian/usual carer.
- Undertake the search in a designated area. Residences are required to have a designated area where there are no CCTV cameras.
- Have a towel available that can be given to the child or young person to wrap around them as soon as they have removed their clothes.
- Ask the child or young person to fully undress or to remove any specified items of clothing and underclothing for the purpose of being visually examined. The supporting staff member can search the clothing during this process.
- The child or young person is to remain undressed only for as long as it takes to conduct the search. You should work quickly to allow them to re-dress.
The supporting person is positioned so they can observe the staff member conducting the search without actually viewing the child or young person. Both people searching a transgender child or young person should be of the same gender the child or young person identifies with.
Incoming and outgoing mail can be inspected — staff follow the provisions in regulation 11 and 39, and section 384B Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. In discussion with the child or young person the Residence Manager authorises mail to be opened and items seized if they believe it contains any:
- unauthorised item (e.g. a harmful item or one that may not be lawfully possessed at the residence)
- material that might be offensive or harmful or that might facilitate or encourage an offence by the child or young person.
Staff may not read mail unless:
a) the child or young person invites them to read the mail, or
b) the staff member believes the mail might be offensive or harmful.
Under search conditions the child or young person can be asked to open the mail in front of a staff member, or the staff member may open the mail in front the of the child or young person.
If mail is believed to contain any explosive or destructive substance the child or young person does not need to be present.
A room search (including sleeping areas) can only be performed if a staff member has reasonable grounds to believe that the child or young person has an unauthorised item and the child or young person has been given an opportunity to hand over items.
The child or young person is informed that their room will be searched for the purpose of detecting any unauthorised item or any item that may not be lawfully possessed but they do not have to be present for this.
In the case of a security issue (s384C (2)) a room search can be undertaken.
Use of dogs
When deemed necessary, a Residence Manager may request the use of a trained dog for the purpose of searching. Approval is required from the General Manager, Residential and High Needs Services.
Seizure of unauthorised items
Any unauthorised items, substances, or articles that could be harmful can be seized. Final decisions are made by the Residence Manager. After discussing with the child or young person, these unauthorised items can be:
- destroyed under the Residence Manager’s direction
- handed over to the Police (in the case of drugs) who will make a decision whether to take the matter further and will issue a receipt which is kept on file at the residence
- retained in the residence and returned to the child or young person when they are discharged or at the discretion of the Residence Manager
- returned to the lawful owner, if the item belongs to someone other than the young person.
Any items which are held in the residence must be stored safely and securely. There must be an inventory of all stored items.
- Complete the Residential Services search form in CYRAS.
- Team Leader approves under section 5 on the CYRAS search form and makes a recommendation under section 6.
- Complete Daily Log.
- Adheres to each of the operational principles.
- Ensures all documents are completed.
Team Leader operations
- Promotes the operational principles.
- Monitors searches and the seizure of unauthorised items.
- Ensures the correct procedure is carried out at all times.
- Makes decisions on the return, transfer or disposal of unauthorised items.
- Advises Residence Manager of any search process that could result in the requirement for a response from National Office.
- Approves all mail inspections and strip searches.
- Monitors compliance with the search procedures.
- Ensures the details required by the regulations are recorded in the daily log.
- Ensures all staff comply with the regulations relating to searches.
- Advises Manager Operational Support of any search process that could result in the requirement for a response from National Office, for example, significant contraband.