Because case work demands are frequently unpredictable and unexpected, Oranga Tamariki social workers need to be flexible and responsive. It is a core activity of all team managers and supervisors that they know about and manage the changing demands on team members' time.
Consider the number of tamariki in a family/whānau and how many workers are needed to build quality relationships.
The needs and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi inform and are central to assessment, decision-making and planning. Doing what is right for te tamaiti or rangatahi is imperative.
Allocating a key worker
A supervisor allocates a key worker for every tamaiti or rangatahi with an open assessment, investigation or intervention.
Usually, the allocated key worker is a social worker. However there are exceptions, such as:
- where it is agreed at a transition to adulthood family group conference that a transitional or youth worker will hold primary responsibility
- where it is agreed at a youth justice family group conference that a social worker is not required and a youth justice coordinator will hold primary responsibility (a social worker cannot be allocated later solely to monitor a plan from the conference) — if it is agreed at or after the pre-family group conference case consultation that the conference will need a social worker allocated, this must occur before the conference is convened so the social worker can start building a relationship with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau and complete a Tuituia assessment for the conference.
When allocating a key worker for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau, supervisors should consider:
- the needs of newly qualified staff, those returning from extended absences and other individual circumstances
- matching the complexity of the reported concerns or offending history with the level of experience and expertise held by the worker
- the necessary cultural competence and required skills to engage cross-culturally
- allocating a co-worker if there are complex issues and concerns, or specialist knowledge is required
- allocating separate social workers (ideally within the same site) if a rangatahi we are working with becomes a parent themselves — collaborative practice is important
- the voice and views of tamariki and family/whānau, and the quality of previous relationships, when deciding if a previous key social worker is the most appropriate person to undertake the assessment of new concerns when a parent has previously been involved with Oranga Tamariki and tamariki are no longer in their care — the loss of the care of te tamaiti is significant and we should consider the impact on the parents, caregivers and family/whānau.
Allocating a co-worker
A supervisor allocates a site co-worker when the key worker needs assistance for a specific purpose. For example:
- the case may require specialist knowledge of disability or culture, or be complex because of the degree of trauma
- the number of tamariki in the family/whānau may require 2 workers to have the time to build quality relationships
- if a rangatahi has offended while currently involved with Oranga Tamariki in a child and family assessment, investigation or intervention, the care and protection social worker may remain the key worker and a youth justice social worker becomes the co-worker (or vice versa) — consider the relationships social workers have with the rangatahi
- if te tamaiti or rangatahi is admitted to a residence, a residential case leader is allocated as a co-worker to work with the key site social worker to complete the required activities
- if the level of complexity and perceived risk is high, a co-worker is required to support a consistent and seamless service to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau
- if mentoring and coaching requests feature in both workers’ professional development plan, allocating a co-worker provides on-the-job skill development
- if te tamaiti has recently moved to another region, a co-worker is allocated to complete particular activities for te tamaiti until the transfer request is accepted by that region (at which time a key worker will be allocated).
Practice responsibilities for the key worker
The key social worker holds primary responsibility for te tamaiti or rangatahi. They are responsible for providing purposeful, ethical practice for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau utilising theory, law, research and expertise. Critical reflection and supervision are applied to analyse and apply professional judgement to develop potential interventions with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau to build safety and wellbeing.
The particular responsibilities of a key worker include but are not limited to:
- engaging with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau to ensure their views are understood, listened to and included in case reflection and supervision
- engaging with family/whānau to ensure whakapapa and whanaungatanga responsibilities are recognised and included in any planning
- having oversight of the case work and holding responsibility for case direction
- ensuring practice is guided by the 8 key areas outlined in the practice standards
- using the Tuituia framework to inform the breadth and depth of the assessment required to understand the concerns held for te tamaiti or rangatahi — the functionality of CYRAS means that only a person who is allocated the role of key or co-worker can create or edit the Tuituia assessment tool and report
- completing the Tuituia assessment tool and report (in collaboration with the co-worker when one has been allocated) and sharing the assessment outcome with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau
- seeking Māori specialist or other cultural advice as required throughout assessment and planning
- engaging with other professionals, partner agencies and service providers to understand their role and views of what is happening for te tamaiti or rangatahi and the family/whānau and their role in planning any interventions
- working with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau to develop a plan which addresses the identified needs, strengths and risks
- seeking supervision and arranging a child/young person and family case consult to reflect and understand the situation for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- facilitating or leading meetings or ensuring that the right people are involved and the right tikanga is used
- preparing legal reports as required
- monitoring, reviewing and updating any plan for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- ensuring te tamaiti or rangatahi is involved, their voice is heard and they participate in decision-making
- acting as a single point of contact for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau
- visiting with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau as agreed to in their plan
- empowering te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau by providing them with support, resources and information to build safety and wellbeing outcomes
- supporting parents and caregivers to gain necessary skills and knowledge through referral and advocacy with appropriate services.
For tamariki and rangatahi in care, these responsibilities also include:
- undertaking the needs assessment as required in the National Care Standards using Tuituia, gateway and any other relevant assessments to inform planning
- completing the All About Me plan as soon as practicable after entering care to meet the requirements of the National Care Standards for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- updating the All About Me plan no later than 6 weeks after te tamaiti or rangatahi enters care and reviewing it every 6 months after that
- ensuring that visits are undertaken in line with the identified needs in the All About Me plan
- discussing with their supervisor to ensure that a co-worker is appointed to assist with the plan if te tamaiti or rangatahi is in a care placement in another area
- ensuring that decisions about post-residential placements out of region are made in consultation with the relevant regional managers
- remaining responsible for any exit or placement plans and ensuring that local or national requirements are adhered to
- transferring the case with their supervisor and completing the necessary documents if te tamaiti or rangatahi is to remain in a care placement in another area
- seeking approval for funding of interventions on a case-by-case basis to ensure interventions happen as planned and te tamaiti or rangatahi is supported to develop and maintain connections to their family/whānau, hapū, iwi, marae, family group and siblings
- ensuring that family/whānau are kept informed of significant activities (for example, sport and education) te tamaiti or rangatahi is participating in and supporting family/whānau attendance where appropriate
- maintaining regular contact through meetings, phone and video with other professionals involved with te tamaiti or rangatahi
- attending meetings in person, or by phone or video if te tamaiti or rangatahi is admitted to a residence — when this happens it is important residential staff and the key worker communicate well and have shared goals and understandings of the All About Me plan and residential plans
- ensuring communication with agency staff is transparent, open and regular to ensure the All About Me plan is followed and te tamaiti and their family/whānau remain connected and informed, if te tamaiti or rangatahi is placed in an Iwi, Cultural or Child and Family Support Service placement
- ensuring the appropriate plans and supports are arranged and in place if the plan is for te tamaiti or rangatahi to return home, remain in a long-term care placement or transition out of care, and that family/whānau and support services are informed and understand the expectations of the plan
- keeping factual and timely formal records.
Practice responsibilities for the co-worker
The responsibilities of a co-worker include but are not limited to:
- working closely with the key worker regularly to maintain a coherent approach — agreed activities should be discussed and recorded so everyone is clear and follow-up occurs as required
- considering if there are opportunities for joint supervision
- completing certain agreed activities, feeding back any new information to the key worker, recording the new information in the CYRAS record, and following any agreed plan
- communicating and working together with the key worker to ensure the interests and welfare of te tamaiti or rangatahi are at the forefront of thinking and planning.
Residential staff build strong relationships with the tamariki and rangatahi they care for and can present the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi in new and different ways.
The particular responsibilities of a residential co-worker include but are not limited to:
- sharing responsibility and oversight for te tamaiti or rangatahi with the key worker while in residence
- starting the All About Me plan if a rangatahi enters a youth justice residence and does not have an allocated youth justice social worker (for example, a 17 year old being held on remand in a residence), where this is the first time they’ve been involved with Oranga Tamariki
- facilitating the pre-admission meeting to set residential goals with the key worker, other professionals and family/whānau — this is for all tamariki or rangatahi entering a care and protection residence or a youth justice residence on a supervision with residence order or on remand
- ensuring the voice of te tamaiti or rangatahi is heard and they participate in decision-making and understand what is happening for them
- acting as another point of contact for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau
- ensuring the appropriate assessments for te tamaiti or rangatahi are undertaken while in residence
- leading and coordinating transition planning through Multi Agency Team meetings (attending in person, or by phone or video conference)
- attending or providing any updated information to the key worker in preparation for meetings, family group conferences or court reporting
- monitoring and reviewing the residential plan for te tamaiti or rangatahi in a youth justice residence
- facilitating the pre-discharge hui.