What the support is for
From 1 July 2019, all youth justice family group conferences are required to consider what reasonable and practical assistance could be provided to support te tamaiti or rangatahi to:
- implement a family group conference plan
- comply with an order from the Youth Court.
During the convening of a family group conference, youth justice coordinators and social workers must actively facilitate discussion with te tamaiti, whānau and others about what support and assistance is needed and from whom and how this can be put in place. These initial discussions will enable the conference to fully consider, and where appropriate, agree to, the support and assistance being included in the plan. The intention is to provide the best opportunity for tamariki to complete a plan or comply with a court order. This support will also help to ensure that the underlying causes of their offending and accountability for the offending have been addressed.
The family group conference can also make recommendations in the plan about any Youth Court order that is agreed or contemplated. The social worker must consider these recommendations when completing social work reports (section 334) and plans (section 335), and where applicable include those measures or assistance identified and agreed to at the family group conference.
This can also help address the underlying causes of their offending and support accountability.
Note: For all youth justice practice including youth justice family group conferences there are 4 primary considerations in section 4A(2). The 4 considerations are:
- the wellbeing and best interests of the child and or young person, and
- the public interest (which includes public safety), and
- the interests of any victims, and
- the accountability of the child or young person for their behaviour.
When weighing these primary considerations in all our work, we must be guided by the principles in section 5 and section 208.
When it happens
During the convening and holding of every youth justice family group conference.
Who does it
The youth justice coordinator has primary responsibility for the family group conference process. During the preparation for the conference and at the conference itself, they ensure that:
- the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi are clearly identified and the information is made available to the conference
- options for support are fully explored and identified with te tamaiti and their family/whānau
- the decision-makers at the family group conference have the information they need so they can discuss the required support.
The family group conference considers and agrees (or not) to support and assistance for te tamaiti or rangatahi being included in the plan.
How to do it
1 Complete the offending profile and do a comprehensive pre-family group conference case consultation
Many tamariki and rangatahi who come into the youth justice system have a range of complex needs and challenges. Comprehensive assessment before the conference identifies those needs and informs the discussions during convening on the type of support that may be needed.
The offending profile and case consultation will provide insight into what may be needed to address the offending behaviour and the underlying needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
The case consultation sets out the next steps for convening the conference and involves:
- identifying the needs of te tamaiti – a social worker may be allocated to te tamaiti, to complete an assessment if required by policy or thought necessary
- completing a health assessment
- completing an education screen and if necessary an education assessment
- identifying any mental health, alcohol and other substance abuse concerns — this may be informed by the social worker’s assessment and information from te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau
- consulting with family/whānau about their capacity to provide the necessary support
- holding hui-a-whānau to share information with the wider whānau and see what they can offer to support te tamaiti or rangatahi and the family/whānau
- talking with the victim about their expectations and views
- where programmes have been identified, consulting with providers (including iwi) about the availability and appropriateness of the programme.
During the convening of the conference the coordinator must ensure that the needs of te tamaiti are clearly identified and options for support and assistance are fully explored with te tamaiti and their family/whanau. Family/whānau should be encouraged to consider how they could provide that assistance and any help that they may need from Oranga Tamariki or other organisations to support them to be able to manage the behaviour of te tamaiti.
2 Facilitate discussion during the family group conference
During the family group conference, the youth justice coordinator actively facilitates discussion with te tamaiti or rangatahi, family/whānau and others about:
- what supports are needed
- from whom
- how they can be put in place.
The discussion can be based on information obtained during the pre-family group conference case consultation and any assessments that have been completed. In addition, the members of the family group conference should be encouraged to share further ideas about what practical assistance can be provided to support te tamaiti or rangitahi to complete their plan or comply with any court orders.
If the conference agrees to a Youth Court order or if it believes that one is likely, the conference can make recommendations in the plan about the content of the order for the social worker to consider when writing the section 334 report and section 335 plan. Te tamaiti and their family/whānau will have ideas and suggestions that could support the success of any order and involving them at this early stage allows them some ownership of and input into the process. It would be advisable to have the social worker attend throughout the conference for this purpose.
Creative solutions are encouraged provided they are achievable and monitored for progress and completion. Think outside the square – look for ways that the family/whānau, community organisations and government ministries, particularly health and education, can support te tamaiti or rangatahi and contribute to a good outcome.
The youth justice coordinator reminds the conference that there are 4 primary considerations for all youth justice practice:
- the wellbeing and best interests of te tamaiti or rangatahi
- the public interest (which includes public safety)
- the interests of any victims
- the accountability of te tamaiti or rangatahi for their behaviour.
When weighing these primary considerations in all our work, we must be guided by the principles in section 5 and section 208 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.
3 Write the family group conference plan
The primary audience for any family group conference plan is te tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau so plans must be written for them and with them.
How to write the plan
Use different formats and write in plain language so that they can easily understand the goals and what they have agreed to do.
Avoid long paragraphs of text, abbreviations, acronyms and complex words – instead, use headings, bullet points and pictures.
Plans should not become formulaic – they should be individually tailored with each tamaiti or rangatahi and their family/whānau according to their level of understanding.
What to put in the plan
Plans must clearly state:
- what is to be done
- how it is to be done
- where it is to done
- who is to do it
- the level of support needed and the people or organisations responsible for providing that support
- the level of monitoring or supervision needed
- who is to make sure it is done and how to report back
- who to advise if it is not going well
- the timeframes for the plan as well as each task
- when the plan is to be fully reviewed
- the expected outcome of the plan if fully completed
- the consequences if the plan is not completed.
A table giving a summary of the tasks, the people responsible and timeframes may be included at the end of the plan if the youth justice coordinator considers it appropriate or necessary.