Getting in early: How sound interagency planning and collaboration right from the start resulted in good outcomes for a family

Late last year, a five day old baby presented at Starship with a lump on his head which turned out to be a serious skull fracture. There was no satisfactory explanation provided by family for the injury and the matter was considered a non-accidental injury.  

The baby, his mum and sibling (a toddler) lived in an extended family situation with a lot a family members coming and going from the household, some of whom were known to Police. Mum had left the baby in the care of household members while she went out for a short while to buy groceries, and noticed when she returned that the baby had a lump on his head and was irritable. She sought medical attention right away and baby was admitted to hospital.

A joint meeting was held the day of admission involving Child, Youth and Family, Police and Health, and a joint plan was agreed. While Child, Youth and Family focussed on negotiating a safety plan for the baby in hospital and for the other toddler in the household, Police interviewed the mother and the other household members. 

Various explanations for the injury were put forward. Police returned to the household with a paediatrician who brought a life-size model of a baby to demonstrate to family members how he believed the injury may have occurred. After the visit the paediatrician was able to advise the Police that it was not possible for the injury to be sustained through the scenarios described. Police then interviewed family members further, resulting in the arrest of a female household member. The matter is currently before the District Court.

It was established that while the mother did not cause the injury to her baby, she was struggling with her parenting role. An agreement was reached that both children could return to her care but it would need to be in a supervised setting, involving a residential parenting programme.

This plan was supported by a family group conference and a Family Court order was obtained placing the children in Child, Youth and Family custody for six months to ensure the children's safety should the plan not succeed.

The mum has recently graduated from the programme, having made significant gains in her parenting knowledge and skills, and increased self confidence. She is now living in her own Housing New Zealand home, with ongoing support from Family Start and other community agencies.

The injured baby continues to have medical oversight and rehabilitation services through ACC. While the injuries to the baby will likely continue to have an impact on his functioning for the rest of his life, this is a case where sound interagency planning and collaboration right from the start has resulted in a good outcome for the children and their mother.

* A big thanks to the Panmure site for sharing this great example with us