All of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1. Please read the guidance.

COVID-19: implications for our practice

Page URL:
Printed: 16/05/2021
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 01/07/2019

Supporting whānau connections

We need to support tamariki to establish, maintain and strengthen safe connections with their family/whānau (including siblings), hapū, iwi, marae and family group, and anyone else they or their family/whānau identify as important.

Mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga

The section 7AA principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga are interconnected and are the foundations for establishing family/whānau connections for tamariki.

For tamariki Māori, whakapapa and whanaungatanga are essential to oranga (health and wellbeing) because they provide te tamaiti with a sense of belonging and identity and reinforce mana tamaiti.

Our Māori cultural framework and Te Toka Tumoana provide a foundation for working with Māori and they provide further practice guidance for working with tamariki Māori to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. Similarly, Va'aifetū is the framework for working with Pacific peoples and provides further practice guidance for working with Pacific children.

Many tamariki Māori and Pacific children have more than 1 whakapapa and sometimes includes both Māori and Pacific genealogies.  It is important to ensure the breadth of their whānau connections is identified and explored with them.

Duties of chief executive in relation to Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) — section 7AA of Oranga Tamarki Act 1989

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tumoana

Practice for working effectively with Māori

Our Māori cultural framework

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

What our tamariki say

‘It’s important to know our parents and siblings, they can support us.’

‘Whānau are most important cause you know they got you in the long run.’

‘We love our family, even though we’ve been through some challenges.’

‘Family means the world to me.’

‘When good things happen I would share this with my family.’

‘I would talk to friends and family, they’re the ones that care deep down about me.’

‘When I have bad news I would tell family and friends because they believe in me and see the best in me.’

‘Having good relationships with whānau means getting along with them, getting to see and talk to them.’

‘I have a right to call my family but it’s up to staff to facilitate it, but they are busy.’

Purpose of establishing family/whānau connections

Family/whānau connections will:

  • promote wellness, reduce trauma
  • maintain cultural connectedness
  • create cultural identity and belonging
  • support their spiritual, religious and cultural beliefs
  • build self-image
  • maintain relationships with family/whānau, hapū, iwi and other people special to tamariki.

‘I know some of my ancestor’s stories. I didn’t learn here … I learnt from my father.’

Whakapapa whānau

Whanau connections are established through whakapapa, which refers to the genealogy and bloodlines that tie tamariki Māori to their ancestors, past, present and future in their whānau, hapū and iwi.

Whakapapa also includes significant ancestral places, such as:

  • marae
  • wahi tapu
  • maunga
  • awa/moana/roto.

Whakapapa provides tamariki with a sense of belonging in Te Ao Māori – to people, place, birthright and in relation to history. The relationships within whakapapa lineage provide te tamaiti with access to important resources through the systems and processes of whanaungatanga obligations and responsibilities.

Non-Māori tamariki have genealogy and bloodlines that tie them to their ancestors, past, present and future in their wider family connections.

We need to identify and explore these to support te tamaiti to develop, maintain and strengthen their identity and belonging. 

‘Yeah I think we should have a good relationship with whānau … because we might grow up and never know who our family is and where we belong.’

‘Without those connections I would be lost. I’d be a lost soul.’

Kaupapa whānau/family

This refers to people who are not part of the genealogy or bloodlines of te tamaiti but they do hold important relationships with te tamaiti.   

These people may be part of a family group, such as long-time friends of the family/whānau or te tamaiti, or an important relationship through activities, such as:

  • kapa haka
  • sports
  • hāhi (church/faith)
  • school such as a teacher or mentor.

Kaupapa whānau can make valuable contributions to supporting the needs and aspirations of te tamaiti.

Establishing family/whānau connections for te tamaiti

In establishing safe family/whānau connections for te tamaiti we should engage with family/whānau as early as possible to discuss the importance of these connections and to enlist their support. 

Remember, sometimes family/whānau dynamics have been disrupted and this may isolate te tamaiti from valuable relationships.

It’s important to approach these discussions with families/whānau respectfully and sensitively in order to connect te tamaiti with the full breadth of their family/whānau relationships and resources.

We should discuss with family/whānau how any information regarding family/whānau connections is shared with te tamaiti and who will hold the information. If te tamaiti is living with non-family/whānau we should also involve them in the process so they can support te tamaiti to establish and maintain family/whānau connections.

‘I hardly ever got to see my parents like when I was younger and I only just started seeing them like last year so it’s kind of awkward going back — it’s really hard to bond.’

Whakapapa belongs to whānau/families and they should be supported to become involved with sharing whakapapa with te tamaiti.

We need to start by reviewing all of the information that has been gathered about the family/whānau of te tamaiti, for example:

  • information from the assessment phase
  • any previous family/whānau searches or whakapapa research
  • hui ā-whānau or other credible sources.

When analysing the information, we use our professional judgement to avoid bias that could negatively impact on establishing family/whānau connections for te tamaiti. If more information is required, engage with one of our specialist Māori positions such as a kairaranga ā-whānau and request assistance to establish family/whānau connections.

Whakapapa research is a specialist role carried out by kairaranga ā-whānau.

Kairaranga ā-whānau

Whakapapa research

If a kairaranga ā-whānau isn’t available seek the support of a senior Māori practitioner or a competent bicultural practitioner — a non-Māori/tauiwi practitioner who works effectively with Māori, who can guide you in how to access the relevant information to support whānau connections for tamariki Māori.

Similarly if te tamaiti is Pacific, seek the support of a senior Pacific practitioner to provide guidance for how to establish family connections. 

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Our Māori cultural framework

Whakapapa is a taonga and must be respectfully and sensitively gathered, recorded and held/stored in accordance with tikanga.

Mana tamaiti

Talk with tamariki about their family/whānau connections and what these mean to them. Work with tamariki at their pace and use age and developmentally appropriate ways to engage with them. There are many reasons why some tamariki may be reluctant to engage with family/whānau connections and their whakapapa, including: 

  • being unfamiliar with members of their family/whānau or extended family/whānau
  • experience of trauma within their family/whānau or extended family/whānau
  • having little understanding or knowledge of the value of whakapapa and the role it plays in their lives
  • feelings that being Māori has no positive meaning to them
  • feelings of whakamā toward their family/whānau connections or feeling in some way they have brought shame to their family/whānau.

Whatever their reasons are, it’s important these are acknowledged and that they’re encouraged to engage with their family/whānau connections. Be transparent and work with them at their pace.

Te tamaiti may be able to identify a trusted person within their family/whānau or from within their kaupapa family/whānau, such as a known mentor, friend or tuākana who can support them to engage with the breadth of their family/whānau connections. 

See and engage tamariki

Tamariki with disabilities might require specific communication aids in order for them to participate in a discussion about family/whānau connections.

Respecting the voice of disabled tamariki

Safe whānau connections

The purpose of family/whānau connections is to promote positive identity and belonging. With this in mind, we will not support te tamaiti to connect with people when it isn’t in their best interests.

Process for identifying connections with family, whānau, hapū, iwi, and family group — regulation 12(3) of National Care Standards

When assessing the safety of a family/whānau member it’s important to avoid biases that may unnecessarily undermine important relationships for te tamaiti. 

We need to start by carrying out a thorough assessment to identify why a relationship would not be in the best interests for te tamaiti. To mitigate bias we need to use the case consult process and include a kairaranga ā-whānau or senior Māori practitioner in the makeup of the consult group. Lastly, we need to record the rationale for any decisions.

Even when safe direct contact cannot be maintained for a particular whānau member who is significant to te tamaiti, we should think about how a positive view and connection of that person can be nurtured.  

Kairaranga ā-whānau

Keep accurate records

Policy: Recording

Supporting te tamaiti to engage with their family/whānau connections

Engaging with family/whānau will strengthen the identity and belonging of te tamaiti and support the healing growth and restoration of the mana and tapu of te tamaiti.

Consult closely with the kairaranga ā-whānau, a senior Māori practitioner or competent bicultural practitioner — a non-Māori/tauiwi practitioner who works effectively with Māori, about how to engage te tamaiti with their whānau connections. 

In the first instance family/whānau are the most appropriate people to engage te tamaiti with their connections. It’s particularly important for tamariki Māori that their family/whānau are consulted and involved in sharing whakapapa with te tamaiti. The whakapapa research may have identified a family/whānau member to take on this whanaungatanga responsibility.

If family/whānau aren’t available, then a plan for who and how to engage te tamaiti in their whakapapa should be developed in further consultation with the kairaranga ā-whānau, a senior Māori practitioner or competent bicultural practitioner.  

See and engage whānau, wider family, caregivers and when appropriate victims of offending by tamariki

Ways to share family/whānau connections with te tamaiti

The outcome we’re seeking for te tamaiti is for them to establish mana-enhancing relationships with the breadth of their family/whānau connections.

This requires us to support te tamaiti to meaningfully engage with the people, places and events that will promote their sense of belonging, wellbeing and identity.

Using a pepeha journal or life event book

A pepeha journal containing iwi and ancestral narratives and photographs of significant people and places, such as maunga, awa and marae, is a useful aid to support tamariki Māori to engage with their whakapapa.

A life event book is another method to share family/whānau connections with tamariki. The age and development of te tamaiti will inform you about how to engage them.

Maintaining a record of important life events

Visiting family/whānau and places of significance

Supporting te tamaiti to regularly visit with family/whānau and places of significance, such as their marae, maunga and awa/moana/roto, are positive ways for them to develop, maintain and strengthen relationships with their whānau connections.

Such visits are best facilitated by family/whānau, but if this is not possible consult with the kairaranga ā-whānau or senior Māori practitioner or effective bicultural practitioner to make a plan for visits to occur.

Participating in activities and special events

Financial support for costs associated with activities to support te tamaiti to develop, maintain and strengthen family/whānau connection should be identified with te tamaiti, family/whānau and or caregivers and appropriate payments arranged.

Special events support te tamaiti to develop, maintain and strengthen whānau connections. Events could include:

  • family/whānau celebrations such as christenings, birthdays, weddings and graduations
  • family/whānau reunions
  • tangihanga, which in particular provide a space to mourn, celebrate, connect with family/whānau and experience and participate in tikanga
  • family/whānau events such as kapa haka, waka ama and other sporting or cultural activities
  • iwi celebrations/festivals.