Frequently Asked Questions

We have developed Q&As for questions we regularly receive from the media and others. We will continue to build this collection as time progresses.

Q. What does Child, Youth and Family do? 

Each year Child, Youth and Family makes a difference for thousands of children, young people and their families. Like everyone, we want the best for children and young people, and we work with them, their families and communities to help them be safe, strong and thrive. We help:

  • families get the support they need to care for their children
  • children needing care to find secure, long term homes with family and whänau, caregivers or adoptive parents
  • young people who offend take responsibility for their actions, and make the changes they need to build a brighter future
  • families involved in the adoption process, and help connect adults with their birth parents or families
  • raise awareness in communities about what they can do to protect children and support vulnerable families.

Q. Who should people contact if they believe a child is being abused?

If someone’s worried that a child is being hurt or is not being well looked after, they should give us a call on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459). They’ll be able to talk to a social worker who will listen to their concerns and ask questions to find out more about what’s on with the family or children they’re worried about.

If people think a situation may be life threatening, they should phone the Police on 111.

Q. What signs should people look out for if they are worried a child is being abused or neglected?

Q. What signs should people look out for if they are worried a child is being abused or neglected?

Families from any background can have problems that put their children at risk. Parents might feel stressed, there may be extra challenges in the family, or they might be struggling to manage on their own.

If you notice things starting to go wrong for a child or the people caring for them, there are several signs that could be an indication that something's wrong, including

  • physical signs
  • behavioural concerns
  • developmental delays, changes or signs
  • the child talking about things that may indicate abuse
  • the family environment.

Our website has general information about what to look out for if you’re worried

Our guide, 'working together to keep children and young people safe' has more detailed information about how to the different types of abuse and neglect and how to spot the signs.

Q. How do we work with other agencies to protect children and who are our key partners?

Much of the work we do relies on the strength of our relationships with others, whether that’s a family, a school, a local community or iwi  provider, Police youth aid, government agency, or an employer who wants to provide a young person with an opportunity that they might not otherwise have had. We’ve seen the difference this support can make to a child or young person’s life.

We have Memorandums of Understanding, protocols and interagency agreements with a number of partner agencies and groups. These agreements provide a framework for working collaboratively. They give guidance about the way we work together, including our different roles and responsibilities, reporting processes, the sharing of information, and other factors relating to our shared efforts to keep children and young people safe.

Some of our key partners include:

  • Police
  • Ministry of Health, and DHBs at a local level
  • Ministry of Education, and schools at a local level
  • ACC
  • Minstry of Justice
  • Corrections
  • Work and Income
  • Housing NZ
  • Our care providers, including Barnardos, Open Home Foundations and IHC
  • Service providers, including NGOs, community agencies, and iwi social service providers

Q. What is a notification?

Notifications are ‘reports of concern’ from people worried about a child or family. These come in from a variety of people, including the Police, health and education professionals, social service providers, family members and friends, and members of the public.

Q. What happens once Child, Youth and Family receives a notification?

When we receive a notification, we make an initial assessment about the child and family’s situation, and whether we need to do anything further to make sure the children are safe. 

As part of the assessment process to determine the level of risk or harm, and what response and timeframe is most appropriate, the social worker uses a decision response tool to guide their decision making, and ensure the child or young person’s safety is the central focus. Others are also involved in this decision-making.

In many cases, the family just needs some advice, or to be connected with the right support services. For others, our care and protection teams work with the family to identify the issues and to find a solution. This may include carrying out a formal investigation with Police, working closely together to both protect the child, and hold the perpetrator to account when abuse is substantiated.

For complex cases, we hold a family group conference where the family and other key people agree on a plan to keep the child safe and identify the support they need.

Q. What does the law say about leaving children under 14 home alone or unsupervised?

In New Zealand, it is against the law to leave children under 14 without making reasonable provision for their care and supervision. What is considered 'reasonable' also takes into account the circumstances under which children are left alone and the length of time they are alone. Parents are required to assess all the circumstances and make sure that any child left alone is safe and in no danger.

Babies and young children should never be left alone at home or in a car, or unsupervised in any situation. In addition to the obvious safety risks, they can easily get frightened or distressed and can become anxious and insecure at other times, worrying about being left alone again.

Older children, who are still under the age of 14, are generally not sufficiently mature to be left without adult supervision for more than a short time. They're also not old enough to be left alone on a regular basis.

If parents do need to leave an older child alone for a short time, they need to make sure the child know where they are and who they can contact if there is a problem. Talk to them about possible emergencies and check that they know what to do. Make sure that they feel confident about being left alone. Parents need to consider whether any situation could possibly arise that the child might be unable to handle.