Caregiver assessment and approval — Policy
Updated: 01 April 2017
What's Important To Us
When mokopuna need to live away from their usual caregiver, they are entitled to a safe and stable place to call home, with approved caregivers who are able to meet their particular needs.
Our priority is to place mokopuna in homes where they will be loved, wanted and valued, where they have a sense of belonging and their significant connections can be maintained. This might be a:
- member of their extended whānau, hapu or iwi
- family/whānau they were not born to.
Mokopuna who are involved with Oranga Tamariki have often experienced significant trauma and adverse circumstances. When completing caregiver or adoptive parent assessments the challenges of caring for these mokopuna must be considered along with the supports required to enable mokopuna to meet their full potential.
This policy outlines the requirements for the assessment and approval of family/whānau caregivers, non-family/whānau caregivers, and domestic and inter-country adoptive parents.
Note terminology used
Applicant refers to: adoption and caregiver applications.
Adoptive parent refers to: both domestic and inter-country adoption.
Caregiver refers to: respite, transitional and permanent (home for life) caregivers.
Types of care
Potential caregivers can apply to be assessed and approved for one or more of the following categories of care.
- Respite caregiver — provides short periods of care to support the usual caregiver of mokopuna.
- Transitional caregiver — provides short-term care until mokopuna can be returned to their family/whānau/usual caregiver, or until they're placed with a permanent caregiver.
- Permanent caregiver (CYRAS identifies this as home for life) — becomes a lifelong family/whānau for mokopuna by legal order, generally as joint guardians with the birth parents.
- Family Home caregiver — provides care in an Oranga Tamariki owned property, to a number of mokopuna, often unrelated, until longer term placements can be arranged.
- Domestic adoption — birth parents choose approved adoptive parents as the legal parents for mokopuna.
- Inter-country adoption — approved adoptive parents become the legal parents for mokopuna from overseas.
Family/whānau caregivers can only be approved for respite, transitional or permanent care.
If applicants want to be considered for more than one type of care arrangement, this will usually be:
- respite and transitional care, or
- adoption and permanent care.
Transitional care is generally not compatible with availability for permanent placement.
Independent living arrangements are only considered for mokopuna who are 16 or over; have adequate practical and life skills and are meaningfully engaged during the day - either at work or study.
Timeframe for completing an assessment
For prospective caregivers, we must complete the assessment and approval within 90 calendar days of the date the applicant confirms they want to proceed with the final assessment.
If this timeframe can't be met, record the reason in a casenote on the applicant’s CYRAS record. Refer to the Ways to Care process for further information on timeframes.
The assessment process — what we must do
The caregiver social worker completes these steps.
The key steps in the assessment process are the same for family/whānau caregivers, non-family/whānau caregivers or adoptive applicants. There are extra requirements for Family Home caregiver applicants.
The same level of rigour must be applied to assessments for all groups, and the needs and safety of mokopuna must always be at the centre of decision making. The process allows for flexibility based on the context and circumstances of each individual applicant.
If concerns or issues are identified at any point in the assessment process which mean prospective caregivers should not be approved, you can decline the application without completing the rest of the assessment. The decision to assess and approve caregivers is at the discretion of Oranga Tamariki.
Adoptive applicants can request a full assessment even if issues are identified, but approval remains discretionary.
- Review the application form
Make sure all the required information is completed. You can help the applicant to complete the form if needed.
- Get authorisation for use of personal information
Before you can access personal information from CYRAS or TRIM records to complete your assessment, you need individual consent from:
- anyone who lives in their house
- regular visitors to the home.
- Complete identity checks
You must verify the identity of all applicants, household occupants and regular visitors to the home who are over 17.
Identity checks must be done before you process the application.
- inter-country adoption applicants, you must view and photocopy the front page of their passport
- non-New Zealand citizens, you must view and photocopy their visa for residence in New Zealand.
- Complete CYRAS, TRIM and police checks
You need to do police, CYRAS and TRIM checks for all applicants, household occupants and regular visitors who are over 17.
- Visit the applicant's home
Complete an assessment of the home and physical environment.
- Interview referees
Do referee checks with at least two people who have known the applicants for at least two years , one of which must be a family/whānau member. All referees must be contacted and interviewed. A case note must be recorded for every referee interviewed.
If an assessment hui is held (for family/whānau applicants only), endorsement from those in attendance is equivalent to a referee check.
- Interview the applicant/s
You must complete a face-to-face interview with each applicant. For family/whānau applicants, this can be done as part of an assessment hui.
For full details on preparing for and conducting the interviews, see Key information: Undertaking the assessment.
- Assess the findings and write a report
To complete the assessment, you'll need to analyse the:
- documentary evidence
- caregiver self-assessment/s
- social work interviews
- caregiver’s attributes which enable them to meet the needs of mokopuna
- specific needs of the mokopuna (if the assessment is for a specific mokopuna).
Complete a report outlining your findings, with an analysis of the applicant's particular strengths, along with areas for development or areas that may require support. If the assessment is for caregivers for a specific mokopuna, the report must focus on the needs of the mokopuna and the ability of the applicant to meet these.
Your report will include your recommendation about the applicant's suitability to become a caregiver or adoptive parent.
The report must include details of the support the applicants will need to provide safe care for mokopuna now and in the future.
The report template is in CYRAS.
What the applicant must do
- Complete the application form
You can help the applicant to complete the form if needed.
- Get a medical assessment
Applicants must provide a medical assessment form that has been completed by their GP.
The cost of the medical assessment is covered by Oranga Tamariki for caregiving applications. Adoptive applicants (including joint fostering and adoption applicants) cover the cost of their assessment themselves.
- Attend the workshops
Caregiver applicants and domestic adoptive applicants must attend the Ways to Care preparation. The Safe Caring programme must also be completed by all prospective caregivers including those applying to be permanent (home for life) caregivers. Their attendance and engagement during the programmes must be considered as part of the assessment.
Where there are exceptional circumstances that prevent family/whānau caregiver applicants from attending the above workshops, they must have access to the relevant learning from these modules through alternative means.
Applicants wanting to apply to adopt from overseas must attend the inter-country adoption course.
- Complete a self-assessment
All applicants except adoptive applicants must complete the self-assessment form.
- Attend face-to-face interviews
Each applicant must attend a face-to-face interview. For family/whānau applicants, this can be done as part of an assessment hui.
Urgent placements and provisional approval
There is no provision for an emergency assessment of a caregiver applicant. However, in exceptional situations where mokopuna in the custody of the chief executive need to be placed urgently with a family/whānau member who is not approved but has been identified as a safe option, provisional approval may be given by the supervisor following completion of initial safety checks.
Provisional approval must:
- be given only in exceptional circumstances
- not occur if the family/whānau member, other household member, or significant regular visitor has:
- any convictions, criminal history or CYRAS record that require a higher approval delegation than the site manager
- substantiated abuse findings
- had a mokopuna removed from their care in the past
- not be granted if anything suggests the placement may not adequately keep the mokopuna safe.
In order to grant provisional approval, the social worker for the mokopuna must complete:
- police checks (including checks on family violence) of the prospective caregivers, household occupants and regular visitors 17 years and over
- CYRAS and TRIM checks of the prospective caregivers and all household occupants and regular visitors
- an interview with the family/whānau member
- a visit to their home to ensure it is safe and suitable, and that the family/whānau member is able to meet the needs of the mokopuna.
Supervisor discretion can be used in situations outside normal working hours where visiting the home is not practical. If a visit to the home doesn't happen before placement, a conversation must be held with the prospective caregiver about the condition and safety of their home, and a visit must occur within 48 hours of the placement being made.
Out of area provisional approval
In situations where the family/whānau member lives in an area different from the mokopuna, the social worker for the mokopuna will complete the Police, CYRAS and TRIM checks and the receiving site (where the family/whānau member resides) will complete the interview and home visit and make the decision about whether or not to provisionally approve the family/whānau member.
Careful consideration must be given to the impact of moving mokopuna further away from their parents, family/whānau and community.
Granting provisional approval
The decision to provisionally approve a family/whānau member as a caregiver rests with the supervisor.
Once a family/whānau member is provisionally approved by a supervisor, the full assessment must be completed within 25 working days from the date of the placement. If this timeframe is exceeded, provisional approval ceases to be valid and this becomes an unapproved placement.
If provisional approval is granted, but a full assessment is not completed because it is no longer required, the caregiver record must be closed.
Assessing applicants who are Oranga Tamariki staff
Oranga Tamariki staff can be considered for any caregiving or adoptive roles, as long as they're not applying to be a caregiver or adoptive parent for mokopuna they have directly worked with.
Their assessment must be completed by someone who works at a different site. In some cases it might be appropriate to commission an NGO to complete the assessment (and support the placement).
The approval must be carefully considered and managed to ensure there is no conflict of interest.
Family Home caregiver assessments
Because the role of Family Home caregiver is a specific task, applicants don't have to attend the Ways to Care preparation programme, but they must attend the Safe Caring programme.
Issues related to caring in the Family Home must be discussed and incorporated into the assessment. As well as the assessment, Family Home caregivers must:
- undergo a panel interview
- be approved by the site manager, and
- sign an agreement for provision of care in an Oranga Tamariki Family Home.
Out of area family/whānau caregiver assessments
When a mokopuna has prospective family/whānau applicants who live in a different area, social workers in both areas need to work together to complete the assessment. The standard 90-day timeframe to complete the assessment still applies.
The mokopuna's social worker must complete:
- the Police, CYRAS and TRIM checks
- an assessment of the mokopuna's needs.
The caregiver social worker in the receiving office must:
- complete the full assessment
- liaise with the mokopuna's social worker to ensure that the caregiver has the right supports to manage the mokopuna's care
- make sure the applicants attend Ways to Care training.
If an assessment hui is held, the mokopuna's social worker must take part, either in person or via telephone or video conference. The receiving office must provide a staff member to facilitate the assessment hui.
The receiving office will make the decision about whether to approve or decline the prospective family/whānau caregiver. This includes provisional approval.
If the family/whānau member is fully approved, the receiving office is responsible for providing ongoing support to the caregiver, including reviewing the support package for the placement.
Assessments for overseas placements
Before a mokopuna can be placed with a caregiver who lives overseas, a recognised social service agency in the placement country needs to complete an assessment of the applicants.
If prospective caregivers have plans to move to another country at a later date, or have moved to New Zealand from another country, they should be advised that Oranga Tamariki does not support mokopuna being permanently taken out of New Zealand, except in exceptional circumstances.
This is because mokopuna will usually maintain a connection with the family/whānau, hapu and iwi, and there are risks in terms of the effect of legal orders and entitlements to services in other countries.
Assessments when the youth justice system is involved
Section 238(1)(c) Social worker approval
When a mokopuna is placed under section 238(1)(c) the following checks must be completed before a social worker can approve a potential caregiver:
- police check of the prospective caregiver and all other household occupants aged 17 years and older
- CYRAS and TRIM checks of the prospective caregiver, all other household occupants and regular visitors
- interview with the prospective caregiver and a visit to their home to ensure is it safe and suitable, and that the prospective caregiver is able to meet the needs of the mokopuna.
Section 238(1)(d) Detention component of placements
Mokopuna in custody pending a youth court hearing - section 238(1)(d) - require placement with an approved caregiver. Where a placement in a residence is not considered necessary, a community placement may occur. The full assessment and approval process applies.
If you're considering placing a mokopuna within the community, you must fully consider the caregiver's capacity to provide an appropriate level of detention. In particular, the placement must be appropriate to avoid :
- further offending
- loss or destruction of evidence,
- interference with any witness.
Mokopuna must understand that they are not free to roam and that they commit an offence if they abscond.
Placements as a result of a family group conference where the chief executive has no legal status
In situations where mokopuna who aren't in the custody of the chief executive need a placement as a result of a family group conference, Oranga Tamariki representatives at the family group conference must be assured that the placement is safe and suitable for the needs of the mokopuna.
You must use your professional judgment and, at a minimum, complete:
- police checks on all household members aged 17 years and older
- CYRAS and TRIM checks on all household members
- a home visit to check the safety of the environment
- meet with the parents and prospective caregivers to clarify the details of the care arrangement.
It may be appropriate for the family/whānau to seek legal advice in these circumstances, as to take on the care of mokopuna without them having been in the custody of the chief executive has implications for entitlements to support from Oranga Tamariki later on. The family/whānau should not be rushed nor expected to make immediate decisions, as they need to consider the implications of this decision.
Key Information: Identifying safe care solutions when mokopuna can’t stay at home provides further guidance.
Approving applicants – special consideration
The approval letter template is on CYRAS.
Supervisor approval is required for all applicants where there are no criminal convictions or findings of physical harm, abuse and neglect and there is no dispute over the decision to approve.
Approvals with conditions
Sometimes, only mokopuna of a particular age range or gender would benefit from being cared for by a particular caregiver. In these instances, you can limit the caregiver's approval with a condition preventing any placement that doesn't meet the specified criteria until the caregiver is reassessed.
Where caregivers have combined approvals, for example respite and transition, the decision on placing an approval condition must be made separately for each care type.
Approving an applicant with criminal convictions
Other than in exceptional circumstances, applicants who have convictions for serious offences involving the harm or exploitation of others will not be approved as caregivers or adoptive parents.
Relevant DCE Services for Children & Families (in consultation with the Chief Social Worker and a Ministry Solicitor)
Applicant has been convicted of:
- a sexual offence involving the harm or sexual exploitation of mokopuna (including child pornography)
- rape, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, abduction and grievous bodily harm against any person (including mokopuna)
Any person who meets the criteria of section 18B(1)(a).
Applicant has been convicted of:
- any other sexual offence, including offences against adults, bestiality and pornography
- any other offence involving the physical harm, abuse or neglect of children or young people and other violent or cruelty related offences (including offences against adults and animals)
Any person who has had mokopuna removed from their care through an Oranga Tamariki intervention in the past, including those who meet the criteria of section 18B(1)(b).
Applicants who are Oranga Tamariki staff.
Applicants who have a finding by Oranga Tamariki of physical harm, abuse or neglect of a mokopuna.
Site Manager (in consultation with practice leader)
Applicant has been convicted of any other offence, including drug and alcohol related offences
Note 1: In these situations even when approval has been given, actual placement of a child or young person requires the approval of the Regional Manager.
Post-approval requirements for adoptive parents and permanent caregivers
- permanent caregivers and domestic adoptive parents are required to complete a family profile
- inter-country adoptive parents are required to have a home study completed by a social worker.
If you've reached a preliminary decision to decline an application for caregiving or adoption, you must:
- advise the applicants of this and the reasons why in a personal interview, with a supervisor present
- give the applicants a letter outlining the reasons for the decision to decline.
Applicants must be given 10 working days to comment on or correct information that may be incorrect. If the decision stays the same after considering the revised information, the applicants are sent written advice of the decision by the decision-maker.
They will also be informed of the Oranga Tamariki feedback and complaints process.
The templates for the interim decision letter and the decline letter are located on CYRAS.
Reassessing approved caregivers and adoptive families
If there's a significant change of circumstances in caregiving or adoptive families, approvals need to be reassessed. Significant changes include:
- a bereavement or loss
- additions or changes to the family or household composition, for example a new partner joins the household
- following the permanent placement of a mokopuna, and prior to another mokopuna being placed
- an allegation of abuse or criminal charge/conviction
- when an approved caregiver or adoptive parent wishes to change their approval type
- when a caregiver has been approved to care for a specific mokopuna and wishes to care for another mokopuna.
Where a caregiver or adoptive parent’s approval has been reassessed, the approval process outlined above must be followed.