Advocacy for parents and whānau or familyWe encourage parents and whānau or family to access independent advocacy when we’re involved with them, recognising their right to fully participate at all stages of our involvement, helping reduce disparities and increasing equity for parents and whānau.
Tamariki and rangatahi are entitled to their own individual advocacy. This should be encouraged and supported.
Whakamana te tamaiti or rangatahi through advocacy
Advocacy seeks to whakamanawa and to:
- empower tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family to reach their full potential
- safeguard parents and whānau or family to ensure they are aware of their rights
- speak up for people who are discriminated against or who are unable to do so for themselves.
Working in an environment of trauma when mana has been trampled on, tapu violated, mauri ora diminished and whakapapa disconnected, we need to whakamanawa parents and whānau or family by championing their rights for independent advocacy.
Advocacy support can be formal such as the Kaiārahi Family Court navigators, Whānau Ora navigators or Community Law services, or informal, for example as part of the natural support system of the whānau or family. Parents and whānau or family can select whomever they wish to act as their advocate. It is important to note that family and whānau have a right to seek independent legal advice particularly in respect of legal or court matters. Be clear with the whānau or family about responsibility for costs for legal advice to avoid misunderstanding.
Other examples could be a:
- professional or someone already working with the parents or whānau or family
- whānau member, kaumātua or leader of their community
- friend, associate or member of a church or community
- specialist, such as a disability or health advocate.
Why advocacy is important
A Parent and Family Advocacy evidence brief (2021) has shown there are promising outcomes when parents are supported by independent advocates – for example:
- there were reductions in entry to care, particularly when parent advocacy occurred early through a whānau hui or hui ā-whānau
- tamariki and rangatahi entering into care were more likely to be placed with whānau or family when advocates were involved
- there were more timely reunification rates for whānau or families
- parents felt less socially isolated and helpless when involved in planning and decision-making.
Parent and Family Advocacy | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Access to independent advocacy supports the right of parents and whānau or family to have their experiences and aspirations understood. Advocates support us to work in a truly collaborative way with parents as partners in achieving oranga (wellbeing) for their tamariki or rangatahi.
When advocates are needed
We work with advocates to support parents and whānau or family to:
- navigate the care and protection, youth justice, residential and care systems, and to help clarify for parents and whānau or family why we are involved with their tamariki, the concerns the social worker is expressing about their safety and the impact on oranga (wellbeing)
- participate in decision-making processes by mediating between parents, whānau or family
- understand what is happening and the impact of statutory decisions
- access relevant specialist services such as legal aid, mental health, parenting programmes and services to enable whānau or family to support their tamariki and rangatahi
- maintain mutual understanding and accountability
- ensure the narrative of the whānau or family is being reflected accurately by the social worker in their mahi.
Parents and whānau or family may require extra encouragement to understand not only their right to independent advocacy but also how valuable an independent advocate can be in strengthening the oranga (wellbeing) of their whānau or family.
An advocate helps us maintain transparency and can hold us accountable for our statutory decisions. We should always welcome challenges, especially if it helps strengthen the connection and belonging for tamariki and rangatahi to their parents and whānau or family.
How we work with advocates
Sometimes, advocates selected by parents or whānau may have their own views about, or experience of, Oranga Tamariki or they may not understand how to navigate our system. Spend time establishing a working relationship to address any misconceptions or information that is getting in the way of partnership.
Negotiate and record agreed ways of working together. This helps us maintain consistency with the parents and their advocate even if social workers change. Working with the independent advocate doesn’t replace building a relationship with parents and whānau or family. Continue to check with the whānau or family whether their advocate accurately represents their voice and whether they have anything further to add.
If the parents and whānau or family trust the advocate they have chosen, then it is in the best interest for te tamaiti or rangatahi for us to find ways to build strong working relationships with the advocate. Developing partnerships requires hui and the application of quality time and space.
Sometimes advocates may contact Oranga Tamariki independently of a parent or whānau or family member. We ensure that we have written consent from the parent or whānau or family member to share accurate information that is relevant for the identified purpose with the advocate. Consult with your supervisor and site solicitor if you are unsure about what to share.
Feedback | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Advocates may be asked to attend family group conferences by a parent or whānau or family member. Because advocates are not entitled participants, it's the coordinator's role to consult with the whānau or family to confirm their agreement to the advocate's attendance at a family group conference.
People entitled to attend a care and protection family group conference
Entitlement to attend a youth justice family group conference
Partice standard: Work closely in partnership with others
Kaiārahi – Family Court Navigators | Ministry of Justice