Care and protection pathway guidelines
Updated: 10 September 2019
The following provides a brief overview of the process beginning with the report of concern through to an intervention.
National Contact Centre
The National Contact Centre is the first point of contact for people using 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) and 0508 CARERS (0508 227 377) to connect to services within Oranga Tamariki. The Contact Centre operates 24 hours seven days a week. Reports of concern are received, assessed and processed via multi-media communications - phone, email, fax and letters.
During business hours (8am to 5pm) customer service representatives direct callers to the appropriate service in the Contact Centre. At night and on weekends an emergency service operates for critical and very urgent child protection and youth offending matters, including support to caregivers. This involves supervising nationwide callouts for all sites.
When the Contact Centre receives information it is assessed by a social worker to determine the appropriate pathway and response time for the child or young person. The intake decision response tool (PDF 22 MB) assists the decision-making. Responses may include a contact record with no further action or advice provided. If the social worker at the Contact Centre makes an informed decision to progress the contact record to a notification (further Oranga Tamariki response - FAR) the information becomes a report of concern. This includes:
- Case note (additional information on a case)
- Partnered response (PR)
- Child and family assessment (CFA)
The majority of cases will be referred for a child and family assessment, with cases of abuse that may constitute a criminal offence receiving an investigation.
Each child or young person referred for a child and family assessment or investigation has a safety and risk screen completed within 24 or 48 hours where there is high risk and no immediate protection available and within 7 or 20 working days for all other cases.
Allegations against Oranga Tamariki caregivers always receive a Oranga Tamariki response and go down either the child and family assessment or investigation pathway.
Report of concern
Under s15 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, any person who believes that any child or young person has been, or is likely to be, harmed (whether physically, emotionally, or sexually), ill-treated, abused, neglected or deprived may report the matter to Oranga Tamariki or the Police.
Oranga Tamariki also receive reports when there are concerns regarding a child or young person's behaviour or insecurity of care.
When a report is made to Oranga Tamariki and it results in a notification it is referred to as a 'report of concern'.
No further action
A decision of ‘No further action’ is reached when the report of concern does not need a response from Oranga Tamariki or another agency. This is the appropriate response where:
- there is no substance to the report of concern
- the information discloses no risk that the child or young person is in need of care or protection
- family/whānau are actively pursuing safety and wellbeing of child or young person and has willingness and capacity to respond
- matters have already been reported and have been or are being dealt with by police, family/whānau or other agency under s17.
Upon receiving the report of concern from the National Contact Centre, the site can make a decision that there is no role for Oranga Tamariki (no further action) or they may decide at that point to refer the family/whānau for a partnered response.
If the concerns in the report are such that safety of the children or young people cannot be determined without engagement by Oranga Tamariki, the site will confirm a pathway (child and family assessment or investigation) and then complete a safety and risk screen. The purpose of this screen is to ascertain the immediate safety of the child or young person and any other children or young people involved in the report of concern.
If, following the completion of the safety and risk screen, it is identified the child or young person is safe and there is no role for Oranga Tamariki, the case may either be closed or referred for a partnered response should the family/whānau require support.
When a report of concern has been made by the Family Court due to concerns arising during private proceedings, any care and protection issues identified during the child and family assessment or investigation need to be carefully considered. It should not be assumed that these issues will be addressed by the Court’s proceedings.
Child and family assessment
The child and family assessment response is appropriate when the report of concern involves an allegation that the care, safety or wellbeing of the child or young person may be at risk but does not indicate the response should involve Police and/or the collection of forensic evidence.
The child and family assessment is a facilitative and less intrusive approach to engaging families/whānau and understanding their needs than a statutory investigation. This means that families/whānau will not be unnecessarily exposed to a forensically focused process, and instead receive an assessment focused on understanding their needs and risks along with their strengths and resources.
The purpose of the child and family assessment is to:
- assess the safety of the child or young person
- identify strengths in the child, parent and family/whānau/environmental domains (using the Tuituia assessment framework )
- identify care or protection needs that if addressed could reduce or eliminate the risk of harm to the child or young person
- identify services that could address these needs either during or after the assessment.
An investigation response is appropriate when the notification involves an allegation of abuse that may constitute a criminal offence.
All cases receiving an investigation response are worked in consultation with Police and follow the Child Protection Protocol (CPP). A safety and risk screen is completed for each investigation. Cases that follow the Child Protection Protocol include:
- physical abuse that meets the CPP definition
- sexual abuse
- neglect that meets the CPP definition
Partnered response is a way of providing an early, comprehensive and co-ordinated response to families/whānau with low level issues who require services rather than a formal Oranga Tamariki response.
These referrals are managed at sites by a differential response co-ordinator dedicated to the role of linking families/whānau with the community services they require.
A referral for a partnered response is made once Oranga Tamariki has completed a child and family assessment or investigation and determined that the best response is for community services to work with the family/whānau. The differential response co-ordinator facilitates a process whereby they link families/whānau to key community services that can address the identified needs. The differential response co-ordinator and service provider keep in regular contact to monitor the family/whānau progress and consider any other services or support that they might need.
Prior to making a referral, agreement is obtained from the family/whānau. The referral information will include:
- family/whānau details
- the family/whānau situation
- identified care or protection concerns
- the care or protection needs of the child or young person and parents/caregivers
- the most appropriate type of service for addressing those needs
- the view of the situation by the family/whānau
- family/whānau strengths that will contribute to achieving outcomes
- a brief summary of relevant family/whānau history
- whether any other service providers are involved with the family/whānau.
Family group conference
The law recognises that families/whānau have the main responsibility for caring for their children and young people and protecting them from harm. At times, though, families/whānau may need help.
The family group conference supports family/whānau to develop their own solutions to the issues they face. Families/whānau and professionals work together to agree how they can keep the child or young person safe within their community.
In all care and protection family group conferences the welfare and interests of the child or young person are the paramount and foremost consideration (s6) with regard to the principles set out in s5 and s13.
Although the family group conference can be as diverse and unique as the families with whom we work, there are some key elements that can assist in ensuring the best outcomes for mokopuna and their families/whānau.
In the majority of situations issues of care and safety will be managed without going to the Family Court. New Zealand’s family group conference model is intended as a diversion from the Court system.
That said, there are times when a child or young person’s care or safety cannot be resolved through a family/whānau agreement or family group conference and the social worker may need to place matters before the court for resolution.
Care or protection proceedings are principally dealt with by the Family Court. The philosophy behind the Family Court is to assist people to resolve their own problems through counseling, conciliation and mediation. Such a philosophy is consistent with the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 with its emphasis on participation in decision-making by family/whānau members.
The Court’s role is not to ‘rubber stamp’ family/whānau decisions as it has the power to make its own decisions. This means the Court may override the decisions of a family group conference if it considers that those decisions do not promote the welfare and interests of the child or young person. In doing this the Court would need to be seriously concerned that the family group conference plan would not keep the child or young person safe.
The Court process begins (unless there has been emergency action) with an application for the Court to make a declaration that the child or young person is in need of care or protection.
Usually social workers or the Police make an application for a declaration but anybody can apply for a declaration if they get the Court’s permission. A Court will only make such a declaration once it has considered the decisions of the family group conference and believes that the child or young person’s need for care or protection cannot be met by other means. The Judge may refer the matter back to a family group conference.
When there are concerns for the child or young person’s care or safety Court orders may be necessary. As well as making a formal statement that a child or young person is in need of care, the Court can make a wide range of orders to support the child or young person, parents, guardian or others having the care of the child or young person. These include:
- Services orders (s86) - to provide particular service or assistance to the family, including: help in the home; parenting skills education; activities for a child or young person after school; financial support
- Restraining orders (s87) - used to prevent contact from someone who is deemed to be dangerous or harmful to the child or young person
- Support orders (s91) - to monitor and provide more intensive support and assistance to the child or young person and their parents or caregiver. A support order can eliminate the need for a custody order and can be used where guardianship and custody orders have been discharged and a further period of support and oversight is required
- Custody and/or guardianship orders which address who is responsible for the day-to-day care of a child or young person and who can make major decisions about the upbringing of the child or young person.
The role of counsel for child
In any proceedings under the care and protection provisions of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, Counsel will be appointed to represent the child or young person (s159).
Counsel for child and the Court must encourage and assist the child or young person to participate in the Court proceedings to the degree appropriate to the child or young person’s age and level of maturity (s11).
The role of Counsel for Child includes advocating for the child or young person’s interests and welfare, and representing the child or young person’s wishes when the child or young person is able to express those wishes.
Counsel for Child is appointed from a pool of senior solicitors experienced in Family Court work and their appointment must be approved by a Family Court judge.
Counsel for Child’s views on the child or young person’s best interests and welfare may not always coincide with that of the social worker. However, a good working relationship between the social worker and Counsel for child is important for good case management. Involving a Counsel for child in a child and family consult may help to give them a full picture of information held by Oranga Tamariki and understand the rationale behind the social worker’s assessment of the child or young person.
In some situations the child or young person may come into the care of the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki. This response is reserved for situations where the care and protection concerns cannot be addressed by working with the family/whānau whilst the child or young person remains in their care.
There are a number of ways that a child or young person may enter the care of the chief executive including by short-term agreement (s139 Temporary Care Agreement), by emergency action (e.g. s39 Place of Safety Warrant), or under a Court Order (s78 or s101 custody order).
In all situations it is preferable for the placement of the child or young person to be with their family/whānau or extended family/whānau member. A placement outside the family/whānau will only occur when there are no suitable family/whānau, hapu or iwi placements available.
Residential care is an institutional intervention. Children and young people are only placed in residential care when it is not possible to have their needs met within the community and safe contained care is required. Ideally residential stays will be short and well planned to meet the multiple and often complex needs of the children and young people.
Oranga Tamariki residences cater for children and young people, from 9 years old up to 17, and range from small 8 bed residences to large 40 bed secure care facilities.