How we get involved

How we support whānau

Where possible we try to keep families together. Taking children into care is a last resort. We are working more and more with iwi and communities to support at-risk children to stay with their parents. Use the tabs to find out how we do this. 

Care decisions are complex

When a concern is raised about a child, we are required by law to keep them safe and support their families and whānau to care for them safely.

We only consider placing a child in care if there are a number of serious risk factors, and there are no other options to keep them safe. We don't take this lightly, and most decisions are made by a Family Court judge who has a full picture of the situation.

Bringing a child into our care means we seek Family Court orders to make decisions for that child and where they live. It means we’re responsible for their day to day care, ensuring their needs are met and their caregivers are well supported.

Whānau-first approach

When a child comes into our care, we do everything we can to place them with caregivers from their wider family or whānau who can provide a safe, stable, loving home for as long as needed.

Sometimes we need non-kin caregivers for a child or young person until they can safely return home or go to stay with a caregiver from their wider family or whānau.

This approach has resulted in 18% remaining home with their family but with support, and of those in out of home placements with caregivers:

  • 71% are placed with wider family or whānau
  • 17% are cared for by people of their own ethnicity.

Most of the remaining children are in care with non-kin caregivers.

The number of children who are placed with caregivers has been reducing. As at 31 March 2020 there were 4,900 children living with caregivers, compared with 5,200 at 31 March 2019.

adult walking with child

Caring for tamariki Māori

Around 70% of children and young people in care are Māori. We’re working in partnership with iwi and kāupapa Māori providers (providers who use Māori customary practice, incorporating the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of Māori society) to connect tamariki Māori in care to caregivers from their whānau, hapū or iwi.

Through co-design we support our Whānau Care partners to determine their own ways of caring for their tamariki and rangatahi Māori. The end goal is always the same – to connect tamariki and rangatahi Māori in care to their whakapapa through well-supported whānau caregivers.

Real-life example

One of our partnerships is with Waitomo Papakāinga, a kaupapa Māori organisation that works in Kaitaia and across Te Hiku o Te Ika (the Far North). The goal of this partnership is to ensure tamariki and rangatahi Māori who need care are living safely with well-supported kaitiaki whānau (caregivers who have whakapapa connections to them through whānau, hapū or the five iwi of Te Hiku).

Working in partnership with our Kaitaia site, Waitomo Papakāinga accepts referrals of mokopuna who whakapapa to the five iwi of Te Hiku. With their extensive knowledge of whānau and hapū across the rohe or region, Waitomo Papakāinga connects mokopuna to kaitiaki whānau and works to provide comprehensive, kaupapa Māori support.

3 years on Better support for caregivers V2

Image text description – Better support for caregivers

This image illustrates how we're supporting caregivers better by:
  • transforming the caregiver application and approval process
  • reviewing financial assistance for caregivers
  • caregivers are better supported to look after tamariki from their whānau, hapū and iwi
  • piloting evidence-based trauma-informed caregivers training
  • more support, including for respite support
  • establishing a new Caregiver Recruitment and Support Service.

Quality care

When a child comes into our care, we go to great lengths to ensure they are well supported and have their needs met. The quality of care continues to lift through the introduction of the National Care Standards in July 2019.

The Care Standards set out good social work practice, what a child can expect and is entitled to while they are in care, and the support caregivers can expect to receive when they are caring for a child.

They take into account a child's needs and provide the opportunity for a child or young person to express their views. We are independently monitored on our compliance with the Care Standards.

Part of delivering the Care Standards includes creating All About Me Plans for every child in care, which set out how their individual needs will be met. A corresponding Caregiver Support Plan is put in place for their caregiver to help them meet these needs.

  • 84% of children in care have an All About Me Plan.
  • 92% of caregivers have a corresponding Caregiver Support Plan. 

We are also hiring more caregiver social workers so that caregivers get the support they need. We have 3,561 approved caregivers and of these 62% are whānau caregivers.

We’ve lowered social worker caseloads by one-third (from 31 to 21) to make sure we’re able to support these children, their whānau and caregivers properly. And we're investing around $230 million over four years, from Budget 2020, to continue improving services for children in care.

For more detail about children in care, view our March 2020 Quarterly Report.