Importance of safety, wellbeing and relationships
For each interaction with tamariki and rangatahi, we need to consider how that interaction will:
- support safety and wellbeing
- uphold mana by recognising the right of te tamaiti and rangatahi to participate
- recognise and strengthen whakapapa and whanaungatanga relationships between te tamaiti or rangatahi and their siblings, family/whānau and community, which is critical for their ongoing wellbeing, connection and belonging.
Parents as guardians have ultimate responsibility for the care, safety and wellbeing of their tamariki and rangatahi, which includes who has access to talk to them. By seeking permission from parents we demonstrate in practice how we are working in partnership with them.
How to seek permission
1 Use the child/young person and family consult tool
We can use the consult tool to help understand the context and to evidence our decision-making. The process of unpacking the information relating to the danger, harm or seriousness of offending and exploring possible implications helps determine the best way forward.
The purpose of engagement will frame what permission we are seeking from the guardian. Is it a one-off visit or are we seeking an agreement to work with their tamaiti or rangatahi in an ongoing way?
For tamariki Māori, include the kairaranga ā-whānau, a senior Māori practitioner or a bicultural practitioner in the consult for guidance.
For Pacific children or young people, seek appropriate cultural advice which can be guided by Va'aifetū.
2 Decide who to ask for permission
Establishing legal guardianship can take time and effort due to the different ways that family and whānau configure themselves. They can include single parent, de facto, same sex, step-families, whāngai or adopted tamariki and multi-generations within families/whānau. Sometimes the person caring for te tamaiti will not be the same as the person or people who are responsible as guardians for te tamaiti.
For initial assessments, the identified primary caregiver can be approached to provide consent.
For fuller assessments, we need to establish who has legal guardianship. Families/whānau may include step or de facto parents who have strong and enduring relationships with te tamaiti but they may not have legal guardianship. While we would continue to consult and work with them, we need to be mindful of those with legal guardianship responsibilities, especially biological parents who no longer live with their tamariki or rangatahi.
3 Ask for permission from the parent or guardian
Meeting face to face is preferable and helps us develop a relationship with families/whānau.
The consult tool can help understand and then record which method is preferable and why, based on maintaining the safety, wellbeing and care of te tamaiti and rangatahi in a timely manner.
When rangatahi are involved in youth justice matters, we need to consider how we collaborate with their parent or guardian within youth justice’s short timeframes.
If we can’t meet face to face, other options include:
- by video link
- by phone
- through a third party ― this person should be known by the family/whānau and understand they are representing the best interest of te tamaiti or rangatahi in the absence of the parent or guardian.
Prepare for the discussion
Before we talk with the parent or guardian, we should decide if we need:
- an interpreter ― be prepared to brief and debrief the interpreter to check that the communication is successful
- cultural advice, or a community leader to accompany us
- an experienced or specialist worker to co-work with us or provide coaching before going out
- to use the Talanoa Mai or Te Kete Ararau apps as a resource.
During the discussion
- clearly explain why we need to talk to their tamaiti or rangatahi and explain what we will do with the information ― check their understanding and allow space for questions
- when assessing care and protection concerns, support a parent’s right to know if someone is worried about their tamaiti or rangatahi
- be prepared to remain calm if they are shocked, angry or distressed
- be honest and clear and use plain language
- avoid using jargon words like ‘notification’, ‘abuse’ and ‘statutory’ but we shouldn't understate the concerns that we have been told about
- let the family/whānau know what the process of working with them will be, who we will be talking with, why and how long we think it will take
- have our ID card available and share our contact details or who else they can contact if we are not available
- explore with the parents about how to determine the best way to ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi feels safe and able to talk freely ― consider whether to talk to them alone or as a sibling group, or in the company of a trusted support person such as a safe parent or family/whānau member
- consider how to share any information or outcomes from our discussion with their tamariki or rangatahi in a way that maintains everyone’s safety, wellbeing and relationships — this includes providing an opportunity for guardians to respond to any concerns or disclosures of harm
- record your discussions with the parents — these notes can be shared to check that they accurately reflect the parents' views.
4 Seek consent from te tamaiti or rangatahi
We can talk to te tamaiti or rangatahi as long as they consent.
They have a right to know:
- who we are
- why we want to talk to them
- what we will do with the information.
They also have a right not to want to talk or meet with us even if their parents or guardians agree.
5 Record the decisions
All decisions need to be recorded and the rationale outlining our approach explained.