Talking with and listening to tamariki and rangatahiWhen tamariki and rangatahi have been harmed or may be at risk, we engage, talk with them and listen to understand how they’ve been impacted by their experiences to inform our understanding of them and any planning with them, whānau or family and others.
Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti arahia ō tātou mahi – let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.
When there has been or may be harm for te tamaiti or rangatahi, we listen, understand and respond to the unique experiences of their lives, to the spaces and places where their oranga (wellbeing) has been impacted. We support them and their whānau or family to realise their potential. We also listen to them to understand the things in their lives that can act to prevent harm from occurring or continuing to occur.
In matters affecting them, all tamariki and rangatahi have the right to participate, be heard and have their oranga (wellbeing) upheld (whakamana te tamaiti). These rights create obligations on us (including legal obligations) to ensure those rights are upheld.
In our efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family, an essential activity we undertake is to connect, support, talk and listen to tamariki and rangatahi. It’s important that they can express themselves, and we understand their feelings, thoughts and opinions about what is happening in their lives.
Sections 5, 7AA and 11 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, and Articles 12 and 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, establish the right of te tamaiti or rangatahi to express their own views in all matters that affect their lives. In addition, Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, affirmed by section 5 of the Oranga Tamariki Act, establishes that disabled tamariki and rangatahi have the right to express their views on matters that affect them and for these views to be considered. They also have the right to get the help they need to have their say. We have both a professional and legal obligation to give effect to these rights.
Practice standard: See and engage tamariki
Policy: Participation of tamariki — providing information, ensuring understanding, and incorporating their views
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRoC) | Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Child-friendly version | UNICEF
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – formats and translations | Office for Disability Issues
We intentionally seek out the knowledge that helps us understand tamaiti, rangatahi and whānau or family experiences and aspirations of oranga (wellbeing). We co-construct our understanding with tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family and communities.
By framing our enquiry and understanding through oranga, we connect with the relationships between tamariki or rangatahi, their whānau or family and their spiritual, natural, physical and social environments. The pursuit of oranga, and how oranga is sustained, is different for everyone and every whānau or family. We listen to tamariki and rangatahi describe what oranga looks like for them and we talk with them about it. Bringing an oranga frame to our understanding of the harm that te tamaiti or rangatahi has or may experience does not discount that harm but allows us to explore more broadly the networks, resources and supports available to address it.
What tamariki and rangatahi tell us is important to them
The time we spend with tamariki and rangatahi can either be time limited and focused on a particular activity (for example, when carrying out an assessment or investigation or a section 132 report), or we can spend time with them regularly if we're the social worker for te tamaiti or rangatahi in care or custody. No matter how much time we spend with tamariki and rangatahi, how we use our time is what matters most. Tamariki and rangatahi ask us to:
- "Get to know me. Spend time with me and give me your attention."
- "Be honest with me and explain in a way I can understand."
- "Ask me about my thoughts and feelings. Don’t make assumptions."
- "Be someone who will stand up for me and be brave."
Tamariki and rangatahi feel listened to when they see action taken because of what they said.
Oranga Tamariki undertakes Te Tohu o te Ora, a national survey with a primary focus on hearing the voices and experiences of tamariki and rangatahi in care. The first report, Te Mātātaki 2021, was completed from engagement with approximately 1500 care-experienced tamariki and rangatahi across 2019/20. Key findings have influenced several tohu that show us what effective communication looks like from the perspective of tamariki and rangatahi.
Te Mātātaki 2021: findings from the first national survey of tamariki and rangatahi in care | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Another way we can understand the views and wishes of tamriki and rangatahi is by listening to others. We support tamariki and rangatahi to access advocacy as required to build understanding and ensure their voice is accurately heard and reflected in their plan.
VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai has skills and expertise advocating alongside tamariki and rangatahi, and has a tāngata whaikaha workstream that focuses on tamariki and rangatahi with significant communication needs.
Whakamana te tamaiti or rangatahi through advocacy
Whakamana te tamaiti or rangatahi through advocacy – VOYCE support for disabled tamariki or rangatahi with communication impairments
Talanoa Mai Tamaiki: the voices of Pacific children and young people | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Ola manuia mo alo ma fanau Pasefika: a blessed wellbeing for our Pacific children, young people and families | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Staff resource: Synthesis of tamariki voices | Te Pae
Practice standard: Whakamana te tamaiti – Practice empowering tamariki Māori
Explaining rights and entitlements to tamariki and rangatahi
Te Ao Māori
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My hope for the future is just my family back together.
My whānau is where I look for love, acceptance, belonging and connection to my culture and whakapapa.
Separation from my whānau is painful as I want to be with them.
Unconditional love comes from my whānau.
Connection and belonging can be strengthened by my whānau.
Support my whānau to support me.
When talking with and listening to tamariki and rangatahi Māori, we listen for the protective factors that are embedded within Māori social structures (such as the use of te reo) and practices (kawa and tikanga). We enquire and hear the stories and experiences of tamariki and rangatahi within their whānau, hapū and iwi that tell us about how they are cared for, protected, safeguarded and supported to develop (whakamana te tamaiti).
Our approach to practice means we draw from Te Ao Māori knowledge, methods and principles as a starting point to our relationship with tamariki or rangatahi Māori and their whānau.
We use Te Toka Tūmoana takepū (principles) to support our practice with tamariki and rangatahi Māori and their whānau. (Te Toka Tūmoana is the tāngata whenua and bicultural principled wellbeing framework for working effectively with Māori.) These takepū support us to preference Māori worldviews and practices, and direct us towards engagement that is relational, inclusive and restorative.
We seek out support and have conversations with colleagues, with those in Māori specialist roles (Kairaranga ā-whānau, Kaiarataki, Kaiwhakaako, Kaiwhakaato), to gain deeper levels of understanding of how Te Toka Tūmoana takepū are applied in everyday ways by tāngata whenua. This supports us to incorporate them into our meaningful engagement with tamariki and rangatahi when we are talking with them.
Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana
Practice standard: Whakamana te tamaiti – Practice empowering tamariki Māori
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Staff resource: Mana enhancing | Te Pae
Staff resource: Development of the mana-enhancing paradigm for practice | Te Pae
Staff resource: Te Ao Kohatu – principled framing of best practice with mokopuna Māori | Te Pae
Pacific peoples and communities
The conch shell is a pan-Pacific symbol that amplifies the voices of children. Historically, many Pacific nations would blow the conch to bring people together – kainga (family), communities and villages – to voice their concerns about any issues or to celebrate events of cultural importance.
The symbol of the conch aligns with the cultural use of the conch by Pacific peoples as a channel to voice the views of Pacific children and young people. To sound the conch is a call for us to embrace the views and ideas of our Pacific children and young people and to uphold Pacific cultural values, principles and identity.
For many Pacific children, having a voice may be alien and uncomfortable because of their role in the collective as 'the child' and the associated expectations of that role. It is important to understand how they see themselves in relation to others within their family context and whether and how their own voice can be expressed independent of adults.
We are guided by our cultural practice tool, Va'aifetū, which is a practical guide for integrating Pacific cultures into practice in pursuit of best outcomes for children of Pacific descent. We use the ethnic-specific approaches of the island nations represented in Va'aifetū throughout our practice with children, young people and families. The best interests of the Pacific child are met when we also seek out support from colleagues, Pacific advisors and others with the relevant knowledge to ensure we understand and practise relationally with the child and their family.
Understanding the culture of Pacific children and young people helps them to share their views. We need to gain knowledge about how the children, young people and families of each island nation express important principles of guardianship, the child's best interests, dignity, humility, spirituality, responsibility and relationships in their everyday lives and in creating wellbeing for their children, young people, families and communities.
We gain the consent of parents or guardians before talking with children (unless there are exceptional circumstances) – for Pacific children, it may be particularly important for them to know their parents have agreed to the social worker talking with them on their own. Pacific children need to feel safe to have a voice – this can happen where they feel there is a trusted relationship with someone who shows a genuine interest in them and getting to know them, shows kindness, and shows they are reliable and honest, for example.
It’s important to understand how Pacific children see themselves in relation to others – parents and extended family members – and what responsibilities they attach to those relationships. Do they feel comfortable having a voice amongst adults? These are the ways in which understanding the child's culture will support talking and listening to them.
Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū
Staff resource: Pacific at Oranga Tamariki | Te Pae
Talanoa Mai Tamaiki: the voices of Pacific children and young people | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Ola manuia mo alo ma fanau Pasefika: a blessed wellbeing for our Pacific children, young people and families | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Disabled tamariki and rangatahi
Tamariki and rangatahi we work with may have a disability and we may need extra support to ensure our communication is effective. Disabled tamariki and rangatahi can communicate when those who know them well understand how they communicate. The type and level of support they require for communication to be effective will depend on the individual strengths and communication needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
Many of the factors relating to feeling listened to, sharing views and participating in decision-making are common to everyone and interdependent. The social worker’s role is to engage with and support disabled tamariki and rangatahi to communicate effectively. General practice considerations include the following:
- Honesty, trust and relationships are crucial in supporting disabled tamariki and rangatahi to understand and participate in decisions.
- If kaimahi want to know what disabled tamariki and rangatahi think, they need to ask them.
- Physical cues and behaviour are an important part of how disabled tamariki and rangatahi share their views – we can learn a lot about what te tamaiti or rangatahi wants to communicate by watching and connecting with them.
- Disabled tamariki and rangatahi often need physical cues from the person they are communicating with to make them feel like they are being listened to – for example, we can do this by affirming what we are hearing or seeing, giving undivided attention and acting on what we say we will do.
- Communication happens best when te tamaiti or rangatahi is calm and has time to process information with the support of someone they trust.
- Disabled tamariki and rangatahi feel listened to when they see action taken because of what they said.
Tailoring your communication
Tamariki and rangatahi with significant communication impairments often require specific support strategies. Standard ways of working could do more harm than good – for example, failing to ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi is well supported at a meeting may elicit a behavioural response from te tamaiti or rangatahi and create or add to a stigmatising narrative that te tamaiti or rangatahi is 'difficult' or has complex needs.
In working to understand how they communicate and the supports they need to participate and communicate effectively, we:
- talk with an adult (family member, caregiver, friend or support person) who te tamaiti or rangatahi trusts and knows well, and seek their advice
- do some research – for example, the FASD guidance has a section on communication strategies
- have a communication plan, particularly when supporting tamariki or rangatahi at meetings and family group conferences – for example, the plan outlines who will do what, when and how, and any additional support requirements, such as access to a break-out room
- talk with our Regional Disability Advisor and seek their advice.
Disability – frequently asked questions
Assessment of needs relating to any disability
Staff resource: Insights from children and young people | Te Pae
It's about ability: an explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities | UNICEF
Transitioning disabled young people out of Oranga Tamariki care
All tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family experience intentional, relational and skilful practice.
We talk with and listen to tamariki and rangatahi to create a relationship, to then build understanding with them and their whānau or family. The primary purpose is to get in touch with what tamariki and rangatahi are thinking and feeling about themselves, and their life over time. Being honest (with care) and building trust in the relationship are crucial in supporting tamariki and rangatahi to understand and participate in decisions relating to their oranga (wellbeing) and care.
We communicate with te tamaiti or rangatahi to understand more about them and their whānau or family's circumstances. We communicate to find out what they think and feel about decisions and matters that affect their lives, and to offer support. There will also be times when the purpose is to provide information that is important for them to know. This might include sharing a report with them or talking with them about their All About Me plan.
While it won't always be possible to find out before talking with tamariki or rangatahi, we do our best to understand their needs so we can relate in ways that encourage them to share their views.
We find out as much as we can about how they like or need to communicate, what support they need to communicate effectively, and activities or topics of interest (to help us get to know te tamaiti or rangatahi). We also seek to understand what support may be helpful for them following our meeting (such as who can offer them comfort if they become distressed, or any general support they are seeking going forward).
For those situations where te tamaiti or rangatahi is not in our care or custody, we firstly ask their parents and caregivers for consent (unless in those exceptional circumstances where this will put te tamaiti or rangatahi at risk of harm). We explain to them the reasons for our involvement and ensure they understand this. We also ensure they understand what we want to talk with their tamaiti or rangatahi about. By asking for their input, we gain valuable insights from parents and other whānau or family members into what te tamaiti or rangatahi needs to feel comfortable when we are talking with them.
Seeking consent to talk to tamariki and rangatahi
We consider the developmental stage (motor, cognitive, emotional and social) of te tamaiti or rangatahi as well as their chronological age, to prepare for using language and communication styles appropriate to both, especially when considering any diverse needs, such as language, hearing impairment or mental health issues. Consider:
- whether te tamaiti or rangatahi prefers interactions and information to be written, verbal or visual
- whether they need an interpreter or support person
- where they would like to meet (if this is possible) – when they choose the place (if appropriate), they feel safe and able to share more freely
- how pēpi can communicate through sounds (such as squeals, gurgles, chuckles, coos, grunts, giggles, babbles or cries and a range of tones within those sounds) and actions (such as waving their arms, kicking their legs, stiffening their bodies, arching their backs, clenching or stretching their fingers, shifting their gaze) – the repertoire of actions and sounds of pēpi can easily tell an adult who is listening and observing with care what they want, how they feel and what interests them. This will generally be an adult who knows pēpi well and who can assist us to correctly interpret sounds and actions.
Ensure we are clear in our own mind about why we are meeting with te tamaiti or rangatahi. Establishing our purpose (for example, talking about the important people in their lives, finding out what they know about their pepeha, asking them who they feel safe with and why, or talking about their All About Me plan) will underpin and drive our interaction throughout the meeting.
We prioritise our relationship with tamariki and rangatahi first. This means we prepare to meet more than once when required.
We think about what pātai (questions), thoughts and feelings te tamaiti or rangatahi might have, based on the information we want to share with them and what information we would like them to share with us or talk with us about. We don't have to have all the answers, but we need to be prepared to support te tamaiti or rangatahi as they figure out what this information means to them.
We prepare ourselves for the meeting. We think about how we are feeling about meeting with te tamaiti or rangatahi and talk with our colleagues or supervisor to address any worries or anxieties we have. Consider if co-worker support is appropriate.
Having gained insights about te tamaiti or rangatahi to ensure effective communication, we figure out practical aspects of our meeting, such as:
- where this will happen, such as at home, a whānau or family member's home, a park, the beach, or a place they choose – their age and developmental level might influence this, and so younger tamariki may need to be close to whānau or family or a caregiver they feel safe with, while older rangatahi may want to go somewhere they choose (seeing tamariki or rangatahi at school should only occur if this is where they want to meet with us, or this is the only safe place to see them – tamariki and rangatahi have told us often they do not like their social worker visiting them at school)
- ensuring we are not going to interrupt an activity, class or lesson te tamaiti or rangatahi especially enjoys
- who will be present – for example, just te tamaiti or rangatahi on their own, or with a whānau or family member in support, a teacher or school-based support staff member, their caregiver or other significant people
- how we will start and end the meeting, such as with karakia or an ice-breaker activity
- who needs to know that we are meeting with or have met with te tamaiti or rangatahi (such as parents, caregivers, lawyers for children)
We reflect on what we have learnt about the experience of te tamaiti or rangatahi to plan our next steps.
As a useful way to settle tamariki or rangatahi and help them engage more actively when we are with them, we could use our own portable rauemi kete (toolbox), which could contain items such as play-dough, pens and paper, koosh balls, pages from a colouring book, strengths or feeling cards, He Kete Whakataukī Māori resources, waiata (songs), Three Houses engagement tool, and the Tamariki All About Me plan template. They are generally non-distracting and can assist the flow of conversation, particularly for tamariki or rangatahi who are kinaesthetic learners.
He Kete Whakataukī Māori resources
At the time of meeting with tamariki or rangatahi, we position ourselves to be at the same height as te tamaiti or rangatahi, such as sitting or kneeling across from or next to them. We introduce ourselves clearly and simply – for example:
Kia ora. My name is Simon Taylor. I am a social worker for a service called Oranga Tamariki. My job is about meeting and talking with tamariki and their families. I do this to understand what makes you feel safe and if there is anything happening that makes you feel worried, scared or hurt. I talk with you about what it's like being you. I'd like to talk with you about what it is like living at your house – who lives with you, things you like doing there, stuff that happens at home you don’t like so much, who the important people and important things in your life.
We reassure te tamaiti or rangatahi that their mum, dad or caregiver knows we are visiting with them today. If the parents or caregiver did not consent, or it was not safe to get their consent before engaging, we let te tamaiti or rangatahi know that we will inform them after our discussion, so they don't have to do this themselves. We talk about any worries they have about this. We let te tamaiti or rangatahi know they can tell us when they have had enough talking with us, whenever they want.
We encourage te tamaiti or rangatahi to ask us questions and to let us know if they don’t understand anything we say or don't want to answer a question. We might ask te tamaiti or rangatahi if they want to let us know this verbally or if they want to use some sort of signal (such as putting their hand up, by writing an X on a piece of paper or something else).
There are lots of ways to start to get to know tamariki and rangatahi. With younger tamariki, and if it's our first meeting, we might introduce ourselves with an activity that shares something about us and can lead to other kōrero. For example, we could write out our name and add in some information about ourselves:
Marshmallows are yum
Ice-cream gives me brain freeze
Heights make me feel dizzy
Enjoy seeing my family and friends
Elephants are cool
We could then write and talk about words based on our day so far, or more generally about things we see around us in the environment. We can then invite them to do the same with the letters of their name. We may have other resources that can be used as conversation starters in our rauemi kete (toolbox).
We might start up a kōrero as we would with our own tamaiti or rangatahi, niece, nephew or friend's tamaiti about how they are experiencing their day so far. We might ask them if there is anything they especially want to tell us about who they are and what is important to them. We should always be prepared to respond in kind and share a little something about ourself – for example, "You have a dog called Spud, that’s cool. I have a cat called Jasper."
We pay attention to cues in the immediate environment that we can ask te tamaiti or rangatahi about – for example, "You look really happy in this photo on the wall, and it looks like you are at a marae – what do you remember about this day? Who is with you? What were you doing? I can see you have your hair tied up in a bun – who did this for you? Do you have a favourite way to have your hair tied up?"
While we are with te tamaiti or rangatahi, we want them to experience us as interested in them, about who and what is important to them. We observe te tamaiti or rangatahi in their natural spaces (home, sport) and notice how they engage with whānau or family, caregivers and others. We observe the tone of voice, facial expressions, body language and words te tamaiti or rangatahi uses to describe their lives.
We don't try to distract te tamaiti or rangatahi from how they are feeling – we listen to and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings. We are prepared to sit in silence with te tamaiti or rangatahi, waiting up to several seconds before we gently check in to see whether they are ok, if there is anything else they want to add, if they would like to stop talking, and so on.
We let te tamaiti or rangatahi see what we are writing, and we encourage them to add their own comments and ideas if they want to do this.
We use lots of open-ended questions to encourage conversation and connection with te tamaiti or rangatahi – for example, "What is the first thing you remember about seeing Uncle Sam yesterday?" We can follow up with questions like "Tell me more, like what was happening when he laughed/shouted/hit you?", "What happened next?", "How did it make you feel when this happened to you?" This conveys that we are interested in te tamaiti or rangatahi and offers us a space to validate their experiences.
We are prepared to meet more than once with te tamaiti or rangatahi, whatever phase of mahi we are in. There may be lots of reasons for this, such as because we needed more time with te tamaiti or rangatahi and they had somewhere else they needed to be, there is more to understand but te tamaiti or rangatahi is tired, or because they are upset and want to stop meeting with us.
When we need to end a meeting with te tamaiti or rangatahi but we would like to know more about the impact of an experience on them, we let them know we need to see them again because what they have to say is important. We see when a good time to meet again is, and whether they would like anyone to be with them (not to talk for them but to offer support and comfort if needed). We want to try to connect at another time.
The ending of our time with te tamaiti or rangatahi is as important as the beginning. This may be one of many meetings or it may be the only time we meet but in every case our departure will have an impact on te tamaiti or rangatahi.
In the last 5 minutes of a meeting with te tamaiti or rangatahi, we can let them know our time together is almost over by:
- telling them that our time together is coming to an end
- summing up the things we have talked about, and checking that we've talked about what is important to them
- answering any pātai (questions) from te tamaiti or rangatahi as best as we can – if we need to go away to find something out, we let them know when we will return with an answer (one of the most important responsibilities we have in our engagements with tamariki or rangatahi is to do what we say we are going to do)
- checking with te tamaiti or rangatahi that we are clear about things we (or they) have agreed to do before we meet again
- inviting te tamaiti or rangatahi to help us pack up together
- thanking te tamaiti or rangatahi for their time and input – this conveys we have listened, heard and valued the time together
- letting te tamaiti or rangatahi know what will happen with the information discussed and agreeing when we will next meet
- ensuring they know how to get in touch with us if they need to – for younger tamariki, we may ask them to choose someone to contact us on their behalf, while, for older tamariki and rangatahi, we may offer them our contact details (phone and email) and the national contact centre details
- ending the meeting in a positive way, such as with karakia, a high-five or a handshake.
When we have had a relationship with tamariki and rangatahi over time (through a family group conference or another intervention, or because te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care or custody), saying goodbye for the last time is an important milestone to plan for. This may be because our services are no longer required or there is a change in social worker. We might:
- talk about how our time together is coming to an end because we have finished our work with them, and ask them if they feel our job is finished or if there is anything else they are worried about
- talk about the people around te tamaiti or rangatahi (such as whānau or family, caregivers, friends, teachers or counsellors) who they can talk to and from who they receive support
- celebrate or mark in some way what has been achieved during the relationship, such as with shared kai or by doing an activity that te tamaiti or rangatahi enjoys
- be prepared for endings not going to plan
- acknowledge and respond with kindness to the emotions of te tamaiti or rangatahi and our own during this time.
Practice standard: See and engage tamariki
Staff resource: See and engage tamariki | myLearn
Visiting and engaging with tamariki in care
Communicating with a purpose | talkingandlisteningtochildren.co.uk
Allegations of and disclosures of ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation (harm)
During our mahi, we will be talking to tamariki and rangatahi about allegations of harm. We balance developing a relationship with tamariki and rangatahi with obtaining information. We always validate te tamaiti or rangatahi telling us their experiences and we build our understanding with them and others from there.
We explain to te tamaiti or rangatahi that we are talking with them to clarify information provided in a report of concern (for example, someone told us they were a bit worried about what might be going on at home and have asked us to check in to make sure everything is okay). We also gather additional information to ensure we have a clear picture of what has happened to them, and to understand the impact of this experience on them. We are understanding te tamaiti or rangatahi and their feelings of oranga (wellbeing) and what actions (such as in a safety plan) may be required to secure this at the time of disclosure, and with a view to their future oranga.
In some instances, we need to gather enough information to determine whether to initiate the Child Protection Protocol.
Child Protection Protocol (CPP)
We are not expected to interview te tamaiti or rangatahi to gather full details of harm (that is a role for specialist child interviewers). However, we are always prepared for more details to be shared (including new or additional disclosures), and for how we will record these – for example:
- in writing
- accurate and relevant details relating to the incident described, including any questions we asked that elicited information about the incident of harm
- specific wording used by te tamaiti or rangatahi to describe the harm
- date of disclosure, where we are and who is present when the disclosure is made.
- ask lots of open-ended questions to elicit more free narrative – for example, "You told Thomas that Aunty Tania hit you – tell me everything you can remember about how Aunty Tania hit you." "What did your body feel like when Aunty Tania did this hitting?" "How did this make you feel inside?"
- keep asking questions to clarify anything we are unsure about but not in a way that sets out to prove whether something did or did not happen – this is about gathering context, not evidence
- ensure our casenote has a clear header, such as Meeting with Bobby – she disclosed incident of sexual harm
- ensure any new disclosures or allegations are appropriately recorded as a new report of concern.
We look for visible signs of distress and respond to tamariki or rangatahi if they tell us they are worried about us talking to the person who has harmed them. We explain we will speak with the people around them they trust and who will prioritise their safety and wellbeing while we understand more about what has happened.
We end our time together by thanking te tamaiti or rangatahi for helping us to understand their experience. We answer any pātai (questions) they have about what happens next and tell them that they may be asked to share their experience again with a person trained to hear their story (a specialist child interviewer) so we can get the best support for them to be safe and not have the harm occur again.
Policy: Allegations of harm (ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation) of tamariki in care or custody
Talking with tamariki and rangatahi about being in care or custody
We help tamariki and rangatahi make sense of being 'in care' or 'in custody'. This is a kōrero that needs to happen at the time they come into care or custody and then be repeated regularly to ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi understands the reasons over time, and any pātai (questions) they have can be addressed. This is one of the most important conversations we will have with tamariki and rangatahi, so it is really important it is well thought through, if possible, includes suggestions from parents and whānau or family about how to communicate this and is a consistent story told over time.
The Oranga Tamariki Evidence Centre undertook a literature review and a qualitative study looking at how tamariki and rangatahi experience and understand the reasons they are not living with their birth parents. Their report 'Making sense of being in care, adopted or whāngai' identifies several factors that help tamariki and rangatahi make sense of their situation:
- knowing their whole story, and the story being strengths-based
- seeing their situation with the perspective of what would have happened if they had stayed with their birth parents
- being given realistic explanations
- talking with and being affirmed by whānau or family and friends
- having access to social workers and counsellors where needed
- normalising their experiences of what makes a whānau or family.
Making sense of being in care, adopted or whāngai | orangatamariki.govt.nz
We meet with te tamaiti or rangatahi at the time they come into care or custody to assess their wellbeing and talk about why they are in care or custody, their care arrangement (whānau or non-kin) and what is going to happen next. We listen to how they are feeling about coming into care and answer their questions as best we can.
We provide tamariki and rangatahi with a copy of the My Rights My Voice cards and have a kōrero about their rights. We talk with others in the lives of tamariki and rangatahi who can reinforce this with them.
My Rights My Voice cards (PDF 6 MB)
We ensure tamariki and rangatahi know how and who to let know if things aren't going well. This includes ensuring they understand how they can provide some feedback and/or make a complaint.
Feedback | orangatamariki.govt.nz
We talk with te tamaiti or rangatahi about how often thery would like us to visit them and continue to meet with them at these agreed times to ensure they are supported to develop an understanding of their situation. There will be occasions when we need to visit at other times outside any agreements (such as if there is an incident, a significant change in circumstances) and this is something we can discuss with tamariki and rangatahi as required.
We ask te tamaiti or rangatahi how we can bring in their caregivers for the times te tamaiti or rangatahi tell us something important to them, and to understand their (caregiver's) thoughts on how things are going.
Talking with tamariki and rangatahi about their All About Me plans
We talk with, and listen to, tamariki and rangatahi about their plan. This is their plan – it belongs with them, and they have a right to know about it and participate in the making of their plan as much as possible. The All About Me plan and Tamariki All About Me plan (child-friendly version) offer a way to share the story with tamariki and rangatahi of their time in care or custody.
We arrange a specific time to talk with tamariki and rangatahi about the plan template and its purpose to capture things of importance to them about their identity, contact with whānau or family and other important people in their lives, their health and education, recreational and other interests while they are in care or custody, and their future aspirations beyond being 'in care' or 'in custody'.
We see this as an opportunity to talk about how often te tamaiti or rangatahi would like us to visit them and we show them where we record this in their plan (frequency of visits).
We ask tamariki and rangatahi if they want to fill in parts of the plan with us or with others, or on their own. We talk with tamariki and rangatahi about who else will have input to their plan. We let tamariki and rangatahi know where we keep the plan and that we will talk with them about its contents regularly when we meet up, or at any time if they request this.
We offer a copy of their plan to tamariki and rangatahi and talk with them about sharing it with the important people in their lives. We talk with them about who their plan can be shared with.
We talk with tamariki and rangatahi about how they can let us know if they want to change something in their plan.
We may decide to focus on different parts of their plan with te tamaiti or rangatahi at different times. For example, with rangatahi who are moving into adulthood (16 years and over) we will spend more time talking about their goals and aspirations for the future once they are discharged from our care.
While templates are provided for us to use, we can also include pictures, drawings and other information as agreed with tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau, family or caregivers.
Preparing to leave care or custody
As often as we may need to communicate with tamariki and rangatahi about the reasons they are in care or custody, we also need to be talking with them about a time when they will leave care, because the worries and concerns or youth justice matters have been resolved, or they are transitioning to adulthood (turning 18).
Tamariki and rangatahi will have differing thoughts and feelings about leaving care or custody, ranging from seeing this as a positive step in their journey to feeling worried and concerned about their future. It is important, when having these conversations, to be mindful of their body language, ask their feelings on the matter and make the emphasis of the kōrero about this rather than moving straight into the process.
We talk with rangatahi to understand their strengths and needs relating to life skills. We talk with these rangatahi about their goals and aspirations for their future once they leave our care.
From the age of 14 years and 9 months, rangatahi who have been in care or custody for a continuous period of 3 months or more are eligible for our Transition Support Services.
Transition Support Services: what eligible rangatahi could be entitled to (PDF 430 KB)
We talk with rangatahi about having a transition worker. Oranga Tamariki partners with iwi, Māori and other community providers who employ transition workers to team up with rangatahi and support them after they are discharged from care or custody until they are 21 years old.
We plan with rangatahi, their whānau or family and other important people in their lives to ensure they have the right supports and connections as they move into adulthood.
We talk with rangatahi about being able to stay on with their whānau or non-kin caregivers after they turn 18 (this is their entitlement to return or remain living with a caregiver – ETRR).
We talk with rangatahi and their support people about the transition assistance helpline that is available to them after they leave care or custody.
Transition worker (PDF 265 KB)
Transition planning (PDF 170 KB)
Staying on with a caregiver (PDF 253 KB)
Policy: Transition to adulthood — Preparation, assessment, and planning
Before rangatahi turn 18 — preparing them to leave our care
Assessing life skills to help rangatahi transition to adulthood
Advice and assistance when rangatahi are transitioning out of or have left our care or custody
Transition Support Service for rangatahi | orangatamariki.govt.nz
Recording our communication with tamariki and rangatahi
How we record our time with tamariki and rangatahi is important. How would we like them to feel and what do we want them to know about this time in their lives? When te tamaiti or rangatahi seeks access to their records at some point in their future, we want them to know what they told us matters. They have a sense that their social worker heard what they told us and recorded it. If new concerns have been identified, we check with our supervisor about whether a new report of concern should be entered.
We write as if they are watching over our shoulder.
All casenotes and information recorded by Oranga Tamariki can be requested by tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau or family or others under either the Privacy Act 2020 or the Official Information Act 1982.