What is a care and protection family group conference
A care and protection family group conference is a formal meeting where Oranga Tamariki and the extended family/whānau of te tamaiti or rangatahi work together to develop a plan to make sure te tamaiti or rangatahi is safe and well cared for. Te tamaiti or rangatahi should also take part in the conference unless:
- it would not be in their interests
- it would, for some other reason, be undesirable
- they would be unable (because of age or maturity) to understand the purpose and process of the conference.
The coordinator is responsible for determining whether they should attend.
Who does it
A care and protection coordinator has the statutory responsibility for managing the convening and preparation of the conference. This includes:
- organising when and where it will be held
- facilitating the conference itself
- recording the outcome of the conference
- distributing the written record of the plan
- ensuring the plan is reviewed as required.
When to use it
A care and protection family group conference is usually held because someone has formed a belief that te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care or protection.
The criteria that must be used when forming a belief are listed in section 14(1) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
A care and protection family group conference can also be held to:
- review progress and completion of a family group conference plan
- review and reconsider a plan that is no longer meeting the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- review and confirm a plan for leaving care if the rangatahi is in the care of Oranga Tamariki because of a Family Court order or an extended care agreement
- reconvene and complete a plan, when previously agreement could not be reached
- review a court plan.
How to do it
1 Referral to coordinator
There are a number of ways in which a care and protection family group conference can be referred to a care and protection coordinator.
The most common is by a social worker where, after an investigation into reported concerns for te tamaiti or rangatahi, they believe te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care or protection as defined by section 14(1) of the Oranga Tamariki Act. They must then make a referral to a care and protection coordinator under section 18(1) for a family group conference to be convened under section 20.
The Police may also refer to a care and protection coordinator under section 18(1) where they believe te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care or protection. The Family Court and Youth Court may also direct a coordinator to convene a conference.
When the care and protection coordinator receives the referral from a social worker or the Police, or under certain court directions, they must convene a family group conference.
Referral under section 19
Referrals can also be made by the Police, a court or another organisation concerned with the wellbeing of a tamaiti or rangatahi, and who believes they are in need of care or protection (including government organisations).
This is not a direction for a family group conference but it does require the care and protection coordinator to carefully consider whether it is necessary to convene a family group conference.
2 Prepare for the family group conference
The care and protection coordinator is responsible for convening (preparing) the conference. They focus on:
- preparing te tamaiti or rangatahi and the family/whānau for the conference, and discussing with them the best time, date and place for the conference, other people they want invited and what procedures, protocols or other specific requests they may have for the conference
- making sure all the relevant information will be available at the conference so it can make informed decisions
- making sure the appropriate people are invited or can contribute to the conference in another way — this includes family/whānau members, professionals and information givers. This includes considering whether appropriate members of hapū and iwi may attend in accordance with the wishes of the whānau, including as information givers.
3 Hold the family group conference
The care and protection coordinator:
- makes sure the family group conference runs smoothly
- makes sure participants have an opportunity to share their views and concerns and are listened to in a safe environment
- makes sure the family/whānau has time to talk privately about family-led solutions to address needs, strengths and risks
- supports the family group conference to develop a plan for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- gets agreement to the plan from entitled members participating in the conference,
4 Distribute, monitor and review the plan
The care and protection coordinator:
- writes up the family group conference plan and seeks agreement to it from the referrer, and anyone directly involved in implementation
- sends a copy to the people entitled to receive it
- organises the review of the plan.
The social worker actively monitors the plan before the review.