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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/assessment-and-planning/assessments/intake-and-early-assessment/protect-and-support-the-development-of-tamariki-and-rangatahi-within-healthy-whanau-and-families/
Printed: 18/07/2024
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Last updated: 21/08/2023

Safety and oranga

Safety and protection are components of oranga that can't be realised when tamariki and rangatahi are not safe and secure in their living situation.

Safety planning has always been an important approach with whānau and families. Using an oranga approach supports tamariki and rangatahi to live safely and maintain and build relationships within their whānau or family. Oranga recognises the impact of abuse and neglect across a whānau or family system but uses the wider system to manage the ebbs and flows of oranga and recognise the unique experiences of whānau or family history.

Tiaki mokopuna

Tiaki mokopuna is a cultural principle that asserts the responsibilities of the collective to care for, achieve oranga, and support and protect tamariki and rangatahi within healthy whānau and families.

Paper: Ngā karangaranga maha o te ngākau o ngā tūpuna Tiaki Mokopuna – Ancestral heartfelt echoes of care for children (PDF 481 KB)

The principle is founded in customary beliefs. When applied within the whānau or family context, it has the transformative potential to guide and strengthen strategies for tamariki and rangatahi care and oranga, development and growth.  

This principle is relational, inclusive and restorative and specific for tangata whenua. However, it is also relevant for Pacific and all other tauiwi, taking into account any specific cultural considerations they may have.

Ngākau whakairo

We draw from tamariki and rangatahi Māori child-rearing cultural practices that are nurturing, protective and responsive and advance the overall oranga of tamariki and rangatahi.

From our practice framework, the ngākau whakairo domain outlines the rights, values and professional obligations that guide us in all that we do. It is the manawa of our practice. We strive to see the rights of all tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family realised, especially the rights afforded to tamariki and rangatahi Māori and their whānau.

Our rights-based practice is also informed by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC).

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child | Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Ngākau whakairo – rights

Whai mātauranga

Whai mātauranga is achieved by working with whānau or family to build caring, safe, connected and loving home environments through nuanced practice based on meaningful relationships. If we support whānau or family to build caring home environments, then tamariki and rangatahi will be supported in their oranga journey.

Oranga definitions

Dimensions of oranga that build safety

While all cultures have their own ways of understanding oranga, an inclusive and holistic view drawing from Te Ao Māori wellbeing principles includes:

  • wairua – the dimension of spiritual wellbeing
  • hinengaro – the dimension of intellectual and mental wellbeing
  • ngākau – the dimension of emotional wellbeing
  • tinana – the dimension of physical wellbeing
  • whānau – the dimension of family wellbeing
  • waiora – the dimension of environmental wellbeing.

Dimensions of oranga

Working with Pacific families and families from other ethnic communities

We use Va'aifetū and the approaches that are relevant to the island nation of the family we are working with to inform our practice when working with different Pacific communities.

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

We consult with the appropriate cultural advisors and have the right people involved who can support the family and children.

When there are language or cultural barriers

Whānau or family may use different languages or not have sufficient English to understand the concerns being expressed. This is especially so for refugees and migrants from different cultures and those with different religious and child-rearing beliefs.

We use an interpreter to ensure whānau or family understand what we are saying. Be mindful that many countries have different languages and ethnicities within the country.

Each Pacific nation has a different language.

We consult with a cultural advisor and ensure we have the right person with the correct language as an interpreter. Be mindful that small ethnic communities can be closely linked and check with the whānau or family that they are comfortable with the person being used as interpreter.

Interpreters when English is not the first or preferred language

If whānau Māori want to use te reo Māori and not all participants understand te reo Māori, consult with the whānau about how this will be managed.

Practice considerations when tamariki or rangatahi have been harmed and a plan is developed to prevent further harm and build oranga

When te tamaiti  or rangatahi is harmed by the actions of another person, they need to be made safe and be supported to heal and build oranga. Physical, emotional, cultural, political and spiritual states of oranga can be achieved when whānau or family take collective ownership and individual responsibility to work towards achieving tiaki mokopuna.

Mana tamaiti objectives in practice

Tamariki-rearing practices of particular importance when considering building oranga in a context where tamariki can flourish and are valued include:

  • whakapuhi – cherishing and indulging tamariki and rangatahi, encouraging them to be inquisitive and adaptive and to explore their environments and the people within them
  • aroha – caring for tamariki and rangatahi and fostering taha tinana, taha hinengaro, taha wairua and taha whānau wellbeing and identity
  • whakamana – building and maintaining the mana of te tamaiti or rangatahi 
  • tuakana-teina – encouraging reciprocal mentoring between older and younger siblings
  • rangatiratanga – fostering the authority that tamariki and rangatahi inherit to lead whānau, hapū and iwi aspirations and self-determination
  • kaitiakitanga – teaching tamariki and rangatahi to be protectors of tikanga, lives, land and resources
  • manaakitanga – teaching tamariki and rangatahi to be guardians of their own and others’ mana
  • whakatūpato – teaching tamariki and rangatahi to be cautious and safe in their environment and with those around them
  • kotahitanga – a collective approach to parenting tamariki Māori in which iwi, hapū and whānau are responsible for safe, supported and nurtured tamariki-rearing.

Literature review: Traditional Māori parenting (PDF 1 MB)

Each of these Māori tamariki-rearing practices resonates in clear and direct ways with concepts of te tamaiti or rangatahi flourishing within social, physical and community contexts and environments where harm is prevented.

The use of supervision throughout this process is crucial.

Policy: Professional supervision

Understand the whānau or family's experiences and history

Every whānau or family has experienced different states of oranga during their journey. We need to work with them to understand their story. Be aware that previous experiences of Oranga Tamariki and other state agencies may have been traumatic and painful for them, and they may be angry and upset at another intrusion.

We seek advice from our kairaranga ā-whānau, Māori specialist staff and other cultural advisors.

Hold a hui ā-whānau, family meeting or whānau hui as soon as possible:

  • While we need to understand the risk of harm present, we need to explore and identify strengths and resources and support the whānau or family to explore their options and possibilities. Listen and seek understanding and do not make assumptions.
  • Be respectful of the history and trauma of whānau or family stories.
  • Oranga is developed and strengthened for and around te tamaiti or rangatahi by working together with their family, whānau, hapū, iwi, family group, networks and other professionals.
  • When oranga is strengthened, it brings a focus on enduring approaches and responses to any potential harm.
  • Strengthening oranga focuses on enduring belonging for tamariki and rangatahi.
  • Skilful engagement and meaningful relationships with the family, whānau, hapū, iwi and family group and their networks enable the development of plans that build on a whānau or family's strengths.
  • Facilitating robust and transparent discussions supports behaviour change within a whānau or family system to secure the stability and oranga of tamariki and rangatahi.
  • Responses can include the person believed to have caused the harm if they are a member of the whānau or family and will continue to be part of the life of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
  • Whānau or family need to understand what is necessary to keep everyone safe so they can include that person in whānau or family life.

We cannot build oranga without a robust assessment that identifies the risks of harm present that can be mitigated by protective or oranga factors.

We consult throughout our work with our supervisor, practice leader and kairaranga ā-whānau or other cultural supports.

If we have not been able to develop or find an option within the whānau or family, then an emergency care arrangement may be needed if there is a risk of imminent harm.

Criteria when assessing the serious risk of harm to pēpi

Breastfeeding – caring for and nurturing a pēpi

Pathways to care – emergency actions

Pathways to care – care agreements

Practice when working with disabled people

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and neurodiversity

Cumulative harm

When considering cumulative harm, we should also consider what has been happening when there is no harm occurring and the whānau or family are safe, stable and in a place of oranga:

  • What is happening?
  • Who is present?
  • What was different from when harm was happening?

Cumulative harm

Whai ākona

When facilitating short-term or long-term safety within a whānau or family, we ensure everyone involved in the plan knows what the adults in the home and whānau or family say they will be doing:

  • What is the behaviour they want to stop?
  • What will they do instead?

We consult with our supervisor and explore our thinking, understanding and any potential unconscious bias that may be present.

Be clear about the goals necessary for the oranga that the whānau or family is seeking to achieve and support them to plan how they will meet the goals. For example, they might say there is to be no violence or arguing when tamariki are present. They need to consider how they can achieve that, who will do what and who can help.

Consider the following:

  • Find out what is the most culturally appropriate way to connect with the whānau or family.
  • Seek cultural advice from the site kairaranga ā-whānau or other cultural advisors.
  • Hold a hui ā-whānau, whānau hui or family meeting.
  • Find out what questions will help us understand the views of the whānau or family and tamariki or rangatahi.
  • Whānau or family may feel whakamā that Oranga Tamariki is involved in their whānau or family. We consider how we will facilitate our engagement with them and who will help us.
  • Consider how we will demonstrate reciprocity. Learning goes both ways, and whānau and family will engage better when we don't make assumptions and we seek clarity through questions.
  • Consider how we will collect mātauranga Māori narratives and evidence that can inform kaupapa Māori tools and build strategies to strengthen oranga.
  • Consider what approaches we will use with whānau or family that reflect mātauranga Māori and a communal approach to the rearing of tamariki and rangatahi. Think about the role of tuakana and teina (sibling and cousin) relationships.
  • Consider if we have the right cultural support and advice for Pacific families and families from other ethnicities.
  • Think about how we will challenge dominant, deficit-framed narratives that do not support the strengthening of oranga with the whānau or family in relational ways. This includes how we will include the person believed to have harmed te tamaiti or rangatahi in the oranga plan, where appropriate. For example, if they are a member of the whānau or family and will continue to have contact with tamariki and rangatahi, how will this be managed by the whānau or family?
  • Dominant and deficit-framed narratives can be held by other professionals. We consider if we need support to challenge these views and support the whānau or family on their journey.
  • Research with wāhine Māori has shown that a key consideration for wāhine in a whānau or family where violence and harm has happened is to prioritise whakapapa (the sanctity of whānau genealogy), which committed wāhine to tāne and established a lifelong connection to protect the biological interests of their tamariki and rangatahi and their ties to both the maternal and paternal whānau or family.
    E Tū Wahine, E Tū Whānau: Wahine Māori keeping safe in unsafe relationships | NZ Family Violence Clearing House (PDF 7 MB)
  • Whānau or family-centred practice provides for the oranga of tamariki and rangatahi in the context of whānau or family. It starts with whānau or family being supported to identify their goals and make their own decisions.
  • Whānau or family-centred practitioners work in ways that are responsive to the whānau or family's identified preferences, aspirations and need.

Agreement about how the past harm happened is not required, but agreement and a commitment to future safety and no further harm happening is necessary.

The child/young person and family consult tool is a useful process to explore our thinking in this area.

Child/young person and family consult

Successful safety planning depends on relational practice, cooperation and collaboration with whānau or family. We need to approach whānau or family from a position of genuine inquiry and humility, and acknowledge their past, while clearly communicating the concerns identified. We consult our kairaranga ā-whānau, Māori specialist staff or other appropriate cultural advisors and organise a hui ā-whānau or family meeting.

Engaging with whānau or family to identify relationships and supports for the plan

Social media has changed relationships by making it easier to locate and connect with each other. However, this ease of connection also means there are risks associated with people who seek out those who might be vulnerable and lonely or have interpersonal difficulties. The more isolated te tamaiti  or rangatahi, a parent or whānau or family is, the more important it is to look wider for people who can provide safety.

Some whānau or family do not have a network of people they can call on for support, such as recent migrants and nuclear and isolated pākehā families. Finding the circle of support can be challenging and we have to work hard to help the whānau or family to bring others to the table.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who knows what is happening in your home?
  • Are there other people from school, sports or other groups who would help?
  • Is this a time to open or rebuild links to whānau or family who would be willing to help?
  • Do you need support to do this?

Whakapapa, whanaungatanga, marae, church and community connections contribute deeper and positive contexts for aroha, protection and security that can build oranga around tamariki and rangatahi. Kairaranga ā-whānau, Māori specialist roles, hapū, iwi and cultural support services can all help in locating people who can support and assist. We should look beyond the immediate and seek out the right people to help the whānau or family and work with us.

Be aware that the experiences of whānau Māori and, in particular wāhine Māori when tamariki or rangatahi have been removed in the past or they fear tamariki will be removed from their care, can mean wāhine deliberately avoid or are very reluctant to seek help in times of crisis.

Engagement in such situations requires skilful and transparent mahi. Identifying the right people to help us is crucial.

Helping whānau or family understand how to create a plan

Working with whānau or family members to strengthen oranga for te tamaiti  or rangatahi requires transparent discussions about what the concerns are and exploration of what oranga factors and resources within the whānau or family can be used and strengthened to achieve oranga.

We should be clear about the behaviour that is of concern and what an absence of that behaviour will look like. That means we need to be able to help the whānau or family understand what they need to do for their tamariki or rangatahi to be protected. How they plan for this to happen is up to them, but we support and āwhina them to do this.

For example: "Billy has been hit and punched and I am worried that, if this happens again, he will be injured or even killed." Oranga Tamariki needs to see that everyone who cares for Billy knows and uses time out or no devices etc and does not hit or punch him when Billy doesn't do what he is told. The whānau or family can then work together on how they will make the necessary changes and what support they might need to do this – who can support and assist if Billy refuses to engage, and what rewards will be in place if he does engage.

Use different tools to help whānau or family, such as the circles of safety and support:

  • identify an oranga network for te tamaiti or rangatahi 
  • explain what we are worried about and explore what their views and worries are, what has happened over time, and what is being done about it
  • think about what oranga for te tamaiti or rangatahi will look like in the future.

Circles of safety and support | Partnering for Safety (PDF 1.7 MB)

Safety circles are a simple tool that helps whānau or family think about:

  • who knows everything that goes on in their home
  • who knows something of what goes on in their home
  • who knows nothing but would be prepared to support them.

The 'words and pictures' approach helps whānau or family understand and explain what has happened to te tamaiti or rangatahi, what they are worried about, what has happened over time, and what is being done about it.

The 'future house' tool helps us understand whānau or family members' views about what oranga for te tamaiti or rangatahi will look like in the future.

Resource booklets | Partnering for Safety

Involve te tamaiti and rangatahi

Listen when decisions are being made for te tamaiti  or rangatahi, and hear their voice and the dreams and wishes they have. Strengthening oranga cannot happen without their participation.

A range of tools can help te tamaiti or rangatahi tell their story and understand what is happening to them, such as:

  • Bear Cards – pictures of bears showing different emotions (such as happy, scared) that can help tamariki or rangatahi explain how they are feeling
    Lighthouse Resources  
  • words and pictures — this approach helps te tamaiti or rangatahi explain and understand what has happened to them, what they are worried about, what has happened over time, and what is being done about it
  • the safety or oranga house – this tool is designed to be used with tamariki or rangatahi to find out what oranga means to them, and what needs to happen to make them feel safe and keep safe.
    Resource booklets | Partnering for Safety

Care and protection concerns

If a social worker has formed a belief that te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care and protection, then a referral for family group conference is required.

About family group conferencing

Remember a family group conference can also make a plan to strengthen and assist whānau or family members to care for their tamariki.

Functions of family group conference – section 28(b) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

If a referral has been made for family group conference

Maintaining oranga, including safety, until a conference is held may mean the initial oranga plan needs to be reviewed.

In order to strengthen oranga, we need to have a clear understanding of the current situation for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.

We keep regularly engaging with tamariki, rangatahi, whānau or family and others to understand how the plan to maintain oranga, including safety, is working. We update the plan as needed to ensure safety until the family group conference.

Create as many opportunities as possible for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to have their say. While this may need extra time, decisions that have been made in a more relational, considered and inclusive way lead to better outcomes for te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Use Tuituia to build on the initial understandings and consider what domains need further exploration. Work with the whānau or family so they can explore times when things were different and help them reflect and identify changes they can make to build oranga.

Remember oranga is a journey and a whānau or family’s experience ebbs and flows, with experiences of good times and tough times throughout their life.

Remember they do not have to accept the harm happened but be prepared to work and plan so further harm doesn't occur.

Analyse the information gathered using supervision and the child/young person and family consult.

Policy: Professional supervision

Child/young person and family consult

Working with the person who is believed to have caused harm

Tamariki and rangatahi can have very conflicted relationships with someone who has harmed them. The person may be a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle or a close member of the whānau or family. Building a strong whānau or family oranga plan should include how these ongoing relationships will be managed.

Whakapapa connections can mean whānau or family, tamariki and rangatahi want to maintain a relationship with someone who is not safe or who has harmed them. Engage with whānau or family about how this will be managed, where safe and appropriate contact will happen and who will supervise to ensure no further harm occurs. Work relationally and facilitate the individual to be part of the solution – they are more likely to cooperate if they are involved in planning.

To support planning for safe contact, find whānau or family members who will be responsible for ensuring that no further incidents of harm happen. By keeping the focus on the prevention of future harm, the discussions can focus on safety and oranga.

Talk to the person believed to have caused the harm about:

  • the sort of parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle they want to be
  • what their dreams are for their tamariki or rangatahi
  • the relationship they want to have with te tamaiti or rangatahi involved
  • their own childhood experiences and how that might be impacting on the choices they make now
  • how their behaviour has or might cause harm.

Be clear that:

  • harming te tamaiti or rangatahi is always unacceptable
  • harmful behaviour is a choice.

Be aware, and convey to them, that harm of tamariki or rangatahi is about a range of behaviours, not just physical violence.

If the person we're working with shows insight and understanding, support them to find ways to explore and learn new behaviours.

Create and implement a plan

Helping whānau or family to strengthen and develop an oranga plan that includes safety planning helps everyone know where we are heading and what we need to see happening. It involves bringing together a support network from the family, whānau, hapū, iwi, family group, friends and community who understand the concerns and are committed to the plan. A list of services visiting the home does not equal oranga.

Facilitate whānau or family understanding about the behaviour that needs to happen instead of what was happening before. A statement such as 'no hitting' on its own is not building oranga, but 'we will use time out' is, if they understand how and when this would be necessary.

We don't impose an oranga plan onto a whānau or family. We work relationally and use all our social work engagement skills to help whānau or family to develop, drive, lead and plan to keep their own tamariki and rangatahi safe from potential harm. The focus is on the future outcomes of safe and happy tamariki and rangatahi without the need for statutory involvement.

Consider how to assist the whānau or family to create a motto or whakataukī that strengthens and supports them.

The Te Reo Māori Classroom

The plan might cover who needs to be part of the discussion about strengthening oranga. We:

  • work with the parents or caregivers to identify people who can help them – an ideal oranga network has a number of people involved who are not professionals and who can come into the home and see what is happening and offer support when needed
  • encourage and actively support the whānau or family if they have difficulty finding people
  • seek assistance from our kairaranga ā-whānau, Māori specialist staff or other cultural advisors
  • offer to contact people if the whānau or family are unsure or anxious – we work with them to ensure they have the right people involved
  • talk with the whānau or family about advocacy support
    Advocacy for parents and whānau or family
  • are aware that it can be very difficult for a whānau or family to identify safe people when there has been intergenerational trauma and hurt and they may be reluctant to seek out people who have hurt them – we explore this with the whānau or family and encourage and support them to identify where they might be able to access supports.

We are very clear about the specific behaviour changes the adults must demonstrate. These are not just statements saying no family violence, no drug use, no name calling or yelling but are specific strategies related to the support that will be activated when needed to prevent further harm. We can help the adults:

  • focus on positive aspects of their relationship with te tamaiti or rangatahi – what is happening when things are going well and how they can build on this
  • identify periods of time each day or week that require special attention – mornings, mealtimes or bedtime can be pressure times and extra support can be crucial in achieving oranga at these times
  • think about what will happen if there is an unexpected event, such as a party, and how tamariki and rangatahi can be protected, especially if there is the potential for arguments to happen – for example, tamariki and rangatahi could go elsewhere or someone could come and look after them in another room
  • come up with a plan if te tamaiti or rangatahi becomes distressed or angry and the adults are finding it difficult to interact safely with te tamaiti or rangatahi – they could identify who they can call on to help and provide additional support when needed
  • come up with a plan when someone is worried about te tamaiti or rangatahi, and consider who they can contact and what will happen – for example, they ring a kuia, and they all meet and talk about the problem and the plan.

We also need to:

  • make sure that everyone who is involved in the plan knows what is expected of them – everyone should have a copy of the plan and the plan should be written in plain language without professional jargon
  • describe how we will know if the plan is working – we should describe what everyone will see happening that tells us the plan is working
  • set a review date and bring everyone together to talk about how the plan has worked and what changes might be needed.

Te tamaiti or rangatahi must know about and be involved in oranga planning and know who they feel safe talking to if there are future issues, concerns and problems. This could be a whānau or family member, a teacher or a sports coach. That person needs to understand what is expected of them should this happen.

When an incident occurs or the plan doesn't go as expected, the social worker, whānau or family and te tamaiti or rangatahi need to review the plan and ensure there are supports in place to address what happened and to secure care and oranga.

Recording the plan

Be creative in how oranga plans are recorded and written for the whānau or family.

Everyone who is part of the plan needs to have a copy and understand their role in the plan.

We record the plan on CYRAS, using clear casenote headings so it is easily located.

Policy: Case recording

Practice standard: Keep accurate records

The plan could be done pictorially if there are young tamariki or literacy is a problem. Use a safe house drawing, for example, or other tools available.

Resource booklets | Partnering for Safety

Make sure everyone knows how and when the plan will be reviewed.