How we get involved

How we keep children safe

Every case is different and complex – but the safety, well-being and best interests of the child or young person is the first and most important consideration. 

We look to provide early support for families and opportunities for whānau to care safely for their children. We only consider seeking custody of a child in circumstances of serious harm and when no other option exists to keep the child safe. It's then that we look to place a child with a member of their wider family, whānau, hapū, iwi, or family group or someone in the family network who is able to meet their needs. This includes providing a safe, stable, and loving home until it is safe to reconnect the child with their family. 

Decisions to seek custody are the most serious a social worker will ever make. They don't make these decisions alone but with professional supervision and using agreed tools and approaches.

Use the tabs below to understand our process. 

Response header

How we respond to care or protection concerns

Family Group Conference (FGC)

A Family Group Conference 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 (such as a support order or restraining order)

These are orders which mean that Oranga Tamariki has a role in overseeing the care of the child and monitoring their wellbeing. Or orders might 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.

   Type 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
(s 140)
By agreement following an 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
(s 39)
By application to the court or issuing officer Five days from when executed
  Search without warrant 
(s 42)
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.
  Sole guardianship
(s 110(2)(a))
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.


As per the legislation, it is preferable to keep children in 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 Oranga Tamariki’s care 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 
  • An older 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