What is a family group conference
The family group conference is a structured meeting, prescribed by statute (the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989), where te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau, professionals and other participants who are entitled to attend come together to:
- talk about concerns that are held for te tamaiti or rangatahi (or about their offending)
- develop a plan to address the issues.
Family group conferencing is a process that includes:
- the extensive and comprehensive preparation of everyone involved, before the conference
- a family/whānau-led conference to work through concerns, and protective actions that are needed to form a positive and sustainable plan with actions that ensure the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- where te tamaiti or rangatahi has offended, addressing the interests of any victims and ensuring accountability of te tamaiti or rangatahi for their behaviour
- support being provided to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau after the conference to ensure all aspects of the agreed plan are completed successfully.
There are 2 types of family group conference:
- Care and protection family group conferences are held when te tamaiti or rangatahi is considered to be in need of care or protection based on 1 or more of the grounds set out in section 14(1) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, except section 14(1)(c). This might mean that te tamaiti or rangatahi is suffering or is likely to suffer serious harm such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, deprivation, ill-treatment or neglect. These are convened and facilitated by care and protection coordinators.
- Youth justice family group conferences are held when tamariki or rangatahi are alleged to have offended or once the charges have been proven. These are convened and facilitated by youth justice coordinators.
How conferences support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga
Our policies, practices and services must have regard to mana tamaiti, whakapapa and the whanaungatanga responsibilities of whānau, hapū and iwi.
Mana tamaiti (all aspects of the wellbeing of a tamaiti)
Key practices followed by those supporting the family group conference process enhance the mana of both te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau by:
- emphasising face-to-face contact with te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau, particularly when first engaging over our concerns and the need for the conference
- seeking guidance and support from kairaranga ā-whānau, where applicable
- respectfully using hui ā-whānau and whānau hui to support whānau to understand and work through concerns
- explaining to tamariki and rangatahi their rights and what to do when their rights are impacted
- keeping te tamaiti or rangatahi and their oranga at the centre of the conference
- presenting and valuing the power and voice of te tamaiti or rangatahi as concerns are worked through and plans are made.
Whakapapa (identity and belonging) and whanaungatanga (responsibility of all in caring for tamariki)
Key practices that give effect to whakapapa and whanaungatanga principles are:
- promoting whānau-led planning for how best to address the care or protection concerns or offending by tamariki or rangatahi
- engaging early with whānau, and working with kairaranga ā-whānau, or a senior Maori practitioner or bicultural expert, to:
- understand whakapapa connections
- identify, alongside whānau, those from wider whānau, hapū and iwi who would be best to participate in the process
- understand the tikanga and kawa that whānau wish to observe during conference proceedings
- holding hui ā-whānau before the conference to work through the concerns
- supporting tamariki and rangatahi to stay within whānau, hapū and iwi wherever possible
- throughout the conference, supporting whanaungatanga responsibilities and obligations and roles held by participants, and others involved in the life of te tamaiti or rangatahi, to help address the concerns or offending, and achieve oranga for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- encouraging consideration of whakapapa connections for te tamaiti or rangatahi in the decision-making, and the implications of decisions made now for their whakapapa.
Family group conferences ensure:
- tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau, hapū and iwi can participate in decision-making about the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi, or their offending
- regard is given to whakapapa and the support of hapū and iwi, as whānau consider participants and prepare for the conference
- whānau have a time and place to work through their whanaungatanga responsibilities and put forward their own plan for how to address concerns or offending
- ways to address the care and protection needs are considered.
Family group conferencing practice standards
The family group conferencing practice standards set out the requirements for the Oranga Tamariki roles supporting the process — for both care and protection and youth justice family group conferences.
This guidance is not part of the practice standards. It provides more detailed support on the care and protection family group conference process for coordinators and social workers, including how to work to the practice standards.