Upcoming changes to this guidance
This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this guidance. The following resources provide support:
Practice for working effectively with Māori
Our practice shift
What the plan is
Each plan is unique to te tamaiti or rangatahi, and is led by them and/or their whānau or family with support from the social worker and the coordinator.
The coordinator enters the agreed decisions, recommendations and plans into a template that:
- covers the areas that every family group conference should address
- lets the coordinator focus on the specific approach being taken for each tamaiti or rangatahi.
What goes in the plan
A care and protection family group conference plan addresses the care and protection concerns and/or the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi identified in the conference. Where relevant it will have strategies to minimise or mitigate the risk, including contingency plans.
The plan must cover:
- what the goals or outcomes for te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family are that the plan seeks to achieve (the plan may describe what things will look like when the goals are achieved)
- goals that consider both the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi, such as:
- goals that address immediate and future safety needs, including whakapapa and whanaungatanga goals
- what is needed for a safe, stable, loving home at the first opportunity
- how to support the wellbeing and development potential of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- how the goals are informed by and address needs, strengths and risks of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- acknowledgement of the strengths of te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family — how these have been drawn on to support safety and wellbeing goals
- tasks or actions to progress the goals — these are to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timeframed:
- what tasks will be done (these can be summarised in bullet points or a table)
- who will do each task
- what the timeframe for each task is
- the people (roles and responsibilities) who will monitor how each task is going and report back when it’s done
- what will happen if the plan goes off track
- what supports are required to give effect to the plan (as long as they are practicable)
- when the plan will be reviewed
- what happens next if the plan is fully completed, and what happens if the plan is not completed.
Solutions can include ways that the whānau or family, Oranga Tamariki, community organisations and other government ministries (particularly health and education) can support te tamaiti or rangatahi and contribute to a good outcome.
The solutions can be creative and 'outside the box', as long as they're SMART.
The coordinator must check that all participants agree to the plan and support it. This gives it a good chance of success.
Responsibilities and personal objectives
The plan should also cover the responsibilities and personal objectives of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parent, guardian or caregiver and anyone else who has agreed to tasks or is part of the plan.
For te tamaiti or rangatahi, the responsibilities and personal objectives need to be age-appropriate and meaningful to them.
If the parent, guardian or caregiver previously had care of te tamaiti or rangatahi and wants to have them returned to their care, the plan should cover:
- the behavioural changes that the person must make
- the timeframes for the changes or steps needed
- the timeframe for a decision about whether te tamaiti or rangatahi will be able to return to the person’s care.
If there's no realistic possibility that te tamaiti or rangatahi will be returned to the care of a parent, guardian or caregiver
The plan must set out the long-term needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi and say how these needs could be met.
Privacy and confidentiality
The information and discussions shared at the family group conference are privileged. The plan only records the decisions, recommendation and plans from the conference and does not include the discussions at the conference or the views held by participants.
An exception is the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi. Section 11 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 sets out that, in the proceedings of a family group conference, the written decision must set out the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi, and if those views are not followed, the reasons for not doing so.
However, we need to make sure this aligns with the wellbeing and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi, which is always our first and paramount consideration.
How to write the plan
The plan is to be written in strengths-based language that emphasises achieving positive changes as opposed to reducing or removing negative behaviours.
We must write the plan so te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family:
- find it easy to understand
- are clear about what needs to be done and who is doing it.
- use plain language
- avoid jargon
- use short words, such as 'use' not 'utilise'
- do a spelling and grammar check
- keep sentences and paragraphs short
- break text up with descriptive headings
- break text up with bullet points
- use the term 'family group conference' instead of 'conference' — this reinforces the central role of the whānau or family.
If te tamaiti or rangatahi or their whānau or family have particular difficulties around language or disability, explore alternative ways of communicating the plan — this could include translation into another language or using the Easy Read format.
Seeking agreement to the plan post-conference
If te tamaiti or rangatahi was not at the conference and is able to understand the plan, then the care and protection coordinator seeks their agreement to support the plan. If te tamaiti or rangatahi is unwilling to support the plan, it may be appropriate to reconvene the conference.
The coordinator must ask the referrer if they agree to the plan, even if the referrer was at the conference and agreed at that time. If the referrer is a social worker and they are considering changing their mind, they should consult with their supervisor and practice leader.
The coordinator must also check with every person, provider or organisation that will be directly involved in the plan that they agree to their part in the plan, even if they were at the conference and agreed at that time.
Distributing the plan
The care and protection coordinator ensures that the record of decisions, recommendations and plans made at the family group conference is given or sent to:
- te tamaiti or rangatahi for whom the conference was held (unless they are not of an age or level of maturity to understand the content of the plan)
- the parents, guardians and current caregivers of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- any barrister or solicitor (lawyer for child) or lay advocate who is representing te tamaiti or rangatahi
- any other person who will be directly affected by any decisions, recommendations or plan made at the conference
- any appropriate iwi or cultural social service with respect to te tamaiti or rangatahi
- the care and protection resource panel
- the Family Court and/or the Youth Court (if te tamaiti or rangatahi is subject to proceedings under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989).
A copy of the family group conference plan may not necessarily be provided to everyone who attends a family group conference and some people or organisations who do not attend the conference may be entitled to a copy of the plan.
Section 33 also allows a care and protection coordinator to provide access to the plan to anyone who, in the opinion of the coordinator, has a genuine and proper interest in the matter.
Making progress with the actions and goals in the plan
The social worker is responsible for monitoring the plan, and maintaining regular contact with the services and people involved.
They support people responsible for actions to fulfil their commitments. They document progress and challenges, and act quickly and appropriately if things start going off track.
- Early contacts/visits are made after the conference to ensure that actions in the plan are underway.
- Phone calls, visits or meetings take place between reviews, and progress towards the plan’s goals is discussed.
- Obstacles to completing tasks are identified as they emerge and are discussed with key players — if appropriate, alternative ways to achieving goals are explored.
- Delays or deviations from the agreed plan are recorded, and those involved in the plan are informed.
- Key people, including tamariki old enough to do so, are asked for their views on how the plan is progressing.
- Activities related to implementing the plan, the completion of key tasks and achievements of goals are accurately recorded on CYRAS.
- The social worker uses updated Tuituia assessments to support reviewing change and progress against the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi — these are used to inform formal reviews of the plan.
- If the plan was not working for te tamaiti or rangatahi, the family group conference is reconvened for the purpose of reviewing the plan.