New ways of working

Our Work

We’re dedicated to supporting any child in New Zealand whose wellbeing is at significant risk of harm now, or in the future.

We also work with young people who may have offended, or are likely to offend.

Concerns about a child

people contact us with concerns about a child every day

Support assessments

assessments are done to determine what support is needed for children and families every day

Children in care

of these children will come into care

Putting things right, 30 years on

In 1988, the landmark Puao-te-Ata-tu report examined racism and inequity within the Department of Social Welfare.

Almost 3 decades later, an Expert Advisory Panel was established in 2015 to review New Zealand’s care and protection system.

Iwi and Māori, children and young people, whānau and caregivers told the Panel about their poor experiences and outcomes.

Oranga Tamariki was established in 2017 to respond to their voices and deliver on our obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi).

We need to do better

We acknowledge we still have a way to go to strengthen our practice and build our cultural competency.

This has come through strongly in the reviews of our practice following our attempt to bring a Māori baby into care in Hastings in May 2019.

One area we’re focusing on is early and appropriate engagement with whānau, hapū and iwi to prevent children and young people coming into care.

We’re committed to getting this right, and we are starting to see positive change at some of our sites around the country.

Our focus now is on strengthening our partnerships with iwi and Māori.

Fewer children entering care

fewer children and young people entering care in the last 3 years

- from 2395 in 2017 to 1337 in 2020

Fewer babies entering care

fewer babies (under 12 months) coming into our care in the last 3 years

- from 445 in 2017 to 220 in 2020

Babies with family on initial placement


of babies go with family on their first initial placement since October 2019

Tamariki Māori

Around 68% of the children and young people we work with are Māori.

On 1 July 2019 new legislation came into effect that enables us to work differently, including new requirements to set and report on outcomes for tamariki Māori.

We have also received significant funding to build partnerships with iwi and Māori.

Turning around decades of poor outcomes for tamariki Māori and whānau takes time. It needs to be done right, with iwi and Māori leading the way.

First step, fix the care system

In keeping with the External Advisory Panel’s recommendations, our first priority has been to improve the experience of more than 6,000 children and young people in state care.

To do this we introduced National Care Standards so that children and young people in care understand their rights, have their needs met, and have well-supported caregivers.

There’s now a dedicated caregiver support service with more caregiver social workers across the country.

One of our longer-term goals is to provide community-based, home-like care for young people with high and complex needs.

Since July 2019 we support young people to transition to independence when they are old enough to leave care or custody. A new transition service was set up with 49 iwi and community partners to help young people learn life skills, and find employment and accommodation.

of tamariki in care have an All About Me Plan to ensure their needs are met

of their caregivers have a corresponding Caregiver Support Plan

of caregivers have completed comprehensive trauma training

transition workers are supporting more than 690 rangatahi

supported accommodation placements are in place for rangatahi

More than

calls have been made to the Transition Support phone line

Partnering with Māori

After significant progress understanding and improving the experience of children and young people in care, we received funding in Budget 2019 [PDF, 342 KB]   to turn our attention to partnerships with iwi and Māori.

To date we have 7 strategic iwi partners, who collectively reach between 40 and 45% of tamariki Māori in care. Our shared goal is that tamariki Māori are thriving in the care and protection of their whānau, hapū and iwi. Working with iwi and Māori partners we’ve started to co-design a number of new services that work for Māori, based on their aspirations for their tamariki and whānau.

These include:

  • New models of care with 8 Whānau Care partners
  • Intensive response services for whānau at 4 locations
  • Transition support services with more than 20 iwi and Māori organisations
  • Te Awe short-stay residence in Lower Hutt

We’re also addressing disparities in funding levels for iwi and Māori service providers, so they can better support tamariki and whānau.

The next step is to transfer more of the decision-making and resources to our partners, with a focus on early and intensive support for at risk tamariki and whānau.

Strategic Partnerships

6 Memoranda of Understanding
1 Relationship Agreement
3 Social Accords

whānau care partnerships that could reach 48% of tamariki Māori in care

families supported through new intensive support services

increase in the number of iwi and Māori providers since 2017

increase in funding for iwi and Māori providers since 2017

Changing our social work practice

To work effectively with Māori, we’re focused on Māori-centred practice, whānau participation in decision making, and community-led responses to keep tamariki out of care.

We’ve updated our practice standards and developed comprehensive practice guidance to support new ways of working with tamariki Māori and whānau.

More Māori social workers and specialist Māori roles are a core focus. This includes Kairaranga-a-whānau who use a tikanga Māori approach to engage tamariki and whānau.

The introduction of hui-a-whānau (family meetings) helps to bring families, whānau, hapū and iwi together to find their own solutions and prevent tamariki coming into care.

And iwi-led Family Group Conferences support whānau to put a formal plan in place to keep their tamariki safe.

increase in social workers since 2017

drop in social worker caseloads since 2017

of our 1752 front line social workers identify as Māori

reduction in annual turnover of front line social workers from 14% to 6%

Kairaranga-a-whānau roles filled out of 68 positions

Fewer tamariki Māori coming into care

In the last three years, the number of children entering care has decreased by 44%. In the same period, the number of tamariki Māori entering care has decreased by over 50%.

If tamariki Māori can’t stay safely at home, we prioritise caregivers from their whānau, hapū and iwi wherever possible.

To support this, we’re working with our 8 Whānau Care partners to co-design new models of care that meet the needs of their tamariki and whānau. The goal is to connect tamariki Māori in care to their whānau and whakapapa.

More than

decrease in the number of tamariki Māori entering care since 2017

whānau caregivers supported by Oranga Tamariki

whānau caregivers supported by our whānau care partners

Supporting a greater number of young people

Since 1 July 2019, we have been supporting more 17-year-olds, who previously would have gone into the adult system.

Our focus includes moving to a community based residential service so young people can stay connected to their community and support networks when on bail or remanded into our custody.

At the same time, we’re piloting new ways of supporting the families of young people who offend, and strengthening our relationships with mana whenua, hapū, iwi and Māori groups at local and national levels.

We’re also engaging with victims and supporting them to participate in the youth justice process.

community-based residential remand services established

community-based remand homes opened since 1 July 2019

bail homes opened since 1 July 2019

with others in development

rangatahi supported to reduce offending through partner pilots

Where to from here?

We’re starting to see what’s possible when we come together in partnership with iwi to enable the Treaty aspirations of Māori, and design services by Māori for Māori.

Our challenge now is to pick up the pace and deliver on our shared vision of ‘no tamaiti Māori in state care’.

Over the next 12 months we’ll focus on Māori-centred practice, whānau participation in decision making, and community-led responses to keep tamariki Māori out of care.

Read the first 7AA Report which highlights how we will improve the outcomes for tamariki Māori, their whanau, hapū and iwi.

Published: September 9, 2021