Dealing with Child, Youth and Family: overview

This chapter covers the law relating to the care and protection of children and young people. It has information about:

  • the aims and principles guiding care and protection law
  • the processes of reporting and investigating suspected child abuse
  • situations where a child or young person can be removed from their family
  • care and protection family group conferences
  • what happens if an application for a care and protection declaration is made to the court
  • the various orders the court can make to keep children and young people safe and make sure they are cared for appropriately.

Key terms and definitions

Child – a boy or girl under the age of 14

Young person – a boy or girl who’s aged 14, 15 or 16 – but this doesn’t include anyone of that age who is, or has been, married or in a civil union.

Social worker – a state-sector employee employed as a social worker.

Recent developments: “Vulnerable children” legislation

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 and some related amendment Acts have introduced a number of broad new measures over 2014 – 2016:

  • Vulnerable Children’s Plan – The Vulnerable Children Act requires the police and the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice and Social Development to jointly develop a plan setting out how those five state agencies will work together to achieve government priorities for improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children. This Vulnerable Children’s Plan will be developed in 2016.
  • Child protection policies – In July 2014 the police and the four key Ministries (see above), and also District Health Boards were required to develop child protection policies to guide their frontline staff in identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect. This requirement also applies to all organisations funded by those state agencies. In July 2016 school boards of trustees were also required to develop child protection policies. Some model child protection policies will be included in the Vulnerable Children’s Plan (see above).
  • Safety checking of state workers – Since July 2015, standard safety checking has been required for paid staff working for state agencies or for organisations funded by state agencies, if these staff work with children. Also, staff who have convictions for serious sexual or violent offences can’t be employed in roles that involve working alone with children or having the main responsibility for them (called “core worker” roles), unless they get an exemption. From July 2017 these measures will also be applied to the local government sector (although the government can decide to bring this date forward).
  • Parents with new children who’ve had children removed in the past – From July 2016, new restrictions apply to parents who’ve had a child permanently removed from them or who have killed a child in their care. They aren’t allowed to parent any further children unless they satisfy Child, Youth and Family and the Family Court that these new children will be safe with them. (See “Care and protection declarations and orders by the Family Court / Parents with new children who’ve had children removed in the past“.)

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