About section 28(b)
Section 28(b) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 was amended in 2019 and now allows for a family group conference to consider if a tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care and protection or assistance. The conference is able to make decisions, recommendations and plans as they believe are necessary to meet the care, protection, need for assistance or oranga (wellbeing) of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.
The focus of a family group conference is now on developing a plan with the whānau or family to address the concerns and put in place the supports to meet the needs and oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. The conference does not require an agreement that there are care and/or protection concerns to develop a plan for support and assistance.
The conference may develop a plan:
- for assistance where no agreement is reached that there are care and/or protection concerns but it is agreed support is required
- to address the concerns when there is an agreement there are care and/or protection concerns
- that covers both – for assistance on non-agreed concerns and for agreed care and/or protection concerns.
Convening and practice considerations for section 28(b)
Before the conference
- Clearly explain the pathways available (care, protection, needs or oranga (wellbeing)) to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.
- Use your site kairaranga ā-whānau or cultural specialists to support you and the whānau or family through this process and ensure there is wide whānau or family consultation. Hold hui ā-whānau or family meetings to explore concerns and to support whānau or family to understand the pathways, why Oranga Tamariki is involved and what is needed in a plan to address the issues and concerns held.
During the conference
At the conference, participants will be asked to consider wehther their tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care or protection and/or support. If the whānau or family considers that there are care and protection concerns and/or that te tamaiti or rangatahi needs assistance, they will be asked to develop a plan to address any needs or concerns. If the whānau or family do not agree to develop any plan, this would result in a non-agreement and the coordinator will report the outcome to the referrer so they are able to consider the next steps.
After the conference
The path to court is still open if the social worker still has care and/or protection concerns:
- The pathway for the social worker to file an application to court for care and protection orders remains because the family group conference considered the care and/or protection grounds that led to the referral for the family group conference.
- We ensure that this is made explicit to the whānau or family. Any consideration of that course of action needs to taken to the whānau or family before taking this pathway to ensure transparency and allow whānau or family to respond to the level of concerns being expressed by the social worker.