Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/interventions/family-group-conferencing/care-and-protection-family-group-conference/holding-the-care-and-protection-family-group-conference/
Printed: 24/02/2024
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Last updated: 07/07/2023

Holding the care and protection family group conference

The conference is facilitated so it supports te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and others participating to safely give, receive and consider information, express views and be actively involved in making decisions, recommendations and plans.

Seeking agreement to decisions, recommendations and a plan

Ultimately, the family group conference aims to establish agreed decisions, recommendations and a plan to address care or protection concerns and support the oranga (wellbeing) of te tamaiti or rangatahi. Where no agreement is reached, the coordinator follows the provisions laid out in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. 

Family group conferencing – process map (PDF 131 KB)

Ngākau whakairo: considering values, rights and beliefs to support holding a family group conference

We support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to participate in the family group conference.

The tikanga of the family group conference follows the wishes expressed and agreed by te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family before the family group conference – this is discussed in their consultation with the care and protection coordinator and might cover the use of karakia, waiata, prayers or other cultural practices during the conference.

The coordinator is an entitled member of the conference and attends in a supportive role if whānau or family have chosen someone to facilitate the discussions.

All tamariki and rangatahi have a right to participate and express their views during the family group conference even if they cannot be there in person. The social worker supports te tamaiti or rangatahi to participate during the family group conference as is appropriate to their age, maturity and cognitive and physical abilities, or to have their views presented by someone else.

We ensure that all tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family have the support they need. We recognise and support the role that independent advocates and specialist support people such as translators and cultural advisors provide to tamariki, rangatahi and their whānau or family in communicating their views. This includes during whānau or family-only time if agreed by whānau or family.

The care and protection coordinator supports rangatiratanga and the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family or family group during the family group conference, by ensuring they:

  • have access to all information and advice that they need to make decisions, including the views of those who are not present at the conference (ideally, all available information is provided to the participants before the conference, so they have time to consider and process it)
  • understand that the information they share during the conference on the day (other than the decisions, recommendations and plan) is privileged and:
    • the information cannot be admitted as evidence in any court proceedings
    • the information cannot be shared outside the conference
    • a report of the proceedings of the conference cannot be published
      Confidentiality and the family group conference
  • understand that they do not have to agree that te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care and protection in order to make decisions, recommendations or a plan
  • are supported to freely express their views about the information shared
  • have the opportunity to seek clarity, ask questions and consider what they have heard
  • consider the care or protection concerns and oranga (wellbeing) of te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • have whānau or family time where they can consider all information and develop a plan for their tamaiti or rangatahi that they present to the other conference participants for discussion and consideration (this time is restricted to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family unless they choose to invite others to attend)
  • leave the conference with a clear understanding of any agreed decision, recommendation or plan and how it will be recorded and what will happen next
  • understand what happens if:
    • the members of the family group conference do not agree to make a plan or cannot agree on a plan
    • the person who made the referral for the family group conference believes the concerns have not been fully addressed through the decisions, recommendations or plan made at the conference
    • the care and protection coordinator is unable to secure agreement to the plan from people likely to be involved in the implementation.

During the family group conference, the social worker:

  • advocates for the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
  • shares their information in a way that is clear and transparent (including the concerns held for te tamaiti or rangatahi, and the strengths and resilience of whānau or family)
  • considers the decisions, recommendations and plan put forward by the whānau or family.

Ngākau whakairo

Whai mātauranga: we draw from bodies of knowledge and understanding to support mahi during the conference

The care and protection coordinator draws from various bodies of knowledge to effectively hold and facilitate a family group conference and support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. The coordinator uses whānau or family narratives, knowledge and experience, cultural knowledge, research, and information from their colleagues and others to understand how they facilitate whānau or family led decision-making within a potentially emotionally charged environment so that they can:

  • maintain the agreed tikanga and help participants to establish the rules of engagement within the hui so everyone can participate
  • maintain a space for participants to contribute safely
  • recognise and respond to situations that may disrupt the meeting or impact on the process
  • support whānau or family as required during this time (planning may not be a familiar exercise to some whānau or family and they may have questions).

The care and protection coordinator needs to understand the factors that may impact on an individual's ability to give their views during a family group conference and respond in a way that supports each person's mana and enables their participation. Factors could include:

  • protocols around speaking rights in some whānau, families or cultures
  • existing relationship and communication styles within the whānau or family
  • an individual's confidence or ability to express themselves
  • a disability that may affect an individual's communication or participation.

We recognise the importance of rangatiratanga within te ao Māori and whānau or family led decision-making during the family group conference. We respect the knowledge and experience te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family bring and their ability to make decisions, recommendations and plans. We remain open to their ideas, recommendations and plans and do not predetermine the outcome of the family group conference.

Ngākau whakairo

Peace, human rights and humanitarian response | United Nations Foundation

Sections 26, 28, 425 and 427 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

About family group conferencing – ngākau whakairo

Using the practice prompts

Family group conferencing practice standards

Paper – Up front and personal: Confronting dynamics in the family group conference | researchgate.net

Dynamics of whanaungatanga | DoW.org.nz

Paper – A model for Māori research for Māori practitioners | Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Journal

Whai oranga: working with whānau or family to develop decisions, recommendations and plans to support oranga during the family group conference

The family group conference, decisions, recommendations and plan set out the ara (pathway) for the pursuit of oranga (wellbeing) for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family or family group.

During the family group conference, the care and protection coordinator creates and maintains conditions and spaces that support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to participate and make decisions, recommendations and plans to support oranga.

Whai oranga

Whakamanawa

The family group conference space recognises and values the potential of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. We ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How am I giving strength and confidence to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family during the family group conference?
  • How am I ensuring that we share information from a position that recognises and acknowledges the strengths and resilience of the whānau or family and preserves their sense of hope and optimism?
  • How am I modelling, supporting and promoting robust, passionate, critical and respectful thinking to support everyone's participation during the family group conference?
  • How am I acting in ways that value the mana of the family group conference participants and help to maintain a positive environment?

Rangatiratanga

We support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to develop a plan that realises their potential and provides the support and assistance they need to care for and nurture their tamariki or rangatahi. We ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How am I creating and maintaining conditions and spaces that support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to participate, and lead decision-making to support oranga?
  • How am I presenting information in an objective way that enables whānau or family to draw their own conclusions and views?
  • How am I checking with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family that they have understood the information presented?
  • How am I ensuring that the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family are heard?

Manaakitanga

Our actions during the family group conference support the rights, interests and aspirations of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. We ask ourselves the following questions:

  • How am I respecting the culture of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family?
  • How am I acknowledging the knowledge, strengths and perspectives of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family?
  • How am I supporting te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and others attending the conference in a way that upholds and strengthens their mana?
  • How am I recognising and promoting the strength of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to reach their potential?

Te Toka Tūmoana cue cards

Whai oranga

Using the practice prompts

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetu

Whai pūkenga: we apply relevant skills to support family group conference practice

Our application of key social work and facilitation skills during the family group conference can help te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and others supporting the planning to feel engaged, and be able to work through issues and find solutions. We use our facilitation skills to:

  • establish a positive environment for whānau or families – for example, using and supporting the use of kawa, karakia and tikanga Māori as appropriate for whānau Māori, and cultural protocols and customs for Pacific families, and considering other cultural protocols as appropriate for all families
  • promote the participation of all in the conference and manage contributions to ensure no one dominates the dialogue
  • manage conflict and disruptive behaviour – for example, we could establish 'ground rules', acknowledge tension and emotion, reframe, use breaks and 'timeouts' and stop the conference if necessary
  • challenge assumptions and invite participants to consider different points of view
  • enable participants to 'sit with silence' when necessary
  • monitor levels of energy during the conference and apply strategies to manage low energy (for example, taking breaks)
  • create the conditions for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau, family or family group to make decisions and develop achievable and relevant plans and recommendations.

Our communication skills help us to:

  • maintain a discerning, professional and impartial stance throughout the conference
  • support te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and others in the conference through practice that supports their mana, respects tikanga, demonstrates humility and respects their dignity
  • work with te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and those developing the plan to:
    • identify, build and strengthen supportive relationships and networks
    • recognise challenges and identify where further support is needed.

Whai pūkenga

Using the practice prompts

Working with Māori: Te Toka Tūmoana

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Whai ākona: coaching, mentoring and supervision to explore and build practice relating to holding the family group conference

The approach and skills of kaimahi present at the family group conference can have an impact on how supported and engaged te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and others feel, and the successful development, implementation and outcome of a plan.

We take time to reflect on our practice, understand how it can impact on and influence those people we work with during the family group conference, and consider how we can adapt and strengthen practice where necessary.

During breaks and whānau or family time, we explore and reflect on how the conference is going and what additional support or information might be needed.

The care and protection coordinator reflects on how they are checking in with everyone during the conference about:

  • additional information or support that they need
  • their oranga (wellbeing).

The social worker reflects on:

  • how they presented the information and ensured the whānau, family or family group understand the concerns and are able to consider them
  • whether the plan reflects the wishes and needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.

To support social work practice during the family group conference, the supervisor works with the social worker before and after the conference to:

  • encourage reflexivity and support the social worker to learn from, build and explore their practice during family group conference practice
  • support kaimahi ora, whānau ora and mahi ora
  • identify and respond to opportunities to develop or strengthen skills needed to support whānau or family during the family group conference.

Whai ākona

Role-specific responsibilities and practice considerations during the family group conference

The care and protection coordinator:

  • supports the development of the family group conference plan so it accurately represents the decisions and recommendations of all the participants and can be agreed on at the family group conference
  • ensures the plan can be easily understood by everyone
  • manages any difficult dynamics and works to ensure the whānau or family time supports and enables good discussion and planning
  • ensures the plan is flexible and responsive to the changing needs and circumstances of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
  • sets a review date
  • ensures all the participants know who will receive a copy of the plan.

The social worker works closely with te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and others involved in developing the plan to identify:

  • elements that might impact on the successful implementation of the decisions, recommendations and plan
  • further support and resources that may be needed for the implementation of the decisions, recommendations and plan.

The social worker asks themselves the following questions:

  • How does my communication support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family as they contribute to the development of the plan?
  • How am I motivating change?
  • How am I using appreciative inquiry to support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to recognise strengths and work to achieve change?
  • How am I building or continuing to develop relationships that foster trust and openly encourage communication?

During the family group conference, the social worker may connect with their supervisor to discuss any unexpected resourcing that might require agreement from a budget manager.

Family group conferencing practice standards

Paper – A model for Māori research for Māori practitioners | Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work Journal

Paper – Evaluation of Family Group Conference Practice and Outcomes (PDF 596 KB) | Social Wellbeing Agency Hub

Care and Protection Overview (pages 20 to 24) (PDF 1.8 MB) | orangatamariki.govt.nz

Report – He Take Kōhukihuki: A Matter of Urgency | Ombudsman

Report to Minister – Final recommendations for improving family group conferences | Ministry of Social Development

Whai mātauranga

Using the practice prompts