Upcoming changes for this content
This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this content. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice approach
Subdomain: Extended family/whānau connections & relationships
- What is the family structure – who is in the family, in which generations, how are they connected, where are they living?
- What is the nature and quality of relationships between family members – who are close to each other, or don’t get on, frequency of contact with each other?
- Use a genogram to map out who is in the family and how they are connected.
- Where does the mokopuna place themselves within their whānau or family?
- Use a genogram to map out who is in the family and how they are connected.
- How do the connections and relationships provide safety and support for mokopuna?
- Are relationships sustainable over time?
- What level of support does the mokopuna get from the wider family?
- How are hapū/iwi connections and relationships experienced by mokopuna Māori?
- If mokopuna do not live with their parent/s or a family member:
- How are parental and other family relationships maintained?
- How are hapū/iwi connections and relationships for mokopuna Māori maintained?
Descriptors: extended whānau or family connections & relationships
Kaitiaki Mokopuna lens
10 — Whānau or family connections are positive and provide an anchor point and place of support. Relationships actively promote the child and young person’s wellbeing.
5 — Beginning to connect with whānau or family and build relationships that promote and support safe care. Whānau or family network is supportive but are geographically remote and unable to provide practical support.
1 — Has no knowledge of or is disconnected from whānau or family either by choice or circumstances. Whānau or family reinforces harmful or anti-social/offending behaviour, or is critical and undermining.
Subdomain: Family/whānau history and functioning
Understanding past history helps identify how the family needs of mokopuna have been met and at what points in their life have needs been neglected. It is important to look for patterns as these might indicate time specific reactions to earlier life events for both the mokopuna and their adult family members or members of their ‘foster’ family. This includes:
- family routines and lifestyle
- parents’ childhood experiences
- chronology of significant life events and their meaning to family members
- nature of family functioning and intergenerational patterns – especially those where transience, drug and alcohol use, abuse and neglect, violence, social isolation and criminal behaviour is featured.
- What are the interactions and behaviours between family members in achieving family functions – listening and speaking to each other, interest, concern and affection for each other, roles, rules, expectations and boundaries, conflict management?
- What are the family strengths and resources – in challenging situations, problem solving, support and encouragement?
- What have been family’s difficulties across generations – health concerns, drug/alcohol use, violence, crime, separation/divorce of parents?
- What are the recurring patterns within this family?
Descriptors: whānau or family history and functioning
10 — Positive whānau or family history and functioning. No history of offending or has demonstrated the ability to make and sustain positive change.
5 — History shows adequate parenting with periods of poor functioning. They mostly engage with services when needed but require support to remain engaged.
1 — Whānau or family has an extensive history of maltreatment and neglect, violence, drug and alcohol use and/or criminal behaviour.
Stability is important for te tamaiti throughout their life, both as a child and in order to transition into healthy adulthood.
There are several areas that are important for stability.
- Stability of the adults providing care — parent/caregiver, whānau or family, ensuring the adults are stable and consistent in their lives.
- Stability of relationships, whakapapa, whanaungatanga and cultural connectedness.
- Stability of how important people in the life of te tamaiti will respond to and their behaviour towards te tamaiti, ensuring care is stable and consistent.
- Stability of expectations and behaviours required of te tamaiti.
- Stability of environment — including the physical home, routines within the home, school, community and other connections te tamaiti has.
- Stability of experiencing and being able to expect consistency from the way adults in the life of te tamaiti act. When adults around te tamaiti experience instability (through, for example, mental ill health or alcohol and drug abuse), their behaviour can be unpredictable and inconsistent.
Tamariki experience their world through relationships. These relationships affect virtually all aspects of their development: intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioural, cultural and spiritual. The stability of tamariki relationships promotes attachment, bonds of love, a sense of belonging, individual and group identity, and cultural connectedness. Relationships encourage tamariki to find out who they are and where they belong. At the same time stability contributes to building resilience.
A key focus of stability is the strength, nurturing and care of the parent/caregiver and whānau or family around te tamaiti as a vehicle for establishing a basis for social skill development. Stability refers to the degree of predictability and consistency te tamaiti has in their environment. It also includes the extent to which a parent/caregiver and the wider whānau or family support network is available, and able to sensitively and consistently respond to, and meet, the needs of te tamaiti. Over time this enables tamariki to build trust and security.
An important feature of stability for tamariki are routines at home, school and out-of-school activities. Tamariki are affected by disruption and changes in whānau or family structure as much as, or even more than, by the type of whānau or family structures they experience. Research also suggests that repeated movements of parents/caregivers and their partners and spouses in and out of the tamaiti household could produce a series of short-term crises that could reduce a child’s capacity for normal development (Fomby and Cherlin, 2011).
In a stable whānau or family setting with caring adults, tamariki learn what is expected of them as they interact with people around them. We learn from those around us about what are acceptable and unacceptable ways to behave. Tamariki also learn from adult behaviour that is inconsistent or unpredictable. Social behaviours are learned by watching, experimenting and imitating others. It is the impact of the adult behaviour that must be considered when assessing stability. Consider changed behaviour or a willingness to change that can create and contribute to positive and stable future relationships.
Evidence tells us that stability can help reduce the impact of abuse and other adverse childhood experiences and the negative impacts of adversity. Stability influences many physical, cognitive and emotional outcomes throughout the life of te tamaiti (National Centre for Injury Prevention and Control, 2014).
To prosper in life and develop skills for coping with trauma and setbacks, te tamaiti must understand who they are, where they belong, their own connections to culture, and the important people in their lives who provide love and stability. For tamariki Māori this means understanding their relationships within their whānau, hapū, iwi and their whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections. For Pacific children it is understanding their collective Pacific communities.
Stability for tamariki Māori
Wairua and whakapapa are fundamental components of stability for tamariki and whānau Māori.
Wairua itself is a vital state of connectedness between Māori and all aspects of the universe (Marsden, 2003). It is developed within infants prior to birth and provides a connection between the individual, their whakapapa and the world as a whole (Mead, 2003). Whakapapa in this sense is not solely the idea of ancestry through genealogical lines but also includes ancestral connection to land, to sea, to stories, to songs and to entities such as waka and marae.
Within a Māori worldview, whenua is a significant part of wellbeing, with environmental, spiritual, psychological and cultural attachments and connections for te tamaiti between people and the land. Having access to the Te Ao Māori for te tamaiti also includes learning and understanding the language, culture, marae, tikanga and resources such as land, whānau and food.
The stability of the wairua of te tamaiti can be compromised through different factors. The actions of others can affect an individual’s wairua through abuse, neglect and acts of violence.
Whakapapa links all animate and inanimate, known and unknown phenomena in the terrestrial and spiritual worlds of Māori. Whakapapa binds all things. It maps relationships so that mythology, legend, history, knowledge, tikanga (custom), philosophies and spiritualities are organised, preserved and transmitted from one generation to the next. Whakapapa is the core of traditional mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge). Whakapapa means genealogy. Other Māori terms for genealogy are kāwai and tātai. Kauwhau and taki refer to the process of tracing genealogies.
East Coast elder Āpirana Ngata explained that whakapapa is ‘the process of laying one thing upon another. If you visualise the foundation, ancestors as the first generation, the next and succeeding ancestors are placed on them in ordered layers.’
It is described in section 7AA of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989: 'whakapapa, in relation to a person, means the multi-generational kinship relationships that help to describe who the person is in terms of their mātua (parents), and tūpuna (ancestors), from whom they descend.'
Tamariki in care
Permanence is viewed as:
- practical — a stable living arrangement
- emotional — a sense of care, love and respect from the caregivers
- social — the impact on siblings and other whānau or family members, mostly situated within the relationships te tamaiti or rangatahi has with their parents, caregivers and whānau or family.
Tamariki and rangatahi can have difficulties processing what it means to be in care and what this means for their identity and whānau belonging. Different expectations about levels of contact and connection with parents, siblings and whānau can de-stabilise care arrangements. Their behavior as they test the stability of their new environment can also create difficulties and challenges for caregivers and whānau.
The research highlights 3 key factors that have the most significant impact on the stability of tamariki in care:
- Relationships with their social worker, tamariki support systems, whānau of origin and the caregiving family.
- Social support from social workers, caregivers and whānau members and other support systems.
- Communication between social workers, caregivers and their parents and whānau.
Social work interventions based on partnership, participation and respect for parents, caregivers, whānau and professionals supporting te tamaiti are important and te tamaiti must be at the center of practice. Prior experience has a major impact on the stability and sense of permanence of the care experience of te tamaiti.
- Tamariki in care need to be able to process what it means to be in care and the reasons for their personal experience. Support for this needs to be ongoing and recognise the impact this experience has on te tamaiti on an ongoing basis.
- Communication and relationship building, with a focus on cultural identity and whānau connections through whakapapa and whanaungatanga, are crucial.
- Planning must ensure that maintaining and developing the wider support network alongside whānau or family, hapū and iwi connections is central to wellbeing.
If te tamaiti does not feel safe, stable and secure in their world they can become stressed and distressed. This could be shown through their behaviour because tamariki don’t always have the words to tell someone what they are feeling. Be aware of the different responses te tamaiti might have to what has happened to them in the past and what this might mean for them in their current situation.
Even when te tamaiti is moved into stable care environment the impacts of their previous experiences of instability can persist and become increasingly challenging as te tamaiti 'tests' how secure the environment is. Caregivers may need additional support and/or resources to manage these behaviours and maintain the consistency and routines that are so important for te tamaiti to feel secure.
- Be aware of the story of te tamaiti – are they or have they been living in a stable secure home situation, or has change and instability had a significant impact on them?
- How might the past experience of te tamaiti manifest or be displayed by, for example, their behaviour or response to unfamiliar situations? Do the caregivers understand what this might look like and do they respond appropriately?
- Consider what the impact of their story will have on their sense of stability going forward and how you can support them on their journey.
- What is their capacity to shift from the provisions of unstable to stable care? What supports are required for te tamaiti to feel supported to learn and feel secure?
- Is the parent/caregiver providing stable care with routines and boundaries?
- Is the parent/caregiver showing affection, responding to te tamaiti and giving praise and encouragement?
- Does the parent or caregiver set limits and boundaries? Tamariki need to understand what acceptable behaviour is and what is expected of them. Is this done consistently and kindly?
- Is the parent/caregiver setting routines and responding to what is happening with te tamaiti, or are they reactive and disorganised in their responses? Consistent calm responses allow tamariki to learn what is expected and know what will happen to them.
- Tamariki test limits repeatedly as part of normal development. When the adults in their life enforce boundaries, tamariki feel secure. Does the parent/caregiver manage behaviour calmly and firmly?
- Tamariki in care may have very different security and stability needs. Consider what has happened to them over time and what is happening for them now. Be mindful of their story and what impact that might be having now.
- Do the adults in the life of te tamaiti listen to them? Does te tamaiti feel safe telling them about what has or is happening to them?
- Caring and nurturing for tamariki is a balance. Consider the boundaries and rules in place that support te tamaiti to feel secure and safe. Be aware that te tamaiti also needs to explore and develop their own uniqueness and learn from their mistakes. Are there supportive adults who give unconditional love that allows te tamaiti to achieve their potential?
- Adults make mistakes as well as tamariki. Do the adults in the life of te tamaiti model taking responsibility for their actions and behaviour or do they blame others? Tamariki learn by what they see happening around them. If they see that adults can learn and develop, they will feel secure in the knowledge that things can and do go wrong.
- Do the adults in the life of te tamaiti help them navigate their mistakes and challenges?
- Are there daily routines in place that support feelings of security but can the caregivers change and adapt as te tamaiti ages and develops? Is there adult support available that encourages and helps te tamaiti through their journey?
- For younger tamariki, asking questions about who gets them out of bed, gives them breakfast, sees they get to school, who do they like visiting, who don’t they like visiting can give a picture of the day-to-day experiences of te tamaiti.
- For rangatahi moving towards adulthood are there relationships and connections through whakapapa, whanaungatanga and cultural connections readily available to support and build feelings of stability, security and self-confidence?
10 — The parents/caregivers support the development of a healthy sense of self with appropriate cultural, spiritual, religious and whānau or family connections in a safe and stable environment. Te tamaiti has a stable school environment and has stable relationships with peers/friends and the important adults in their life. Te tamaiti knows their whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections and has a strong sense of cultural identity. Their home environment is stable and not subject to frequent unplanned changes or moves. Changes to routines are planned and te tamaiti knows they can trust and rely on adults to inform them and support them through any changes. Te tamaiti is relaxed and confident with the adults in their life. Adults care for te tamaiti and show affection through words and actions that are developmentally appropriate.
For te tamaiti in care whānau, whakapapa and whanaungatanga relationships are maintained and developed and a focus of everyone involved. There is good communication and strong commitment by the social worker, caregivers and whānau members to work together to ensure contact arrangements are consistent and stable, ensure whakapapa and cultural connections are maintained and meet the needs of te tamaiti. The caregivers can manage any stress or distress te tamaiti experiences and can respond appropriately to their needs. Sibling contact is regular.
5 — The parents/caregivers and whānau or family provide some stability for te tamaiti but there are, or have been, periods of disruption and change when the needs of te tamaiti have not always been prioritised. Te tamaiti may experience some unplanned changes in their home, school and community but the impacts have generally been managed. There have been some changes in the household members who provide care and nurturing but the needs of te tamaiti have been usually been recognised and support provided. Adults generally show affection through their words and actions, but this can vary when adults are stressed. This may have impacted on the feelings of safety and stability of te tamaiti.
For te tamaiti in care relationships are generally well managed but there can be difficulties that mean there is a need for additional support. Or there have been changes in care arrangements that have caused some stress and distress but te tamaiti is responding to supports and interventions. Te tamaiti has some understanding of why they are in care but has periods where additional supports are required. Contact with whānau, and whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections, are generally well managed but there are times when adult issues dominate and the needs of te tamaiti are not prioritised. There have been unplanned placement changes, but te tamaiti has responded to the supports provided.
1 — The parents/caregivers and whānau or family have a lifestyle where a culture of violence, drug and alcohol abuse and/or chaos dominates. The home has no routines and is frequently in a state of crisis and reactivity. There have been frequent changes of house, school and community that have meant te tamaiti has not established stable peer/friendship relationships or experienced uninterrupted education. Te tamaiti has parent/caregivers and adults who come and go in their life and who do not provide consistent supportive and trusting relationships, care and nurture. Significant adults in the life of te tamaiti talk about and to them in negative terms. Te tamaiti is cautious and hyper-vigilant around adults.
Te tamaiti in care have little or no understanding of why they are in care. Relationships between caregivers and whānau are dominated by adult issues and have little focus on meeting the needs of te tamaiti. Whakapapa and whanaungatanga connections are negatively impacted as a result. The parents and whānau do not support the placement and behave in ways that disrupt and destabilise the placement. Te tamaiti demonstrates behaviour indicating their stress and distress in the caregivers’ home. There have been unplanned changes in placements which has increased the vulnerability and distress for te tamaiti. Te tamaiti experiences difficulties in relationships in the home, at school and in their community. Past experiences continue to impact the sense of self stability of te tamaiti.