Upcoming changes for 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
Holding pre FGC consults
The care and protection coordinator, social worker and supervisor have 1 or more consult meetings before the family group conference. These meetings could include the practice leader, legal, kairaranga ā-whānau and FGC team leader if required depending on complexity of FGC.
- what is known about te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family, and the development of a clear risk statement or review of an existing one, with a focus on both the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- the available pathway of a care and protection plan, a plan for assistance or a plan that addresses both (the coordinator helps the whānau or family understand they can develop a plan to address the care and protection concerns or to provide assistance, or both)
- whether further information or assessment is needed
- any contentious issues that may come up at the conference and strategies to manage these — the practice leader and FGC team leader could be involved in these discussions, if required
- how to engage in a way that is mana enhancing and supports the whanaungatanga responsibilities of those who will participate
- whether any entitled people might be disruptive and strategies to manage this (for example, they could participate through a phone or video call, letter or pre-recorded message, or by having someone speak on their behalf, or they could be excluded from the conference) — the whānau or family may also have suggestions
- all information relevant to the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi that will be presented to the whānau or family to assist them in their decision-making
- what we know about the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi, or how best to get their views now
- how to include the views and participation of te tamaiti before, during and after the conference
- any further information or assessments needed for the family group conference, including on the health and education needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- cultural considerations, such as the supports and resources needed to convene and hold a family group conference that demonstrates respect and understanding of cultural needs — this includes the venue, procedure, tikanga and kawa, interpreters and the suitability of the coordinator
- whānau exploration — what has been done and what needs to be done
- if and when to hold hui ā-whānau or whānau hui
- whānau or family dynamics, including safety issues for te tamaiti or rangatahi, whānau or family, professionals and Oranga Tamariki staff — check if there are personal safety orders in place, why they were made and who is covered, and the current relationship and what contact they have, and think about what steps can be taken to help keep that person physically and emotionally safe during the conference (who can support them, where is the safest venue and what safety precautions are needed, such as seating, handheld alarms and security guards)
- barriers to attendance, including geographical distance, bail conditions, and emotional and physical safety concerns
- roles and responsibilities of Oranga Tamariki staff
- services, resources and funding options — discuss any proposed expenditure with the relevant manager
- possible delays in holding the family group conference, and if the delays might place te tamaiti or rangatahi at any increased risk of harm — is the current plan robust enough until the conference is held?
- how best to present the assessments or reports and other information relevant to the conference in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner. This needs to be inclusive of disability, mental capacity and language comprehension of all those in attendance. A range of formats that incorporate verbal, visual and written mediums can be used.
The coordinator, social worker, supervisor and FGC team leader might also meet closer to the family group conference to make sure everything is on track and the risk statement is still relevant.
Kaimahi may seek advice from FGC team leader or practice leaders if required.
Kaimahi should consider meeting with the site manager regarding financial considerations or pre-approval that may arise in the FGC.
Consult with the care and protection resource panel
When they have received the referral, the coordinator consults with the care and protection resource panel to get advice and information about:
- te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
- what services are available in the community that they might be able to use
- setting up the family group conference, including cultural and safety considerations.
Members of the panel may attend the family group conference as information givers, if considered appropriate by the coordinator.
Involve te tamaiti or rangatahi
As soon as possible, the coordinator meets with te tamaiti or rangatahi to ensure they understand the purpose of the family group conference, why it is needed and what to expect, and how decisions made at the family group conference could affect them.
The coordinator needs to gather the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi and prepare them for the family group conference. To find the best and safest way to engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi, the coordinator consults with:
- the social worker
- whānau or family
- appropriate professionals, such as their teacher, a non-government organisation or the lawyer for child.
Whenever possible the coordinator meets te tamaiti or rangatahi face to face to provide them with information about what will be said in the hui ā-whānau and family group conference. Information needs to be appropriate for their age, development and cultural needs, and provided in an appropriate way. The information should cover why, what, who, roles and process and their rights.
The coordinator should reflect on:
- what is known already about trauma that is likely to have been experienced by te tamaiti or rangatahi, and how is this currently impacting on them
- what needs to be done now to make sure te tamaiti or rangatahi is safe and feels safe while the conference process is underway.
The coordinator should consider whether te tamaiti or rangatahi should attend the conference or be otherwise supported to participate, and have their views heard by other means including through a representative. Te tamaiti or rangatahi must be physically and emotionally safe if they are to participate. If they are unwilling to participate or are too young or unable to participate due to disability or their level of understanding, effective ways must be found to include their views and needs in the conference process, and how they feel about the decisions being made.
Give them the opportunity to express how they want to present their views and offer a range of options that are appropriate for their age, gender, culture, development and/or disability. For example, they could:
- read from something they prepared before the conference
- talk in a language they feel comfortable with
- express their views through other means, such as drawings, the Three Houses, or the safety house
- help to identify people who can support them while they speak, or speak for them.
The whānau or family can help identify if te tamaiti or rangatahi needs a support person and who could take on this role. If that support person is not an entitled member, the coordinator needs to discuss the support person’s attendance and role with the entitled members before the family group conference.
The coordinator must make every effort to meet with te tamaiti or rangatahi face to face. It may sometimes be appropriate for the social worker, a whānau or family member, a caregiver or other professional to be there too.
Check back that te tamaiti or rangatahi understands about the conference in a way that is appropriate for their age, developmental stage and culture. For example, ask them to repeat back in their own words or using scaling questions to check the level of understanding.
Engage whānau or family
The care and protection coordinator consults with whānau or family, hapū, iwi the wider family group, and helps them to understand the process and prepare for the family group conference:
- Before approaching whānau or family, the coordinator familiarises themselves with the referral information, issues and circumstances of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family in order to help build a good rapport.
- They need to consider what is known about the trauma that may have been experienced by whānau or family, as well as te tamaiti or rangatahi.
- Hui ā-whānau and whānau hui before the conference are particularly important when whānau or family need time and support to work through what is happening.
Initial contact by coordinator
As soon as the referral is accepted, the coordinator:
- sends first contact letters out to known whānau or family
- promptly follows up the letter by contacting known whānau or family and arranging to meet face to face with those willing and able to do so
- takes all reasonable avenues to identify and contact additional whānau or family — consider speaking to colleagues, community leaders and known whānau or family and searching CYRAS records.
Consider the culture and circumstances of whānau or family when planning contact. Support from kairaranga ā-whānau or cultural support people may be appropriate.
The coordinator then meets with the whānau or family face to face to discuss:
- what the family group conference is about
- the process including their role in developing a plan to address care and protection or needs for assistance or wellbeing, or both
- the people who should attend the family group conference, and the legal entitlement for certain people to be involved
- whether there are members of the extended whānau or family, hapū and iwi who may be able to provide support to meet the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi — the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi on this must be considered.
Make every effort to meet with whānau or family face to face. If whānau or family are unwilling or unable to meet, the coordinator can communicate by phone, letter, email and text message.
When it has not been possible to meet whānau or family or te tamaiti or rangatahi face to face, the reasons for this are to be documented and whānau or family are to be fully consulted about the conference through other means.
Cultural, ethnic and spiritual considerations
The coordinator needs to ensure the conference can reflect and respect the culture of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family. When working with Māori, identify their hapū and iwi affiliation. Then the coordinator can:
- involve the wider whānau (as well as hapū and iwi)
- provide support to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their immediate whānau or family
- conduct the conference with cultural sensitivity.
Talk about any protocols and procedures for the conference that meet their cultural, ethnic or spiritual needs.
Encourage and support whānau Māori to use tikanga Māori protocols for the conference.
Ask the whānau or family:
- if they would like someone else involved for the whānau or family consultation or the conference — perhaps an interpreter, cultural leader or elder
- how that person could be involved in the conference — the person could be included as an entitled member or an information giver or support person with no voting rights (all the entitled participants must agree before a support person can attend).
The coordinator may also work with whānau Māori to engage iwi social services, kaumātua and kaitakawaenga in the family group conference process.
Consult about the conference details
Make all reasonable endeavours to advise whānau or family of their rights in terms of being consulted about the date, time, place, people who should attend and the procedure to be adopted at the conference. This is required under section 21 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
- Explore options for where and when the conference could be held and provide whānau or family with this information. Encourage them to choose a time and place for the conference that meets their needs while ensuring they understand it may not be possible to meet all their wishes.
- As far as possible, accommodate the wishes of the whānau or family, while managing issues of practicality, safety, cost and needs of other participants.
- Discuss whether the coordinator will facilitate the conference, or if the whānau or family would like someone else to facilitate — all the entitled participants must agree on the facilitator before the conference starts.
- Discuss any protocols the whānau or family want to use at the conference.
- Advise the whānau or family of the date, time and place for the conference as soon as it has been agreed.
Clarify the purpose of the conference
Provide an outline of the purpose of the conference. There are videos to help with this on the external Oranga Tamariki website.
Section 28 of the Oranga Tamariki Act sets out that the conference is to consider:
- matters relating to the care or protection or wellbeing of that tamaiti or rangatahi as the conference thinks fit
- if the conference considers te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care or protection or is in need of assistance, the conference is then to make the decisions, recommendations and a plan that are necessary or desirable for the care, protection, needs or wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
The functions of the conference are to consider matters and to develop a plan to address care and protection concerns, to provide assistance to meet the needs and oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi or both.
Conferences can also be held to review plans and the progress made.
It may be helpful to talk about how the conference is linked to the purpose and principles of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989:
- The wellbeing and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi are paramount and this is why we are involved and what the plan will address.
- Wellbeing means we consider concerns about the safety, welfare and security of te tamaiti or rangatahi, but also have regard to their longer-term needs — like attachment and belonging, whānau or family connections, health, education and other development needs.
- The family group conference process is whānau or family-led, is based on the principles in sections 4A(1), 5 and 13 of the Oranga Tamariki Act and includes mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga responsibilities.
- Participation of te tamaiti or rangatahi is supported, and decisions need to have regard to their views.
- Whānau or family have the right to participate in decision-making.
Clarify what to expect at the conference
Make sure whānau or family fully understand:
- the issues and concerns with regard to the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi that have prompted the need for the conference.
- that the conference ensures whānau or family are supported and encouraged to come up with solutions and remedies that they can present to the conference to address the care and/or protection or need for assistance
- the roles of the coordinator and social worker as entitled members of the conference.
Explain what is likely to be discussed at the conference, so that whānau or family can prepare for it.
- Provide whānau or family with the opportunity to discuss any worries or concerns they have about the conference. Help develop strategies for how to manage any concerns that are identified.
- Consider the aspects of the conference that might be difficult. Support whānau or family to prepare for these in a way that works for them, such as bringing a support person or using different mediums for presenting to the conference.
- Discuss how best to present the assessments, reports and other information relevant to the conference in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.
- Provide information about services and resources.
- Check for their understanding of:
- the purpose of the conference, and their responsibility to come up with solutions and remedies, with our support
- the care and protection concerns for te tamaiti or rangatahi or what assistance is required to meet the needs and oranga of te tamaiti
- the possible outcomes of the conference and how these can be given effect:
- when a plan is agreed, or
- when agreement is not reached.
After the conference has considered the care and or protection concerns and the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi the care and protection co-ordinator will invite the whānau to make a plan. If the whānau agree to make a plan:
- the co-ordinator asks whether the plan will be based on the need to address the care and/or protection concerns, or on an agreement that te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of assistance, or both
- the conference proceeds to the whānau or family only time.
The care and protection coordinator must record that the care and/or protection concerns have been considered and on what basis the plan is being made.
Evidence that the care and/or protection concerns that lead to the referral for the family group conference have been considered at the conference is required to ensure the ability for the social worker to file an application to Court for care and protection orders remains, if this becomes necessary. Check for understanding by using approaches such as encouraging whānau or family to reflect back their own understanding of the process.
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.
- If a decision to make an application to the court is made subsequent to holding the conference, reconvening the conference should be considered .
- The whānau, family and tamariki or rangatahi should be informed and involved where appropriate in this decision.
- The court will be provided with the agreed outcome of the FGC including any plans relating to other considerations agreed at the conference.
Hui ā-whānau are meetings with whānau or family led by the social worker or kairaranga ā-whānau before the family group conference. Work through the staff roles that can support hui ā-whānau — that is, kairaranga ā-whānau, social worker and coordinator.
Ensure the whānau or family knows the purpose of the hui ā-whānau — to share and understand the concerns and the supporting information and to begin to think about possible solutions and recommendations to bring to the conference. It is important that the whānau or family do not confuse the hui ā-whānau with the family group conference — be clear on the purpose of each.
We can provide whānau or family with assistance to convene or participate in the hui ā-whānau.
Whānau hui can follow the hui ā-whānau. Only whānau or family are present at this hui, so that they can consider the information provided, and their own solutions. Ensure there is time for the whānau or family to remain at the venue after the hui ā-whānau is complete.
Be ready to discuss the many benefits of hui ā-whānau and whānau hui with participants — for example:
- Hui ā-whānau:
- prepares whānau or family for the family group conference
- respects the tikanga of Māori participants
- builds shared understanding of how whānau or family see the concerns
- enables the social worker to inform the whānau or family about what it is that they are worried about — the Tuituia assessment can be discussed
- builds understanding, so that people at the conference can focus on solutions and the plan.
- Whānau hui provides the whānau or family with an opportunity to discuss and consider their own solutions before the family group conference.
Let the hui ā-whānau participants know that:
- the information is sensitive and they are being informed as they are part of the whānau or family or family group
- they are being advised in advance so that they understand the care or protection issues or the need for assistance and what this might be and have time to consider ways that they may be able to help.
Entitled people unable to attend the conference
Some whānau or family (including an imprisoned parent, guardian or other person of key significance to te tamaiti or rangatahi) may be unwilling or not able to attend the conference in person, or may have been excluded by the coordinator. The coordinator must consult with them and gather their views, and ensure their views are presented at the conference in a manner that works best.
For those unable to attend in person, we should first consider options such as a phone or video call. This maintains their entitlement to be part of the discussions and have a say in the outcome.
Other options for those unable to attend in person and for excluded members include having their views presented at the conference through a letter or pre-recorded message, or by having someone speak on their behalf.
Record the views of all known whānau or family unable to attend the conference clearly and succinctly on CYRAS and in the file for te tamaiti or rangatahi.
Professionals can provide important information and advice that will help the people at the family group conference agree on decisions, recommendations and plans. This includes information relating to the health, education, employment and training needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi. They attend the conference as an information giver, and usually only for the period needed to present their information and support discussion of that information.
The coordinator should think about:
- who has had previous involvement with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
- what services have been most helpful
- ensuring the professionals understand that the conference can consider both care and protection concerns and the need for assistance and the focus is on developing a plan.
The pre-conference planning meetings include consideration of any further assessments, support people to be involved and the required next steps:
- Health and education issues are considered and, if appropriate, health and education professionals are invited to participate in the conference.
- Professionals and support people are advised as soon as possible of their desired attendance or participation at the conference.
- Professionals and support people already working with the whānau or family are consulted about their level of participation.
- When professionals and support people are new to or have limited understanding of the conference, every effort is made to consult with them face to face to explain the conference process and their role within it.
Participation in the conference
The coordinator then helps prepare professionals and other information givers by meeting with them face to face, if possible, and:
- explaining the family group conference process
- explaining their role and responsibilities — participants need to be ready to explain their role at the conference, and participants representing a service will need to provide details about what the service can offer te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family, and how and when their service can be accessed
- guiding them on the most appropriate way to present their information so it can be understood by all participants
- deciding how to present their views or information if they’re unable to attend the conference in person
- providing them with information about what they can expect at the conference, such as cultural protocols, potential risks and issues and how long they can expect to be present.
During the conference, the coordinator facilitates dialogue between professionals and the whānau or family to make sure the whānau or family understand these services, so they can make the best decisions for te tamaiti or rangatahi during family time.