When whānau come to the attention of Oranga Tamariki and court orders are made placing tamariki in Oranga Tamariki’s custody, it can be difficult for whānau to see their tamariki. It often takes time to organise access.
Custody means the right to possession. The order means that Oranga Tamariki have custody of tamariki and the social worker controls where tamariki are placed. Sometimes placement is with whānau, other times tamariki will be placed with strangers. It is usually an extremely stressful time for tamariki and whānau.
It is important to maintain contact with any tamariki placed in care, but there are generally significant delays when dealing with Oranga Tamariki as well as the Family Court. The longer it takes to organise access, the more likely it is that tamariki will become attached to their new caregivers. For some tamariki their attachment to whānau can be damaged, particularly if access is not happening and they are moved from caregiver to caregiver.
Whenever Oranga Tamariki get court orders, it is an option for whānau, hapū and iwi to apply to the Family Court for access to tamariki. This can be done at the same time as negotiating access with the social worker. This will hopefully reduce the delay in seeing tamariki and any agreement reached with the social worker can be part of the court order.
Getting a Family Court order for access will also bypass the Oranga Tamariki approval process, which often takes months to complete, with only one application processed at a time.