Our childhood memories and experiences play an important part in telling the story of who we are today. For tamariki in care, we must pay particular attention to noticing and helping tamariki to record these experiences. The record of their life journey is one of the most important resources that will be created by tamariki for tamariki while in care and will be taken with them as they transition into adulthood.
This isn’t just capturing life events — it’s the capturing and recording of their life journey. Te tamaiti along their journey may come to realise how their life events are taonga that encapsulates their mana.
Recording their life events allows te tamaiti to build a picture of their:
- whakapapa and cultural identity.
Maintaining a record of life events supports mana tamaiti.
Depending on the age and stage of development, disabilities and learning needs of te tamaiti, not all tamariki may be able to communicate how they want their early years captured. We may need to be more actively involved in recording life events for these tamariki.
Older tamariki as they mature may want to have more control over recording and maintaining their life events, while some older tamariki may not be willing or ready at the time of engagement or discussions to record important life events.
This doesn’t mean practitioners or carers should not capture important life events for tamariki. We need to look at this as something they could have in the future if they do not want it right now.
What tamariki have told us about their life events
“If you don’t think about them, they go out of your head like photos of my brother.”
Tamariki have told us:
- We want you to know that the life events book (or anything else that records our stories) belongs to us. We decide what goes in it and who gets to see it.
- If other people want to add things to the life events book, we want it to be people who we trust.
- We want to include in our life events book our whānau, siblings and friends, and people who we love and respect.
- We also want to remember who the caregivers and whānau were who looked after us, especially if we have had lots of caregivers.
- We want to remember our achievements, including sports, culture, education, and extracurricular activities. We also want to remember trips we have been on and fun things we have done.
- Some of us have to move around a lot. We will need help looking after our life events book.
- We don’t want the bad things that have happened to us to be included in our life events book. But some of us want to remember the mistakes we have made and challenges we have overcome so that we can look back and see how we have grown. We might need your help to figure out how best to record these things.
- Not all of us will want or need a life events book. Some of us have other ways of capturing our life events. This might depend on our culture or our age.
- We don’t just want you to capture memories of things that have already occurred. We want your help to create new memories, particularly of people and things that mean a lot to us.
- Life events that matter to us change over time. Even though we might say that we don’t want to remember things when we are tamariki, there is a chance we will want to remember them when we are older. We will need your help to look after some of our memories until we are at a stage in our lives to have those things returned to us.
Purpose of capturing and collecting life events and memories
The collection and care of these memories will:
- promote wellness, reduce trauma
- maintain cultural connectedness
- create cultural identity and belonging
- support their spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs
- build their self-image
- maintain relationships with family/whānau, hapu, Iwi and other people special to tamariki
- record their development, achievements and milestones
- help tamariki to consider their memories as taonga.
Ideas of life events for tamariki
“They are my treasured memories and it’s important to look after them.”
Important life events can include things like:
- attending kindergarten, Kōhanga, Aoga Amata
- receiving a great school report or class photos or school award
- achievements in sporting, arts or hobbies
- losing their first tooth and the tooth fairy came to visit them
- school events, such as athletics, cross country, school fair, attending a school trip
- getting their braces on or off
- visits with their family/whānau or being with siblings and friends
- getting their driver licence
- school events, like school balls
- celebrating a birthday or a family/whānau members birthday, mother’s day, father’s day or children’s day
- messages and cards from whānau or friends
- celebrating Matariki, Diwali, Pacific Language Week
- performing in a kapa haka or pacific culture performing group
- tangihana or bereavement.
There are a multitude of events which are likely to be important to tamariki either in that moment or in the future when they or their family/whānau look back.
Life events and tamariki Māori
When engaging with tamariki Māori discussing their important life events, consider the key principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. Consider also the principles contained in Te Toka Tumoana and the Māori cultural framework.
In addition to the types of things important to all tamariki, for tamariki Māori, important events and things will be those that link them to their whānau, hapū, iwi, marae and whenua. Oral traditions and influences from the natural world may be particularly important in understanding and recalling life events for tamariki and whānau Māori and you may need to seek advice to find the best way to help te tamaiti with this.
Life events and tamariki from other cultural backgrounds
Cultural considerations are also relevant and important when working with Pacific tamaiti, Vai’aifetu cultural practice framework and principles must be applied including:
- child’s best interest
Ensure that you use the relevant cultural framework that is relevant for tamaiti (for example Cook Island, Fiji, Fijian Indian, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu).
Tamariki who may not be able to communicate due to their age or language (English may not be their first language) may require an interpreter or translator. Consider how support can be provided for carers to communicate with tamariki
Make sure you seek advice about what are important events in the culture and religion of te tamaiti you are working with. Each will have their own traditions, celebrations and rites of passage on the way to young adulthood which should be paid particular attention to.
Disabilities and learning needs
Take your time to talk to disabled tamariki about what’s important to them and how they want to keep a record of life events. Keep an open and creative mind. They may have milestones and achievements which are different but no less significant to them than their same aged peers.
Just like all tamariki, disabled tamariki have a right to have their views, wishes and feelings taken into account when decisions are made about their lives. All tamariki can communicate their preferences if those working with them take the time to understand how they communicate.
At times of significant change, disabled tamariki with communication impairments are particularly vulnerable and need support to ensure their views, wishes and feelings are taken into account in assessment and planning. Planning and preparing for these discussions will be important.
Ways memories can be captured and maintained
“I don’t like books because they get lost or burned.”
Memories can be captured and maintained through:
- a photo album
- a box for physical memories (keepsakes and taonga)
- a scrapbook
- photos in frames
- a portable USB drive
- certificates in frames
- access or visits with whānau or the family group.
We will always be creative and choose the best way of recording events that suits the individual tamaiti but we will make sure every tamaiti has some means of keeping a record and keeping their special things safe. When tamariki come into care we have some specific things we can give them to help them get started.
Tamariki in care can receive a life events book, which is a place for them to record and capture their life events. A pencil case will also be available for tamariki in care, containing pens, pencils, glue sticks and other items. This pencil case will help tamariki to have things they can use to get started on their life events book and can be added to based on the preference of te tamaiti. We can also provide te tamaiti with a memory box where tamariki can put special things in one place and access them when they want, including physical mementoes of important life events.
Best interests and best practice
“It’s your memories — if you want them to be shown you would let someone know.”
When developing life event records with tamariki be aware of:
- what supports and resources te tamaiti needs to capture these moments
- the age and development of tamariki, including newborns, toddlers, infants, pre-teen and teenagers
- how te tamaiti can capture these moments — consider their age and stage, disability and any communication needs, such as deafness or visual impairment (pictures or voice recordings may be more useful to te tamaiti)
- cultural, spiritual, rites of passage and religious beliefs and practices, such as christening and baptisms
- the relationship between trauma and life events which may trigger some emotions and feelings for tamariki
- safety considerations for te tamaiti and any safety plan that has been implemented.
Make sure that you are actively:
- talking to te tamaiti to understand what they want to capture and how they wish to participate and take the lead in recording their life events
- discussing the options that te tamaiti have to capture, record and maintain their life events — ensure that te tamaiti are aware that it’s their choice
- noticing any trauma response or distress triggered by talking about life events — if this happens ensure that you respond appropriately to these emotions and ensure tamariki are in a safe space to recognise, respond, regulate and restore before leaving them
- building, reconnecting and maintaining relationships
- using case management discussions in supervision sessions with your supervisor or team leader to think about how best to support life event recording for tamariki you are working with
- seeking cultural advice about what and how specific events are best recorded
- enlisting the support of others such as caregivers, family/whānau, teachers and coaches to help tamariki record their life events.
Role of Oranga Tamariki caregiver
The role of the caregiver is to discuss with the Oranga Tamariki caregiver social worker any worries that they may have in supporting te tamaiti to capture any life events. The caregiver also has an important role in supporting te tamaiti to capture their life events and create their life event or pepeha book.
Caregivers should be supported to use their judgement about circumstances where it may not be relevant to have discussions about life events which may include:
- an emergency placement (overnight, weekend)
- temporary short-term placement (5 days).
Tamariki may return back home to the care of their parents or carers after a short stay in the care and custody of Oranga Tamariki. Therefore a safety assessment will have been completed for tamariki in these instances.
Care partners (396 providers)
If te tamaiti is placed with a care partner, we work with them to ensure the care partner and their caregiver or staff understand and support the collecting and collation of te tamaiti life events material.
The Oranga Tamariki social worker for te tamaiti and the care partner should discuss and agree the roles and responsibilities of the Oranga Tamariki social worker and the care partner for recording the life events of te tamaiti. This should be done at the transition stage to the care partner and at plan reviews. Oranga Tamariki social workers should still expect to play an active role in supporting te tamaiti in the recording of their life events. However, the role of supporting caregivers will sit with the provider.
We can still provide the same resources to te tamaiti (the book, pencil case and memory box) irrespective of whether te tamaiti is in the care of a provider or Oranga Tamariki caregiver.
Full care partners
Partners who have full custody of tamariki, such as a tamaiti in the custody of the chief executive of the care partner organisation, are responsible for recording life events.
Keeping live event records and momentos safe
Some of the things that tamariki record in their life event books or momentos they may keep, can be irreplaceable. It’s important to think about what we can do to help prevent them getting lost or damaged. Caregivers will know that they have a particular responsibility to ensure there is a place for tamariki to keep their things safe and you can cover this when talking to te tamaiti about the ‘Welcome to Our Home/Haere Mai ki Tō Tātau Kāinga’ resource.
Take particular care when te tamaiti is transitioning between or from care. Make sure whoever is caring for them next understands how te tamaiti has chosen to record their life events. Tamariki going to respite care or into residence for a short time may wish to take their record with them or may prefer that someone else looks after it for them. Talk this decision through with them.
Even with all care taken, there are times when things can happen. Think ahead. There may be ways you can keep copies or photos of important things. When tamariki are distressed they may demonstrate this by destroying things that are important to them. If this happens to their life event record, respond with support and understanding and when they are ready, talk to te tamaiti about how their life event record can be restored or a new one created.
Resourcing life event recording
There are a number of ways you can equip a tamaiti and caregiver with the resources to collect and record life events.
A range of life event books, memory boxes and pencil cases are available through Bluestar in various colours. The social worker can go through these products with te tamaiti so they can choose a life event book, pencil case and memory box in the colour of their choice. An administrative person on site or social worker resource assistant can order these products from Bluestar to be delivered to the site and provided to te tamaiti.
If te tamaiti does not like any of the options available through Bluestar then the social worker or caregiver should support te tamaiti to go out and shop for another life event book or memory box that would better suit the preference of te tamaiti. For larger purchases this can be done through use of a purchase order as part of the child’s financial plan. However, if you are spending time with tamariki you can use your incidental expenditure card to make small purchases, such as books of stickers chosen by te tamaiti which can be added to their book.