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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/care/transitioning-out-of-care/transition-to-adulthood/maintaining-contact/
Printed: 14/12/2019
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 01/07/2019

Maintaining contact

If a transition worker isn’t available, Oranga Tamariki will keep in contact with rangatahi who have left our care or custody after they turn 16 and until their 21st birthday.

Who is responsible for maintaining contact

This guidance is for social workers who find themselves in the rare situation where a site doesn’t have access to a transition worker. Usually, when a transition worker is available they are introduced to rangatahi from age 15 onwards and once they leave our care, the transition worker will be responsible for maintaining proactive contact until they turn 21.

If there isn’t a transition worker available, an Oranga Tamariki social worker will take on the responsibility of maintaining contact with rangatahi until their 21st birthday.

If rangatahi are transient and move to a different place to live, they may be referred to and choose to access a transition worker through an approved Transition to Adulthood partner provider. The Oranga Tamariki social worker can then assist the transfer of responsibility for maintaining contact to the new transition worker.

Preparing to leave our care

Rangatahi who can access this support

Rangatahi who are able to access this support must:

  • be 15 (and then they are able to continue to access support up until they turn 21 years of age, although a transition worker will not normally be allocated until after rangatahi have turned 16)
  • have been in care for a continuous period of at least 3 months at any time from the age of 14 years and 9 months
  • have been in care for any combination of the following care or custody arrangements during their period of continuous care (under a temporary or extended care agreement, a custody order or a sole guardianship order):
    • the care or custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive
    • an iwi social service
    • a cultural social service
    • the director of a child and family support service.

If a rangatahi aged 15 to 21 years old, who left care or custody before 1 July 2019 and is already eligible for advice and assistance, goes on to request assistance from the Transition to Adulthood service on or after 1 July 2019, they will also be eligible to the entitlement. 

Why maintaining contact is important

Rangatahi who have left our care or custody have told us that they felt anxious and unprepared for adult life, and often experienced chaos, frequent movement and, in many cases, periods of homelessness.

Many struggled to meet their basic needs and were unable to access support when they needed it. They had fewer social and financial supports and found it difficult to engage with education and employment. 

For rangatahi Māori, many had become disconnected from their immediate and extended family/whānau over the course of their childhoods and did not have the natural supports that others had in young adulthood.   

The requirement for Oranga Tamariki to maintain contact with rangatahi who are no longer in our care or custody means that when rangatahi turn 15, we will still be there for them and help them as they journey into adulthood. Maintaining contact is about sustaining a connection with rangatahi so they feel like they are not alone and have support and back up until they turn 21.

Determining contact arrangements

The starting point in determining contact arrangements is to have a clear and up-to-date understanding of the current needs of rangatahi.

Policy: Transition to adulthood — Preparation, assessment and planning

This means social workers can go into discussions with rangatahi and make the right decisions together about maintaining contact in the way that best meets their needs.

If we assess, for example, that they continue to experience trauma from past experiences, then we take this into account when considering the frequency of the contact and may determine that more frequent contact is best at first.

We talk with rangatahi at least 6 months before they leave care or custody to sort out how often we’ll have contact with them and what form that contact will take. We let rangatahi lead the conversation and support them if they need help to do this. We check with rangatahi about whom from their family/and or whānau networks should be around the table supporting them in these discussions.

We also consider any communication needs rangatahi may have and the best way for making contact with them. We make sure they know the purpose of the contact is to be an ongoing support to them as they transition to independence. The contact is not to check up on them or intrude in their lives.

Face-to-face contact

Face-to-face contact needs to be frequent enough so that we can keep building on and maintaining a strong relationship with rangatahi. We would expect to have frequent face-to-face contact with rangatahi and may do so more often initially or when there are significant changes or things going on in their lives.

Transition workers are likely to meet with rangatahi every 2 weeks unless this is not appropriate, after taking into account their needs and preferences.

Once we have established a strong connection with rangatahi, we may not need to meet or make contact quite so regularly over time. If contact does become less frequent over time for any reason, we add this to our records.

Policy: Transition to adulthood — Maintaining contact

Other forms of contact

In between face-to-face visits, we work out how to  keep in touch using other forms of contact, such as phone calls, texts, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and emails. This means rangatahi and their social workers will both have to feel comfortable using these various mediums. Rangatahi will also need to have access to a computer or phone.

We may also want to come up with a way for rangatahi to alert us to an urgent situation (perhaps using a word or phrase). Rangatahi are also encouraged to contact us outside of what has been planned, where there is a need.

Reviewing contact arrangements

We need to make sure that we have a record of the contact arrangements for rangatahi so we each know where, when and how it’s all going to work — this will most likely be in their plan. We also need to review the arrangements each time we meet with rangatahi to ensure they still meet their needs – including their ongoing safety and wellbeing needs.

At this stage in the life of rangatahi, things can be changeable — it might be that we need to find a new location for face-to-face meetings because rangatahi have moved, or that the arrangement we made to text rangatahi once a week can’t happen for a while because they lost their phone.

Rangatahi are mobile so we  need to take this into account when reviewing contact. Transient behaviour doesn’t always align with negativity — it could be that rangatahi have been transient their whole life. Yet at other times, transience could be a signal of concern related to the safety and wellbeing of rangatahi. It’s important to be both flexible and responsive while meeting our obligation to maintain contact with them.

What to talk about

Each point of contact with rangatahi is an opportunity to  work through what is happening for them and to identify ways to help strengthen them on their journey towards building their resilience and connections and addressing past trauma. A big part of the contact is about listening to them and showing a genuine interest in their lives.

We need to talk with them about:

  • what is happening with their living situation, their health and wellbeing, their studies or work
  • what is going well
  • any current worries we or others can help them with (agree actions to be taken and who will take them)
  • their future, what they need to get there and who will help them.

Assessing life skills

When having contact with rangatahi Māori, use the principles of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga to guide the conversations. For example, how can they:

  • take control of their destiny and become a leader within the Māori community (mana tamaiti)
  • access Maori support networks to nurture their wellbeing (whanaungatanga)
  • explore their identity (whakapapa).

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tumoana

Our Māori cultural framework

We also need to remember to celebrate success with rangatahi, no matter how small this may seem. Rangatahi might have managed to get to all of their lectures on time that week or they may have changed their car tyre without any help — each step forward is worthy of acknowledgement.

Our role is to provide hope and motivation and to help build their confidence and abilities to help sustain them through challenging times.

We need to remember the special milestones in their lives and recognise these in a meaningful way, such as their birthday, the anniversary of important events or their first day starting their new course. They may not have people in their lives who do this, so we can be there for them in that way.

Recording our contact with rangatahi

We keep regular, up-to-date records of our contact with rangatahi. We include clear information on whether our contact was face-to-face, through social media or some other form, and also where and when that contact occurred. It’s also important to record how the contact went, the progress rangatahi are making and any other information of relevance or concern.

When rangatahi get close to turning 21 years of age

At least 6 months before their 21st birthday, our conversations with rangatahi need to start focusing on what supports they may need after they turn 21. Let rangatahi lead these conversations. It may be that things are tracking along really well, and rangatahi feel that with our help and that of others they have the skills, knowledge and support they need to make their own way in the world.

In cases where there is still instability in some parts of their lives, we need to work out what we, rangatahi and others can do now and in the next few months to create the stability they need. We need to develop plans that have steps and options for different situations.

For example, if their living situation is still tenuous, we need to work with them to come up with a range of different options they could explore if things break down — for example, there could be 2 different family/whānau members they could stay with on an interim basis while they’re seeking a private rental.

We always need to remember the importance family/whānau, hapū and iwi and their key role as part of the support network for rangatahi. Even if these connections are not currently strong, they have a support role in the long term for rangatahi and they’ll be able to provide connections that can strengthen the wellbeing of rangatahi in unique and important ways. Also remember connections for rangatahi to other key people who can support them in their lives.

Make sure the rangatahi knows they can come back to Oranga Tamariki for advice and assistance up until their 25th birthday, and be clear with them what this advice and assistance could look like. Again, relay this to them in the way they best understand. A conversation may be enough or perhaps they’ll need something in writing.

Policy: Transition to adulthood — Advice and assistance

Maintaining contact with rangatahi over 21 years of age

The obligation for Oranga Tamariki to maintain contact with rangatahi ceases once they turn 21. However, there may be situations where maintaining contact at 21 and beyond could be considered due to wellbeing concerns for rangatahi.

These could include if rangatahi has complex needs, such as a disability, or if there has been a particular event in their life which means they require additional support to become increasingly independent. An assessment will identify the needs of rangatahi and the supports required to meet these needs.

There may be occasions when rangatahi will voluntarily maintain contact with us. This should not be discouraged if we are willing and able to do so, but we need to be aware of our boundaries so that we can keep ourselves safe.

Being clear about roles and responsibilities and what rangatahi can and can't expect from us will be important to set out at the very beginning.