3. Our response
How we respond to care or protection concerns.
Family group conference (FGC)
An FGC is usually the first step and can be held at any point once a social worker has formed a belief that a child is in need of care or protection. This means that a social worker believes a child is being or is likely to be harmed.
FGCs have two parts:
Part 1: agreeing whether or not there are care or protection concerns.
This provides an opportunity to openly share concerns with whānau and to gain a better understanding of a situation by hearing directly from whānau. Social workers and others share their worries for the child, why they think the child might be at risk of harm and what might be needed to keep the child safe. It also involves the whānau agreeing that there are concerns that need to be addressed.
Part 2: agreeing how those concerns can be addressed.
This involves the whānau and others working together to develop a plan to address the shared concerns and how the plan will be put in place and supported by Oranga Tamariki and others. Many FGCs will have plans that don’t require the oversight of the Family Court. In other cases the Family Court may also be involved.
Where FGCs are unable to agree to the concerns or a plan, social workers are required to consider how best to respond. This may include an application to the Court for a non-custodial order or a custodial agreement or order.
A non-custodial order
A non-custodial order, such as a support order or restraining order, means that Oranga Tamariki has a role in overseeing the care of the child and monitoring their wellbeing. Orders may also be put in place to prevent harm, such as preventing unsafe adults having contact with a child.
A custodial agreement or order
This is when the Court agrees that Oranga Tamariki needs to have the legal custody (responsibility for the child’s day-to-day care). Having such an order in place does not automatically mean the child will always be removed from their parents care but it does give Oranga Tamariki the authority to do so.
When we're granted legal custody of a child
We can be granted legal custody of a child if:
- we are made aware of concerns about the safety of a child
- social workers complete an assessment and form a belief that a child needs care or protection
- we can’t identify any other way to keep the child safe
- the parents and/or the Family Court agree the child should be in our custody.
Wherever it is safe and possible to do so, the child’s whānau and other people supporting the whānau will be involved in this decision.
There are three ways legal custody can be granted to Oranga Tamariki
Legal custody pathways:
- Care agreements.
- Arranged entry.
- Urgent custody.
Types of custody status
|Type||Status||How it's obtained||Duration|
|Agreed||Temporary Care Agreement (s 139)||By agreement between parents / caregivers and Oranga Tamariki||Up to 28 days with one extension of up to 28 days|
|Extended Care Agreement
|By agreement following a family group conference (FGC)||For more than 28 days to up to 6 months for a child under 7 years or 12 months for a child or young person aged over 7 years|
|Urgent||Place of Safety warrant
|By application to the court or issuing officer||Five days from when executed|
|Search without warrant
|Police use to remove child and can place with Oranga Tamariki||Five days from when the child is placed into the custody of the Chief Executive|
|Unaccompanied child or young person (s 48)||Police use to remove child and can place with Oranga Tamariki||Five days from when the child is placed into the custody of the Chief Executive|
|Custody order pending determination of proceedings or in urgent cases (s 78) ex parte||Under urgent circumstances by application to the court||Up to 28 days unless a later date is specified by the court at the time the order is made|
|Arranged||Custody order pending determination of proceedings (s 78) on notice||By application to the court||Specified by court, usually until further hearing|
|Custody order (s 102)||Granted by court||Up to 6 months|
|Custody order (s 101)||Granted by court – requires social workers to present a plan for court approval||Requires regular review every 6 to 12 months depending on age of tamariki but order lasts until discharged, it expires or ends by other operation of law|
|By application to Family Court||Requires regular review every 6 to 12 months depending on age of tamariki but order lasts until discharged, it expires or ends by other operation of law|
Provision of day-to-day care in custody
When Oranga Tamariki has been granted legal custody of a child there are a range of ways in which the day-to-day care of the child can be provided.
- Support and safety planning: agree that the child stay with their parent or usual caregiver, with extra support and an agreed safety plan in place.
- Change of location: agree that the child stay with their parent or usual caregiver in another approved location, such as with a residential parenting provider or whānau.
- Caregivers: arrange for the child to be cared for by an approved whānau or non-whānau carer. This can be done in a collaborative way with the parent and whānau or it can involve the removal of the child without parental or whānau agreement.
As per the legislation, it is preferable to keep tamariki or children in family or whānau care wherever it is possible to do so safely.
Family Court plans and reviews
Unless these are made on an interim basis or there is a specific timeframe, most orders made by the Family Court:
- require a report and plan
- require regular review by the Family Court – every six months for a child under 7 years and every 12 months for an older child
- require an application to be made for the order to be discharged unless it ends by expiry or by operation of law.
Moving to permanency
We never want a child to remain in the care of Oranga Tamariki as a permanent solution. So we work towards a permanency goal to ensure they have a safe, stable home. This decision needs to be made with others involved in the life of the child and needs to be agreed by the Family Court. This could mean:
- the child remains in the care of their parents while concerns are addressed
- the child returns to the care of their parents after concerns are addressed
- the child is permanently cared for by whānau / hapū / iwi or a member of their family’s wider network of friends
- the child is permanently cared for by someone who is not part of their whānau, hapū or iwi but is committed to their long-term care, or
- the young person is supported towards living independently.
As per the legislation and our policy and practice, the preference is for whānau care, including the parents wherever this is safe and possible.
More information and statistics
In response to a number of Official Information Requests and questions in the media we have created this document:
Statistics on babies and children entering Oranga Tamariki care [PDF, 240 KB]
Published: November 4, 2019 · Updated: June 7, 2022