Preparing for the assessment interviews
We use the Te Toka Tumoana and Va'aifetū frameworks when working with Māori and Pacific people. We should also consider our Māori cultural framework.
Remember that this process can feel intrusive, both to the applicants and to te tamaiti and family/whānau.
Stories and personal information are taonga and need to be treated with care and sensitivity — especially when the applicant is family/whānau or someone known to te tamaiti.
Review all the information that's been gathered
The suitability checks, such as police, CYRAS/Trim, referee and medical checks, need to be completed before you start preparing for the interviews.
You should read and review that information before you do the interviews.
You should consider:
- how the information relates to the core needs of te tamaiti
- the caregiver or adoptive applicant's ability to meet the needs of te tamaiti
- the caregiver or adoptive applicant's responses in their self-assessments
- other questions, concerns or areas to explore further with them in their interview.
If you didn't meet the applicants at the Ways to Care preparation programme, talk to one of the social workers who did. You should find out about the applicant's participation in the programme and anything else you may need to focus on in the interview.
Deciding who to interview
Think about who you need to interview. As a minimum, you should meet with:
- the applicant — if a couple is applying interview them together and also separately
- other tamariki in the home to get their understanding and views of the application — if it's age appropriate. You need the applicant's permission.
- extended family/whānau living in the home or visitors who spend significant time there — talk about their role within the family/whānau and the support they'll offer, and tell them they'll need to undergo their own assessment if they want to provide longer periods of care.
You might also want to talk to:
- wider contacts — with the agreement of the applicants you could talk with other people in their family/whānau, social or ethnic community
- other professionals — issues may come up during the assessment and you might need to interview other professionals, like counsellors, medical specialists and church leaders.
Carrying out the assessment interviews
The quality of an assessment interview is more important than the number of interviews.
Meet with applicants as many times as needed to complete a thorough and comprehensive assessment.
What you need to do
You should talk with and observe the applicants in their own home to get an idea of:
- how te tamaiti may change the environment
- how space is used in the home and how te tamaiti will fit into that space.
The Three Houses engagement tool can be used to explore the applicant's worries, strengths, hopes and dreams.
It can also help facilitate discussion about their aspirations, hopes and dreams for a tamaiti who may come into their care.
In every whānau or family there are verbal and non-verbal interactions. Observe and consider the impacts of these interactions on the people involved.
Notice strengths and vulnerabilities in the applicants, their whānau or family and their social context. Explore these in a way that gives them the opportunity to reflect on what they have to offer, and what help they may need to meet the needs of a tamaiti.
You may want to explore these in a subsequent visit.
What to discuss
You should talk to them about their:
- motivation to provide care
- current living, work and financial situation
- background information
- health issues
- positive behavioural management skills, such as setting boundaries and explaining expectations of behaviour
- conflict resolution skills
- their social and support systems and ways they look after themselves.
During the Ways to Care preparation programme they completed sections in their programme workbook. You should encourage them to share their reflections and learning from the programme.
If the assessment is being completed for a specific tamaiti, talk with the applicants about:
- their knowledge about te tamaiti, including past abuse, neglect or harm te tamaiti may have experienced and why they need someone else to care for them
- how contact might best work for te tamaiti with their parents and other whānau or family, and what strategies will be used to deal with potential challenges.
Other topics you could discuss
You should discuss these topics with applicants if applicable.
Their ability to provide lasting relationships
If the main goal for te tamaiti is to get a permanent placement, you should discuss:
- their capacity and capability to provide a permanent home for te tamaiti and their ability to build a meaningful relationship
- what additional support, such as legal costs and practical support, they'll need
- what skills they'll need to provide lasting care.
Setting out expectations about their care responsibilities at this early stage will mean less disruption and uncertainty later on.
Different stages of life
People move through different stages of life and their lifestyle might change. You should discuss their stage of life and what taking on this new responsibility might mean for them. You could ask them if they have any worries and offer support.
For example, older whānau or family caregivers, such as grandparents, may find themselves in a parenting role after they thought they had moved on from this stage of their life.
It may be years since they parented younger tamariki and in the meantime there may have been changes in the kind of care recommended, for example the recommended sleeping position for babies.
Whānau or family dynamics
There are always whānau or family differences and dynamics. Consider how the applicants manage and resolve these.
The position of whānau or family caregivers is often complicated by their existing relationships with the parents of te tamaiti.
They might have an emotional connection with the parents and a relationship history that may need mediation or support when it comes to supervising or restricting parents’ contact with te tamaiti.
For family/whānau caregiver applicants, hui ā-whānau can be used as an alternative to the assessment interviews.
The purpose of the hui is to bring together family/whānau members to be open, honest and transparent, and discuss the suitability of the applicants to provide safe and appropriate care.
The same questions and discussion topics asked during a face-to-face interview should be asked during the hui.
Who should attend
- the family/whānau caregiver applicants
- other family/whānau members
- te tamaiti needing a placement and their parents — where appropriate and practicable
- the social worker for te tamaiti
- the caregiver social worker.
Who can facilitate
Given that this is a specialist activity, kairaranga ā-whānau or senior Māori practitioners are expected to facilitate.
The caregiver social worker shouldn't facilitate the assessment hui.
The caregiver social worker needs to focus on what is discussed and:
- observe how information is communicated between attendees
- pick up on points they may need to discuss with specific family/whānau after the hui.
How to do it
The facilitator should follow the hui ā-whānau process.
Give the applicants, their family/whānau and others at the hui plenty of opportunity to ask questions.