Update to this guidance
We have strengthened the guidance for when parents or guardians do not want to give permission to talk to their tamariki or rangatahi during assessment phases.
Upcoming changes for this guidance
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 guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Staff resource: Our practice shift
Importance of safety, wellbeing and relationships
For each interaction with tamariki and rangatahi, we need to consider how that interaction will:
- support their best interests
- 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 consent from a parent or guardian, we demonstrate in practice how we are working in partnership with them. It also means they might not agree.
There are 3 key purposes for our first meeting with a parent or guardian:
- To inform the parent or guardian about the concerns raised.
- To begin our assessment about the concerns raised.
- To seek agreement to talk directly to their tamariki or rangatahi.
How to seek consent
1 Use the child/young person and family consult tool
We can use the consult tool to help understand the context and consider our approach, given initially the parent or guardian may not give consent. The process of understanding 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 agreements we are seeking from the parent or guardian. Is it a one-off visit or are we seeking an agreement to work with their tamaiti or rangatahi in an ongoing way?
- who in the parent or guardian’s networks we can engage with who might be able to support the parent or guardian during our first meeting – is there a church member, a community worker or a family/whanau member who can help?
- our history with the family/whānau – does someone in the organisation (such as a youth worker, the kairaranga ā-whānau or a previously allocated social worker) already have an existing relationship that can support engagement?
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 seek consent from
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 Seeking consent 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 contacting the parent or guardian
- 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
- help the parent or guardian understand the seriousness of the concerns and how we plan to work together with them – sometimes the parent or guardian might need space to consider the information that we’re sharing with them so be prepared to delay explaining why we want to talk to their tamariki or rangatahi until they have had time to process
- 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 If consent is not granted
We have to balance the rights of tamariki and rangatahi to participate and have their views heard alongside their right to have their parent or guardian maintain primary responsibility for them.
If the parent or guardian does not agree to us talking with their tamaiti or rangatahi, take time to understand why. Ensure that the parent or guardian has as much information as possible to help them understand and give them space to reconsider. Check that all aspects of the original consult have occurred:
- All available options have been explored – for example, approaching a different guardian.
- We have considered all other matters such as culture, gender, ethnicity, practice skill level, and any language barriers.
- All networks of support have been approached to help the parent or guardian allow the views of their tamariki or rangatahi to be heard directly.
If we have made all reasonable efforts to obtain the parent or guardian's consent but they refuse to give it, we can still speak to te tamaiti or rangatahi if this is in their best interests to do so.
In this case, we need to inform the parent or guardian as soon as practicable, so te tamaiti or rangatahi is not put in the position of having to tell a parent that they spoke with us. This can also serve as an opportunity to keep the parent or guardian informed about any next steps.
If you are uncertain whether it is appropriate to speak with tamariki or rangatahi without parental or guardian consent, consult with Legal Services.
5 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.
6 Record the decisions
All decisions need to be recorded and the rationale outlining our approach explained.