Referral for a family group conference
Before a social worker makes a referral for a family group conference, we work with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family or family group, including maternal and paternal whānau or family, and others to complete a robust assessment.
When a referral has been made, we aim for whānau or family to:
- understand why this is happening
- understand what the process will be
- come to the family group conference well informed.
Where a referral for a family group conference is made by an enforcement officer or directed by court, an assessment by a social worker may also be required.
Ngākau whakairo: rights, values and professional obligations central to preparing for a family group conference
In preparing for the family group conference, we support and advocate for the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. We comply with the requirements laid out in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 that relate to preparing for and convening a family group conference.
- We work with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to:
- understand what support they need to take part in the family group conference process
- identify the need for interpreters to have access to cultural advice and support.
- We share accurate and relevant information with whānau or family, in accordance with information privacy principle 11 set out in section 22 of the Privacy Act, to ensure they have:
- the opportunity to understand, respond to or challenge any information
- the information they need to prepare for and participate in the family group conference.
When deciding what information is to be shared, we consider:
- the purpose for which the information was originally obtained
- who the information is about
- whether the information is relevant and necessary to share for the purpose of the family group conference
- the form in which we share the information
- what level of detail needs to be shared
- if sharing of information is not otherwise authorised
- whether we have consent to share the information from the person the information is about.
We work with tamariki and rangatahi Māori and their whānau to support them to identify, make connections or reconnect with whānau members who are entitled to take part in the family group conference.
We encourage whānau or family to seek independent advocacy and legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
We identify at the earliest opportunity that tamariki, rangatahi and whānau or family members with specific needs or disabilities (tangata whaikaha and tangata whaikaha Māori) have all the support people and resources to enable them to understand and participate. This could include, for example, a Communication Assistant, sign language therapist or language translator.
The care and protection coordinator consults with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to plan the family group conference (section 21 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989). This includes seeking their views on:
- when and where the conference should be held
- who they believe should attend the conference
- how the conference is run.
The social worker and care and protection coordinator support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to prepare for a family group conference, which can include working with them individually and collectively in a hui ā-whānau to ensure:
- they understand the reasons for the conference
- they are fully informed and have relevant information in a way that they understand
- they understand how they can fully participate to achieve a positive outcome for their tamaiti or rangatahi.
Whai mātauranga: drawing from knowledge, understanding and experience to prepare for a family group conference
In preparing for the family group conference, we draw heavily from the mātauranga that sits within te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.
We work with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to build understanding of how we can best support them to participate in all aspects of the family group conference process. We build understanding of factors that may impact on the preparation for the family group conference, including:
- the narratives and history that sit within their whānau or family
- whakapapa connections
- whanaungatanga relationships
- their strengths, views and aspirations for oranga (wellbeing).
We listen to, explore and consider the views and wishes of te tamaiti or rangatahi and ensure their wishes are included in the information presented to the conference.
Whai pūkenga: practice to support preparing for a family group conference
Building trusting and collaborative relationships is central to supporting change. We use our skills and knowledge to build relationships that enable us to work, plan and reflect with tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family as we prepare for the family group conference.
We create safe, inclusive and restorative spaces where we can bring whānau or family together through hui ā-whānau or family meetings at the earliest opportunity to consider and understand the concerns, formulate safety plans to ensure the oranga (wellbeing) of the tamariki or rangatahi and whānau or family, and prepare for the family group conference.
We focus on building relationships and understanding with whānau or family so we can work with them as soon as possible to prepare for the family group conference.
We actively look for and create space that enables the voice of te tamaiti or rangatahi to be heard and their views taken into account. We share information with te tamaiti or rangatahi in a way that considers their age and cognitive and physical ability, so they understand the purpose of the family group conference and their right to participate. We identify any barriers to their participation, such as disability, language, gender identity or sexuality, and ensure the appropriate supports are engaged.
Te tamaiti or rangatahi may be anxious or fearful about certain people attending or the views held by some whānau or family about them and the choices they have made about matters such as identity, sexuality or disclosures of abuse. We work with te tamaiti or rangatahi to understand and respond to any worries they may have about the conference. The care and protection coordinator can exclude people from attending the family group conference if it would not be in the best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
We talk with te tamaiti or rangatahi about who can support them and whether they have or need an advocate or another person who can help them participate in a way that meets their needs.
If te tamaiti or rangatahi doesn't want to attend in person, or if it may not be in their best interests to attend, we explore other ways they can participate, such as writing their views and wishes down, participating online or having their advocate or support person represent them at the conference.
Whai ākona: using reflexive practice, supervision and coaching to support us to prepare for a family group conference
As we work with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to prepare for the family group conference, we should reflect on how our practice is impacting on them and how it is supporting the family group conference process.
We ask ourselves the following questions to make sure our supervision has been used to be reflexive and to reflect:
- How have I worked with and supported whānau or family to ensure they are prepared to participate in the family group conference?
- How have I recognised and upheld the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family and ensured the conference is whānau or family led?
- How have I reflected on my obligations, values and beliefs in understanding tensions or challenges that exist?
Role-specific responsibilities and practice considerations before the family group conference
Before the family group conference, the coordinator considers whether and how they have:
- seen and engaged te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to ensure they understand the purpose and process of the family group conference and their rights, including the right to access independent advocacy, cultural or legal advice
- worked with the whānau or family, social worker and cultural advisors to understand the tikanga, procedures, protocols and approach the whānau or family want to feel comfortable and culturally safe
- provided adequate time and the right space (te wā) in a way that aligns with the values and beliefs (wairua) of the whānau or family
- identified the appropriate whānau or family members who will lead the whānau or family through the process
- consulted widely and collaborated with all those involved
- consulted with the care and protection resource panel (this is a legislative requirement)
- consulted with community representatives and other professionals who can broaden and challenge our understanding to support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to realise their goals for oranga (wellbeing)
- encouraged the whānau or family to seek advocacy and cultural support or legal advice
- considered any barriers to whānau or family participation or attendance, such as disability, mental wellbeing, language and cultural differences, and worked with the whānau or family to find a solution
- ensured whānau or family understand who will attend as information givers and who are entitled members and what the difference is
- consulted with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family about who should attend
- ensured everyone entitled to attend has been invited unless there are indications that their physical attendance is not in the best interest of te tamaiti or rangatahi or will have a detrimental impact on the family group conference
- ensured the views of those entitled to attend but who cannot attend, or who have been excluded from attending, have been sought so that these can be presented to the conference
- arranged the time, date, venue, procedures and tikanga in consultation with the whānau or family to accommodate their needs and ensure the conference is whānau or family led
- encouraged and supported information providers to think about the best way their information can be given to the conference that upholds mana and recognises and reflects on the whānau or family history, narratives, resilience and resources. Presenting a list of negative statements can be overwhelming for whānau or family and provoke negative reactions.
Before the family group conference, the social worker considers whether and how they have:
- facilitated and implemented safety plans for tamariki or rangatahi with the whānau or family to address safety or oranga (wellbeing) concerns until the family group conference is held
- ensured the genogram and participants lists are current, accurate and recorded in CYRAS
- encouraged the whānau or family to seek advocacy support, cultural support, or legal advice
- referred te tamaiti or rangatahi for a gateway assessment to enable a full understanding of their health and education needs
- ensured that whānau or family understand why there is a need for a family group conference
- ensured the referral to the coordinator which will result in the convening of the family group conference is informed by whānau or family narratives and a shared understanding of their needs, strengths and aspirations for oranga
- consulted with the care and protection resource panel
- worked with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whanau or family, kairaranga ā-whānau or cultural advisors to identify whānau or family members
- listened to the voice of te tamaiti or rangatahi so that their views, wishes and experience inform our understanding of their strengths and needs and our concerns for their oranga
- explored with te tamaiti or rangatahi about how they want to participate in the conference or how their views and voice will be presented
- consulted with the right people from Oranga Tamariki – kairaranga ā-whānau, Māori specialist roles, or other appropriate cultural advisors
- facilitated and supported whānau or family initiatives that activate resources and seek to resolve concerns for te tamaiti or rangatahi from within the whānau or family
- used supervision and cultural advisors to explore our understandings and support our professional decision-making process
- used supervision to consider potential outcomes of the family group conference and explore responses
- sought pre-approval from the site budget manager on financial expenditure that may be offered and requested at the conference for the services and resources necessary to support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.
The supervisor works with the social worker before the family group conference to:
- reflect on how they will present their information
- reflect on potential decisions, recommendations and plans and understand what resourcing may be required
- reflect on how the rights of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family can be supported during the family group conference
- encourage the social worker to reflect on how their values, beliefs and practice are supporting te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family and those developing the plan
- help the social worker to build understanding and work through strategies where there are factors impacting on the plan or where more support may be required to implement the plan.
Joint responsibility of social worker and care and protection coordinator
The care and protection coordinator, supported by the social worker:
- ensures whānau or family are well informed and supported to maximise the opportunities available to them to address concerns or needs for their tamariki and rangatahi
- supports the whānau or family to come together at a whānau hui or family meeting before the family group conference so they can make sense of the concerns and how these impact on the oranga (wellbeing) of te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau or family
- consults with everyone involved before the conference – this could include the practice leader, Legal Services, kairaranga ā-whānau, cultural advisor and the family group conference team leader and key whānau, hapū or iwi members and professionals involved with the whānau or family
- ensures all professional responsibilities have been met and considers any other issues or dynamics that might affect the participation of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family or family group, or the outcome of the conference.
This could include:
- whether further information, assessments or consultation with the whānau or family and key support people is needed – for example, whether there has been a gateway assessment, and whether we have engaged with other service providers who are working with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
- what whānau or family dynamics need to be considered, including safety concerns for te tamaiti or rangatahi, whānau or family, professionals and kaimahi – for example, we could talk with whānau or family about these dynamics and how they want them managed.