Rainbow children and youth in care

Published: May 12, 2023 · Updated: June 8, 2023

The Voices of Children and Young People team requested a literature review on the needs and experiences of Rainbow children in care, to help fill an identified gap in our understanding of this particularly vulnerable cohort of young people.


The review was designed to provide a foundational understanding of the needs and experiences of Rainbow rangatahi to inform and enhance Oranga Tamariki services and social work practice. The review was also expected to enable conversations with wider external stakeholders (for example, iwi and community partners) and inform how they could better support rainbow tamariki and rangatahi in their communities.

This work aligns to the Future Direction Plan (FDP) which specifically mentions the needs of Rainbow/SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics) diverse tamariki and rangatahi in care.

Key findings

The key findings of this review are:

  • Rainbow children and youth are more likely to be in care than non-rainbow children and youth. While rainbow youth make up 10% of the population, they account for around 20% of youth in Oranga Tamariki care.
  • Māori youth are more likely to identify as takatāpui/rainbow. An estimated 9% of all youth in care are takatāpui Māori.
  • Oranga Tamariki does not have reliable information regarding the gender and sexual identity of children and youth in care.
  • Rainbow children and youth in care are more likely to experience trauma such as physical, sexual, and psychological harm. This leads to issues like poor mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.
  • We can provide better support for rainbow children and youth by starting with:
    • adopting a Māori world view to support a culture that accepts and supports all children and youth, including those who are rainbow
    • providing children the help they need, especially for their health and mental health
    • providing social workers, caregivers and other support staff access to training and support to build trust and supportive relationships with the Rainbow children and youth in their care.