Youth Justice

An overview of our approach: our underpinning philosophy, theories and principles that influence our youth justice interventions in order to achieve our desired outcomes.

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Justice and accountability focused

The justice and accountability focused perspective responds to the principle of holding young people to account for their offending, recognising that youth justice is concerned with the rights and needs of a wide group of stakeholders, including but not restricted to the young person themselves.

Restorative justice processes rest at the heart of the justice and accountability perspective, providing a means through which a young person can gain an understanding of the harm caused by their actions, and for reaching agreement on how best to make amends. The involvement of the victim is key to this process.

Supporting justice and accountability focused practice

Youth Offending Strategy

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Key messages from the research

  • Youth justice needs to be concerned with the rights and needs of a wide group of stakeholders, including but not restricted to the young person themselves (The Youth Justice Plan, 2002).
  • Young people must be held accountable for their offending, while at the same time be provided opportunities to develop non offending pathways (Oranga Tamariki Act 1989).
  • Restorative justice processes offer opportunities for common understanding of the harm caused by offending, and agreement on how to make amends (Walgrave, 2004).
  • Victims, in particular, need support throughout the restorative justice process (Maxwell, et al. 2004).
  • Removal of young people from their families should be an option of last resort (Oranga Tamariki Act 1989).
  • The swift administration of justice has been identified as a key priority for youth justice services, to ensure that young people experience more immediately the consequences of their actions (Youth Justice Board, 2002).

Young person focused

Being young person focused is all about responding to the young person's specific needs, including their developmental needs, to support longer-term positive outcomes. It's about enhancing wellbeing for young offenders, promoting positive transitions in their lives and providing rehabilitative opportunities that will help them to move positively forward.

The young person focused perspective is also about focusing on the young person's rights. It is supported by the work of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) and its underpinning theme relating to the right of young people to special care and the right to provision, protection and participation.

Supporting young person focused practice

Key messages from the research

  • Young people are entitled to ‘special care and assistance’ and have the right to provision, protection and participation (OHCHR, 2003; UNCROC, 2005).
  • Like other diversionary youth justice systems, the New Zealand approach reflects a view that delinquency is transient for most young people (Whyte, 2004).
  • The Beijing Rules dictate that young people who offend should also have their needs met, age and vulnerability is a mitigating factor, and that attention should be paid to the rights of the young person (OHCHR, 1985).
  • Young people have the right to be listened to and the capacity to participate in decisions that affect them (Littlechild, 2000; MSD, 2003; SOI, 2005).
  • Reintegrative and rehabilitative options for young people includes the provision of appropriate mental health services and arrangements for education, training or employment (Maxwell et al, 2004).
  • Young people identify key factors for effective YJ work: talking and listening to young people; building relationships; praising rather than blaming; focus on future rather than the past; take into account background problems; offer practical help (Barry, 2005).

Family-led and culturally responsive perspective

The family led and culturally responsive perspective reinforces the need to work with family cultures and to support them in their primary role of carers and protectors of their children and young people. The driving principle of family empowerment rests at the heart of the framework and guides practice toward greater family-responsiveness. This strongly supports key practice principles within the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

The need to strengthen families is recognised and also the need to foster practice partnerships that include involving the broader family in processes of decision making for their young people. Being family-led and culturally responsive also requires that we are familiar with the research relating to family engagement and the ways in which families can be brought together to support their young people. Engaging the cultural context of the family and working with social networks is also central to the practice framework.

It has also been suggested that building alliances with communities, including cultural communities are more likely to strengthen good outcomes for young people who offend.

Supporting family-led and culturally responsive practice

Key messages from the research

  • Writers have identified the need to encourage youth to capitalise on strengths, develop pro-social competencies and connect to educational, employment, civic and cultural opportunities (Butts et al, 2005).
  • Factors impacting on good outcomes include: building the young persons network of friends/peers outside the delinquency group; greater exposure to structured parental supervision; developing attachment bonds to family; encouraging pro-social values; mobilising education/employment prospects; building personal and social skills, (Youth Justice Board, 2002). Also important is the need to intervene early as a means of preventing reoffending, adopting court diversionary strategies, and responding to the young person’s treatment and service needs (Maxwell et al, 2004).
  • Mentoring, building mastery, and instilling a sense of hope are important components of youth offending work (Samuelson & Robertson, 2002).
  • Oranga Tamariki has statutory responsibility for managing and implementing the FGC, and supporting the Youth Court in providing interventions for young people (Youth Offending Strategy, 2002). This requires an in depth knowledge of the Youth Justice provisions of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Strengths and evidence-based perspective

This strand focuses on the importance of strengths and evidence-based practice. The strengths perspective reflects a move away from a focus on deficits toward practice that enhances possibilities. Working with a young person’s strengths to achieve their life goals will be more likely to engage them in positive processes of change. Mobilising the strengths of the broader family to support their young person can demonstrate family cohesion and commitment to change.

At the same time as emphasising centrality of the young person and being responsive to their unique family and cultural environment there is a need for practice to have a strong knowledge base and to be informed by evidence. Building practice on a solid foundation of research evidence about what works with young people is key to supporting non-offending pathways.

We work on the basis that no one perspective is enough when working with young people and their families. It is the weaving together of the perspectives through the phases of our work that makes our practice strong.

Supporting strengths and evidence-based practice

  • ‘What works’ in Youth Justice models
  • Systems theory
  • Strengths perspective

Youth Offending Strategy

Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Key messages from the research

  • Collective responsibility for children and young people and the centrality of family is an important practice principle in New Zealand (MSD, 2002).
  • Youth accountability is fostered in the context of family support and the strengthening of the family (Oranga Tamariki Act 1989).
  • Family should be encouraged to participate and be responded to as partners in practice (Puao-te-Ata-tu, 1986; Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
  • In the context of the FGC care should to taken to avoid professional domination of the process and planning (Maxwell, et al. 2004).
  • Families need to feel validated, left to take charge of decisions, and responded to respectfully in the language most appropriate to them (Maxwell, et al. 2004).
  • All young people will be safe and have opportunity to flourish in their communities (Te Pounamu, 2001). Building alliances with communities will strengthen good outcomes (Pacific Responsiveness Plan, 2002).
  • Strong partnerships need to be developed with iwi/Māori organisations to develop provider capability to assist in improving outcomes for young Māori (The Youth Justice Plan, 2002).