Families with babies
We are working earlier with families and whānau to support parents when there are concerns for a baby.
We know we need to provide more support to families and whānau to keep children out of care. We are also working to improve our practice when newborn babies are brought into care.
The number of babies (under 1) coming into our care has more than halved over the last 3 years (from 445 in 2017 to 220 in 2020).
Changing how we work
We acknowledge there have been historical issues with parts of our practice that involved applying to the Family Court for interim custody of a newborn baby under Section 78 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
In November 2019 we introduced system and practice changes following an internal review. These include:
- Unless a child is in immediate and imminent danger, making applications 'on notice' so the family is given the opportunity to have their say before a judge makes a final decision.
- When staff need to act fast to keep a child safe, every section 78 ‘without notice’ application goes through additional checks with three people, including a lawyer.
Since these changes, for babies that do need to enter care, it’s more likely to be in a planned way, with a greater use of care agreements as an alternative to section 78 orders
For example since 2017, we’ve seen a more than 60 per cent reduction in the babies (under 1) that we bring into our care under section 78 orders (from 288 in 2017 to 120 in 2020).
Supporting families with babies flowchart
This chart gives an example of how we may interact with a baby and their family or whānau throughout the different stages we are involved.
Our role may stop and start at anytime. Entry for the baby into care may never happen and we try to work alongside the family to avoid this if possible.
Infographic text - Supporting families with babies flowchart
We get a report of concern
Oranga Tamariki is contacted by a midwife who is worried about the safety or wellbeing of a newborn baby.
A social worker speaks with the midwife to understand their concerns for the baby and how we can best help the parents.
Serious concerns are suspected
After talking to the midwife, the social worker identifies that there are serious issues that need to be addressed, and Oranga Tamariki should begin an assessment to make sure the baby is safe.
Supporting the family
The social worker and midwife agree that the parents would benefit from the support of our social services partners.
The midwife puts the parents in touch with the relevant community support services.
We begin an assessment with the baby, parents and whānau to find out what their strengths are and whether addressing any unmet needs could reduce the potential harm for the child. Part of the assessment includes our social worker visiting their home and speaking with baby’s parents and whānau. We also speak with other people and professionals involved with the baby and family and find out that they’re also concerned about the baby’s safety and recommend the parents get help.
At this stage there’s nothing to suggest the baby should be removed from the parents care, but it’s clear that a plan is needed to help them care for baby safely.
Holding a hui-ā-whānau
We arrange a hui-ā-whānau (family meeting) to bring together the parents, their family and whānau, and others that might be able to provide support. The purpose of this is to build understanding, talk about the concerns for the baby, encourage whānau to come up with their own solutions and agree what other support Oranga Tamariki and others might be able to provide.
Hui-ā-whānau support plan
During the hui-a-whānau, a plan is developed so that the parents get the support they need from whānau and community agencies, and the concerns for the baby are addressed. The plan will include how we will make sure the plan is working and what to do if there are further concerns.
Holding a Family Group Conference
Our social worker believes the baby needs care and protection, so a Family Group Conference (FGC) is held.
This is attended by the parents, members of their family, whānau, hapū and iwi, the FCG coordinator, and the social worker. Other professionals, like the midwife, can attend to provide information.
At the FCG it’s agreed there are concerns for the baby. A plan is developed which addresses the concerns and the support needed by the parents. It’s agreed that a social worker will stay involved to make sure the plan is working to keep baby safe and well.
FGC plan isn’t working
Despite holding further FCGs to adjust and strengthen the plan, we are not seeing the changes needed to keep baby safe and well and others involved agree there are ongoing concerns for the baby’s wellbeing.
Due to safety concerns, social workers believe that the baby can’t stay with the parents and should come into care. This can only happen if the parents agree, or after a decision by the Family Court.
The Family Court grants Oranga Tamariki a custody order, which means we become responsible for the baby’s day-to-day care.
FGC plan works well
The FCG plan is followed, and the whānau work with us and community support agencies. The parents have the support they need and are confident caring for the baby.
Our social worker is also satisfied concerns for the baby have been addressed, that the parents have good ongoing support and that it’s best for the baby to continue to live with the parents. It’s agreed Oranga Tamariki no longer needs to be involved.
When care is needed
Our priority is to find a caregiver from within the baby’s wider family or whānau who can offer them a safe, stable, loving home for as long as needed.
The baby stays with grandparents, who are approved as caregivers and supported by us and others.
The baby lives with family or whanāu
The parents have been unable to make the changes needed to ensure a safe home for the baby. They agree that the baby should stay with the grandparents permanently, so the grandparents apply to the Family Court for a parenting order with our support. The Court removes the Oranga Tamariki custody order and makes a parenting order for the grandparents.
The baby lives with the grandparents, who are eligible for ongoing support. Through the grandparents, and with this support, the child stays connected to their parents.
The baby returns to parents
The parents work with Oranga Tamariki and other agencies to address the concerns about the baby’s safety.
We report back to the Family Court on the progress that has been made and what is being done to support the baby’s safety and wellbeing. The custody order is removed.
Published: July 6, 2020 · Updated: August 7, 2020