You have the right to ask for any personal records made about your time in care. You can ask for these records from the organisations that hold records about the care institutions where you stayed.
When asking for your information, provide as much detail as possible about where and when you were in care and what information you are looking for.
Visit Archives NZ(external link) to find out which agencies control records about which different care settings. You may need to ask more than one agency for your information.
Contact details for the main government care agencies are on our website.
When making your request you may:
The organisation will:
Sometimes, some words, sections or even pages in these records need to be redacted or blacked out because leaving certain words in the document would break the law.
The Privacy Act 2020 is the main law that sets out your rights to your information.
The organisation you request information from must provide your records to you in full, unless there is a legal reason not to. Organisations must provide you this reason.
If you are concerned an organisation has redacted information you should have been given, contact them directly. The organisation might be able to explain in more detail why they decided that the information couldn’t be legally released.
If you and the organisation can’t agree on the release of information about you, you can make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner:
If your complaint relates to information held by a government agency, you can make a complaint or seek an investigation and review of the agency’s decision by the Ombudsman:
The shared redaction guidance document helps staff in the organisations or government agencies decide whether to redact information that has been requested by care leavers.
A care leaver is a person who was in the care, custody, or came to the notice of an organisation that was responsible for their wellbeing, including those in:
Redactions are usually made to protect another person’s privacy. When care records are created, other people’s information is often recorded along with your own. Common examples of this for care records are:
The law says that the privacy of those other people must be protected.
Staff have to make judgements about what is unwarranted sharing of another person’s information.
Staff ask themselves questions when deciding whether to redact information for privacy reasons, including:
Certain types of private information about other people can usually be released in a care record. Here are some common examples:
There may be other reasons why an organisation might have to redact information in your files. The 2 most common reasons are:
In most situations, the organisation must redact any information that is legally privileged.
There are 2 types of legal privilege:
There are other laws that can stop an organisation from sharing your information. Common examples of this are reports from social workers or psychologists that were asked for by the Court. These reports are controlled by the Court and the organisation is not allowed to share them.
If your records have court documents that an organisation can’t send, you can contact the courts directly on 0800 224 733 to ask for copies of the documents.
Each organisation has different ways it can send you your information Let the organisation know what form you'd prefer to receive your records in. You could:
In the past, organisations focussed on recording what they needed for administrative and operational purposes, rather than keeping a full and accurate record of all events during your time in care.
Your memories and experiences may be different to the information recorded in your files as the records were created by and written from the point of view of the people involved in your care at the time.
In this case, the organisation should help you understand why this might happen, including if your records are recorded as being lost or destroyed.
The records kept and the information recorded will vary depending on:
Guidance for how professionals write about people in care and their whānau has changed over time.
Older files sometimes contain language that is negative, judgmental, and even offensive.
It may be upsetting to read how the people who were responsible for your care wrote about you and your whānau in this way.
The way you're written about on your records doesn't define you. It's only one perspective written by people who may not have known your full story and may have only seen you and your whānau in your difficult times.
You have a right to ask the organisation that holds the records to correct information if you think it’s wrong. This could include:
The organisation might decline to make a correction because it believes the information is correct or is unable to amend a historical record.
If this happens, you have a right to complain to the Privacy Commissioner.
Some care leavers find reading their files to be a difficult and re-traumatising experience. You may hope to find detailed records which answer questions about your time in ‘care’ and fill in any gaps in your memory. However, it can be a shock if you receive records that don’t meet your expectations. You may also find more than you expected.
It can be helpful to go through your files or discuss them with someone you trust. This could be a counsellor, friend or whānau member. Find out what support is available to you from government agencies or community services.