Subsequent children: Evidence brief

Subsequent children: Evidence brief
27 Sep 2020
Appendix B: A Review of a Group of “Subsequent Chi…


This evidence brief was written to provide up-to-date literature from New Zealand and internationally on the needs of, and interventions and approaches that work well for subsequent children and their whānau, particularly for whānau Māori. Findings will assist Oranga Tamariki to consider how best to support them.

A subsequent child is defined as any child in the care of a parent or caregiver who has had a previous child they were caring for permanently removed from their care, or been convicted of the murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a child or young person in their care or custody.


This evidence brief explores: the needs of subsequent children and their families; approaches to address their needs and their effectiveness; and approaches that achieve the best outcomes for subsequent children and their families, particularly for whānau Māori.

Research that specifically focused on subsequent children and their families or whānau was limited, so literature on families with complex needs with experiences of child maltreatment or filicide was included in this evidence brief.
Very little literature was found that related specifically to Māori subsequent children and their whānau.

Selection criteria was used to determine the most relevant sources to include in this evidence brief. A total of 50 sources are included, comprised of peer-reviewed and grey literature.

This section provides an overview of the methodology for this evidence brief. Key research questions highlight the focus and structure of the brief, and the rest of the section describes the literature search approach including for grey literature, the approach to selection of literature for inclusion, any limitations of the approach, and gaps in the literature.

Focus of the evidence brief

This evidence brief is focused on the research questions outlined below: What are the needs of subsequent children and how do they differ from other children and young people Oranga Tamariki work with? Is there any research the specifies the needs of Māori subsequent children and whānau? What approaches have been taken, either through legislation, services or programmes, to address the needs of subsequent children and their families in New Zealand and other child protection jurisdictions? How effective are these approaches? What are the differences between New Zealand and other jurisdictions in relation to provisions targeting subsequent children? (And is New Zealand unique in having the specific provisions?) What are the approaches that achieve the best outcomes for subsequent children and their families? What are the approaches that achieve the best outcomes for subsequent children and parents of whānau Māori?

Literature search

The following databases were searched between 18 and 24 October 2019:

  • Cochrane Library
  • ProQuest
  • PsycINFO
  • PubMed
  • ScienceDirect
  • Scopus
  • Web of science.

To conduct the search, we used combinations of key word terms. All search terms used in the scan are provided in Table 1.

Searches were conducted using all possible combinations from each of the four columns, where relevant (i.e., separate searches were undertaken using keywords for subsequent children of parents with children permanently removed, and subsequent children of parents who were convicted of murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a child or young person in their care or custody).

A major challenge of the literature search was the lack of literature available on children whose parents who have had a child removed from their care previously or parents who have been convicted of murder or manslaughter of a child in their care. Due to the lack of literature available specifically on subsequent children and their families or whānau, the scope of the search was broadened to include families with complex needs, studies of high-needs children, and recurrent child maltreatment.

Grey literature

Due to the lack of literature available in the New Zealand context, grey literature was also included in this evidence brief. Oranga Tamariki provided documents relevant to the New Zealand context to Allen + Clarke, and additional searches for documents were carried out on the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Health websites for documents and evaluations of specific interventions with children, families and whānau in New Zealand (i.e., Family Start, Incredible Years).

A total of 18 grey literature sources were obtained for potential inclusion.

Selection and review of returned material

The list of full-text articles and documents with recommendations for inclusion and exclusion were provided to Oranga Tamariki for their review and input. From this, 40 sources were identified for inclusion, with additional sources utilised to contextualise findings. In the final selection of literature, priority was given to:

  • sources of information produced by recognised and reputable organisations
  • relevance to primary research areas
  • relevance to Māori (e.g., Indigenous populations)
  • English language publications
  • more recent literature i.e., 2011 onwards
  • material that exhibits methodological rigour (e.g., systematic reviews, meta-analyses, representative samples)
  • literature likely to be applicable in the New Zealand context.

Full text articles and documents were also assessed to identify any further key documents referenced in the bibliographies of included texts. A total of 50 sources are included in this evidence brief.

Key Results

The needs of parents and children are similar to those of other families

  • The literature does not suggest a substantive difference between the needs of subsequent children and other children known to care and protection agencies.
  • However, the literature does highlight that subsequent children may face a high level of risk where there is a lack of support for their parents.

Mothers are more likely to be teenagers with a history of childhood adversity

  • Women aged between 16 and 19 who have children taken into care have often experienced maltreatment, neglect or abuse as children themselves.
  • They and their families often have histories of domestic abuse, substance misuse or abuse and mental health issues.

People facing complex challenges need significant support

  • Mothers appearing in recurrent care proceedings are often dealing with a number of challenges including mental health and relationship issues, and trauma as a result of their childhood experiences and/or associated with their children being taken into care.
  • Services available for mothers subject to recurrent proceedings are inadequate and so complex problems are not being addressed. 

Needs of Māori subsequent children, and whānau

  • Māori involvement with child protection services is higher than for other ethnic groups.
  • Ongoing cultural connection is fundamental to Māori and Indigenous identity and wellbeing research from Australia shows that placement of Indigenous children can threaten this connection.
  • Key barriers for Māori include: cultural alienation and lack of respect for whānau; lack of understanding of how the system works; unclear communication from and high staff turnover within agencies; and little recognition or accommodation of the demands of daily life.
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