Supporting rangatahi to develop their life skills
When rangatahi leave our custody and transition to adulthood, they need knowledge and skills to take on new responsibilities, accomplish different tasks, access support when needed and take steps to become independent.
Transitioning can be an exciting but also challenging time for rangatahi, particularly for those who have faced traumatic events in their lives. Rangatahi will have different levels of skill and confidence in managing aspects of their own lives, and they will need ongoing support in some areas to build a sense of responsibility and success.
Some rangatahi who have been in our custody may have delayed development, disabilities and emotional needs. This can sometimes add challenges to their journey towards independence, and support will need to vary according to their assessed needs.
Who can help rangatahi develop life skills
Social workers, caregivers, family/whānau members, transition workers, youth workers, hapū, iwi and communities all have a role to play in supporting rangatahi to develop their life skills. The support network for rangatahi needs to involve as many of the right people and services as required.
Social workers help rangatahi in their life skills development as part of their ongoing activities leading up to rangatahi leaving our custody. When transition workers are allocated to rangatahi as they prepare to leave, transition workers then play a key role in continuing to support their life skills development over an extended period of time.
Social workers should always remember that family/whānau, hapū and iwi need the opportunity to play a key role in helping their rangatahi gain life skills where appropriate. Even if rangatahi are disconnected from their family/whānau, there may be someone in their extended family/whānau, hapū or iwi who can be helpful.
Non-kin caregivers may also provide support and encouragement to rangatahi, alongside other support people in the community, including other agencies and non-government organisations.
Assessing life skills
Social workers assess the life skills of rangatahi by communicating directly with them. They allow rangatahi the opportunity to guide and lead the process themselves, as this is their journey into independence and adulthood.
They discuss the kinds of life skills all rangatahi need in general to become young adults. They help rangatahi identify the areas where they feel confident or lack confidence, and the areas where they have experience or lack experience.
As part of the process, social workers also work with others who can inform the life skills assessment for rangatahi. They include their current knowledge of rangatahi and any relevant information from other assessments which can help inform the life skills assessment and plan. This is particularly important for rangatahi with multiple needs and disabilities.
The general kinds of key life skills that all rangatahi need as young adults are included in the list below:
- Keeping good personal hygiene and grooming
- Managing health needs, including mental health
- Managing money and budgeting
- Shopping for groceries and personal items
- Cooking and preparing food
- Driving and using public transport
- Finding a suitable place to live
- Keeping the house clean and tidy
- Talking and relating appropriately to others (interpersonal skills)
- Developing confidence in their sexual or gender identity
- Keeping safe and making positive relationships
- Connecting with their culture, identity and whakapapa connections
- Developing emergency and safety skills
- Connecting with relevant services including legal advice
- Seeking and maintaining employment
- Learning new skills through ongoing education
- Developing skills related to pregnancy, parenting and childcare
These areas of life skills reflect those identified in the National Care Standards — regulation 75(3)(1)(a) and (b). They also reflect those life skills areas typically needed by most rangatahi transitioning to independence.
Some rangatahi may identify other life skills that feel right for them. Social workers need to ask rangatahi for their views and include these in their planning.
The assessment process
As part of the assessment process, social workers will:
- assess where rangatahi have strengths and needs in key life skills areas (in conversation with rangatahi)
- record the life skills strengths and needs of rangatahi in the appropriate Tuituia domains — this includes a summary overview of their life skills needs assessment and may involve attaching fuller information as a case note
- plan for the development of specific life skills for rangatahi — this sits inside their All About Me plan and includes tasks and supports for rangatahi in their development
- review progress with rangatahi (the review should also involve the transition worker if they are working with rangatahi) and adjust the plan as needed.
If rangatahi leave the custody of Oranga Tamariki, and they have been referred to a transition worker, the transition worker will continue to support rangatahi to develop their life skills and meet their goals in their plan.
Rangatahi may want to add other areas of life skills development that sit outside of tools used by social workers. There may also be opportunities linked to education, training or a vocation, such as gaining a driver licence. Or they may have a specific focus for themselves, such as a desire to create connections in the community related to their cultural identity, disabilities and sexual or gender orientation.
These specific areas of interest should be part of the assessment conversation with rangatahi and their identified needs in these areas should be included in the plan, even if the area is not covered by any particular tool.
Tuituia is our overarching assessment framework and this is where social workers identify, record and describe, in summary form, the life skills needs for rangatahi.
Social workers record the life skills needs of rangatahi in the subdomain ‘Self-care and independence skills’ (under the ‘Learning and achieving’ domain in the mokopuna ora dimension).
The assessment information recorded in Tuituia should be in a summary form. This should be shared with rangatahi.
How to identify life skills needs with rangatahi
Social workers need to engage well with rangatahi as they talk about their transition to adulthood and their life skills needs. They should let rangatahi lead their life skills development as best they can, with their support.
Rangatahi should feel comfortable to talk about what they are confident and interested in, and where they have less confidence or experience.
For rangatahi who struggle with confidence, social workers may need to help rangatahi break the skills they need into small and manageable steps and give rangatahi lots of time to practise and feel at ease.
Social workers will also need to recognise that some rangatahi may have delayed development or disabilities so some life skills areas and tasks will need to be adapted to meet their needs.
Ideally, rangatahi will be working towards developing skills in a number of the life skills areas even before they leave care or custody — however many skills will not be mastered until a later date, as they require time, ongoing support and experience.
Some skills areas will need to be prioritised. For example, if rangatahi plan to move into a flatting situation or they need to manage paying board on time or undertake housekeeping duties, then these may be the most important skills to focus on first.