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Communtity Law Manual | Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children | Temporary or extended care agreements: Agreements for children to leave the family or whānau for a while

If Oranga Tamariki deals with you outside the court system

Temporary or extended care agreements: Agreements for children to leave the family or whānau for a while

Overview

If a family or whānau is going through a hard time and needs help looking after their children for a while, one option is to come to an agreement with Oranga Tamariki or some other support service to provide day-to-day care for the child for a limited time, without the Family Court getting involved at all. The Oranga Tamariki Act specifically allows for this and puts some rules around the process.

For example, sometimes children might be ignoring their parents’ or caregivers’ wishes and be out committing crimes. In these cases going to stay with another family member or caregiver in a different environment might help change what is behind that child’s behaviour.

An agreement like this is usually with Oranga Tamariki, but the law also allows for them to be with a group like a child and family support service, such as Barnardos.

These care agreements might be one of the things decided on at a Family Group Conference (see below) after a report of harm or neglect – or the family/whānau and Oranga Tamariki might reach one of these agreements without them going through the Family Group Conference process at all.

Note: A temporary or extended care agreement will usually only be made if there is a reasonable prospect of the child being able to return to the parents afterwards.

Short-term agreements for temporary care of your child: Up to 8 weeks

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, s 139

If for a short time you’re unable to look after your child, you can talk to Oranga Tamariki and agree with them that your child will go into their care for several weeks.

These agreements can last for up to four weeks (28 days). This can also be extended to a maximum of eight weeks (56 days).

Longer agreements for temporary care of your child: Up to 12 months

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, ss 140, 143–145, 147

You can agree that your child will be placed in the care of Oranga Tamariki for longer periods of several months. If the child is under seven, this can be for up to six months. For older children, it can be for up to 12 months.

However, there will need to be a Family Group Conference, and the conference will need to approve the agreement before it can go ahead.

Also, if your child is 12 or older, the agreement can’t go ahead unless the child agrees. If your child is under 12, what they want still has to be taken into account when you’re working out the agreement – for example, they might say they want to go and live with their grandparents.

The Oranga Tamariki Act also specifically allows for young people aged 15, 16 or 17 to be placed with Oranga Tamariki or another organisation for long periods to help them become independent. This can be for up to 12 months initially, but the time can be extended by a Family Group Conference.

Note: The law says these temporary or extended agreements can be for some organisation other than Oranga Tamariki to provide care – like an approved iwi social service, or an approved child and family support service. But in practice these agreements are usually with Oranga Tamariki.

“Family” and “family group” in the Oranga Tamariki Act – Wide meanings

The Oranga Tamariki Act uses both of these terms – “family” and “family group” – to talk about the families and relatives of children. It often uses the phrase “a member of the family, whānau, or family group” of the child – for example, when saying that their views have to be taken into account or that they can attend a Family Group Conference.

The Act doesn’t define “family”, but it does define “family group”, giving the term a very broad definition. “Family group”, the Act says, includes extended family, whānau or another “culturally recognised” family group of the child. So as well as whānau, this would include hapū and iwi, and other extended families such as aiga in fa’a Sāmoa, kāinga in Tongan communities, and jiā ting in Chinese communities.

“Family group” in the Oranga Tamariki Act also includes any household or family-type grouping where there’s at least one adult who’s related biologically or legally to the child, or at least one adult with whom the child has an important emotional connection (a “significant psychological attachment”).

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