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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/interventions/youth-court/planning-for-youth-court-te-koti-taiohi-o-aotearoa/
Printed: 22/04/2024
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Last updated: 12/03/2024

Planning for the Youth Court Te Kōti Taiohi o Aotearoa

Early preparation, thorough planning and collaboration are vital in supporting tamariki and rangatahi who appear in the Youth Court, Te Kōti Rangatahi or the Pasifika Court. We also engage with victims to consider their views and keep them informed.

Principles of the Oranga Tamariki Act for kaimahi working in the Youth Court

When working in the Youth Court, we apply the principles of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 when exercising our powers under this Act.

We inform tamariki and rangatahi, and their parents or caregivers, of any actions and decisions taken that significantly affect them as soon as practicable, as well as the reasons for them. We do this preferably in person, or by phone and also, where practicable, in writing.

We assist tamariki and rangatahi to understand, and encourage them to participate in, court proceedings, family group conferences, and the preparation and review of plans.

Section 208 sets out the specific youth justice principles in conjunction with the 4 primary considerations set out in section 4A(2).

Working in the Youth Court Te Kōti Taiohi o Aotearoa

Legislation rights and oranga

Our work with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family in the Youth Court starts by recognising and upholding their inherent rights, which are protected by the Oranga Tamariki Act and the Bill of Rights Act.

Oranga is enshrined as a human right in our legislation, United Nations rights instruments and the Social Workers Registration Board New Zealand (competence to practise social work with Māori), and it is our professional obligation to uphold oranga. We always approach our mahi with an oranga focus.

For us, considering and understanding the oranga of tamariki and rangatahi should help us respond more holistically to the wellbeing of tamariki and rangatahi who appear in Youth Court, as well as their whānau or family. By repositioning our practice approach to focus on oranga, we see te tamaiti or rangatahi Māori in the context of their whakapapa.

Where there are victims involved in the court process, we recognise and consider their interests, such as how they want to be involved and keeping them updated on the case. Note that victims have the right to attend Youth Court.

Policy: Youth Court – practice prompts

Pre-court preparation and planning

Preparation and planning for the Youth Court, Te Kōti Rangatahi and the Pasifika Court begins well before the court hearing. A court officer (who is preferably a youth justice supervisor or senior practitioner) leads this process with the collaboration of youth justice coordinators and social workers. The court officer needs to also have a collaborative working relationship with the Youth Court registrar, youth advocates, Police prosecutions, and Oranga Tamariki Legal Services.

The court officer reviews court lists received from the court registrar, checks for recent arrests, and arranges for the completion of the Remand Options Investigation Tool (ROIT) when te tamaiti or rangatahi has been arrested and the Police have indicated they will oppose bail.

When te tamaiti or rangatahi appears before the Youth Court, we should be fully prepared and able to offer the court a range of remand options for them by using the Remand Options Investigation Tool (ROIT). These options are prepared using information gathered about te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family while te tamaiti or rangatahi has been in custody. We do this to significantly reduce their experience of custodial remand and, where possible, enable them to remain safely in their community on bail (section 208(2)(d) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989).

Preparing and supporting te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family for court

It is critical that we prepare and support tamariki and rangatahi who are appearing in court, as well as their whānau or family. We:

  • inform them of the court processes in ways that are meaningful to them
  • ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi has access to legal advice and representation
  • ensure that their rights are protected, their voice is heard and their oranga needs are addressed by supporting them to manage their worries and concerns about the process and the impact on them
  • consider that neurodiverse tamariki and rangatahi who are highly vulnerable will require more support and assistance
  • consider engaging a court-appointed communication assistant or an advocate to support te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Ngākau whakairo practice framework domain

Whai oranga practice framework domain

Staying connected with whānau or family, caregivers and other people who are significant to te tamaiti or rangatahi appearing in court

It is important that we maintain contact with whānau or family, caregivers and other people who are significant to te tamaiti or rangatahi to keep them informed of court proceedings. We advocate for their contact with te tamaiti or rangatahi while in Police custody where possible and appropriate.

We alert the Police and the youth advocate to any emerging oranga needs for te tamaiti or rangatahi, and advocate for these needs to be met, such as contact with whānau or family, and access to medical and mental health care.

Updating the Youth Court

The social worker or supervisor:

  • ensures the Youth Court is made aware of tamariki or rangatahi and whānau or family with communication and disability needs, including where an interpreter may be required
  • updates any plans to have the remand status transferred from police detention to custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive, or appropriate bail options.

Tamariki and rangatahi placed in our custody by the Police – section 235

Where te tamaiti or rangatahi has been arrested by the Police and placed in our custody under section 235 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 before their Youth Court hearing, we find the most appropriate care option for them as soon as practicable. We arrange for their appearance at Youth Court.

Section 235 authorises but doesn't require detention.

Tamariki and rangatahi who have been granted Police Bail

Where te tamaiti or rangatahi has been arrested and granted Police Bail before their first appearance at the Youth Court, the Police inform the National Contact Centre or local youth justice site team and provide the following information to Oranga Tamariki as soon as practicable:

  • a list of current charges
  • contact information for te tamaiti or rangatahi and their parents or caregivers
  • any previous involvement with the Police
  • any other relevant information.

To support te tamaiti or rangatahi to comply with their bail conditions and avoid more restrictive custodial options, we allocate a social worker to:

  • support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to understand what their bail conditions mean – where needed, we use visual aids (like the Talking Trouble tools) or a communication assistant, which can be appointed by the court
  • support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family to be actively involved in discussions, so they know what is happening, and have an opportunity to have a say and ask questions
  • talk with whānau or family or caregivers about attending court with their tamaiti or rangatahi and what supports they might need to make this happen.

We also:

  • explore all the bail options available to te tamaiti or rangatahi, verifying what supports they have available to them, including within their wider whānau or family and support networks
  • confirm with the Police whether a Youth Offender Risk Screening Tool (YORST) should be completed before court
  • complete a CYRAS check to gather any current care status or history, existing plans or previous youth justice involvement
  • check the current educational status and history of te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • identify the risk of offending or re-offending and resilience factors – this includes assessing the dynamic and static risk factors for offending.

This information should form the basis of a pre-hearing discussion with te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family about how to be successful on bail.

The information can also be used to identify key risk factors that may prevent bail being granted or a failure to comply with bail conditions. This social work focus on harm reduction ensures the best opportunity for the bail option to be successful for te tamaiti and rangatahi.

Rangatahi arrested and detained in Police custody – section 236

Section 236 allows, by agreement with an Oranga Tamariki supervisor (through a joint certificate) in limited circumstances, for rangatahi to be held in Police cells for a period exceeding 24 hours until they appear in the Youth Court. If the Police intend to oppose bail, we explore non-custodial options such as bail with whānau or family or friends, or care arrangements in the community, supported bail programmes, community bail, electronic monitoring of bail, and remand homes.

The judiciary expects that Police and Oranga Tamariki kaimahi will have completed a Remand Options Investigation Tool (ROIT) pre-hearing for te tamaiti or rangatahi when the Police may oppose bail.

The ideal is that the Police have enough information, and discussion has been robust enough, to enable one agreed view to be presented at court. The Police complete the recommendation section of the ROIT.

Youth Court judges will briefly adjourn cases where discussion has not occurred.

If custody is the outcome, then we apply to the National Office residential admissions advisor for a youth justice placement.

When we're exploring non-custodial options, we:

  • engage with te tamaiti or rangatahi, and their whānau or family, and seek their views
  • inform them, the coordinator, their youth advocate, and the Police about progress with remand discussions and planning
  • advise about alternative placement options, including if a youth justice residence placement becomes available.

While te tamaiti or rangatahi is in Police custody (including under section 238(1)(e)), we arrange with the Police so that we can visit and support te tamaiti or rangatahi each day, to understand the impact on their oranga and undertake the SKS screens.

We record the screens on CYRAS so accurate and full records are maintained.

Custody for children and young people following arrest

SACS, Kessler and Suicide screens (SKS)

Youth Court consideration of bail or placement options when bail is opposed

When bail is opposed, the court decides on an appropriate placement for te tamaiti or rangatahi based on the social worker's assessment and the Remand Options Investigation Tool (ROIT), completed in conjunction with the Police.

With opposition to bail, the social worker explores non-custodial or community-based options in the first instance, such as bail with whānau, family, friends, supported bail or electronic monitoring of bail. We try to support te tamaiti or rangatahi to stop further offending and promote public safety.

If the court determines that remand in Oranga Tamariki custody is the last option following consultation through the ROIT, then we seek a care arrangement in the community in a remand home, or a residential placement – we apply to the regional placement team for a community remand home, or to the senior advisor youth justice community beds for a youth justice residential placement.

Policy: Working with rangatahi and tamariki in remand homes

Detention in Police custody – section 238(1)(e)

If a rangatahi is detained by the court in Police custody under section 238(1)(e), we review the placement in court every 24 hours (under section 241(2)) to seek alternative options to Police custody. The social worker or supervisor needs to ensure the Youth Court is updated about the oranga of the rangatahi and plans to have the remand status changed, and if there are any suitable bail options from Police detention to custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive.

Detention in a Corrections Youth Unit – section 238(1)(f)

There are rare situations where, under section 238(1)(f), rangatahi aged 17 years old may be detained in a Corrections Youth Unit following a joint application to the Youth Court by Ara Poutama Aotearoa Department of Corrections and Oranga Tamariki. Section 239(2A) provides the grounds for this. As soon as this is indicated, we immediately consult with Legal Services for advice and assistance in the preparation of affidavits as required.

There may be rangatahi in Oranga Tamariki care or custody who need to be supported and their oranga monitored by frequent visits. We need to:

  • ensure their rights as rangatahi are being upheld while they are in a Corrections Youth Unit
  • facilitate frequent whānau or family contact to keep them connected.

Assessment of needs relating to any disability

Preparing for court attendance when te tamaiti or rangatahi is in our custody

Social workers and residence kaimahi work together to support tamariki or rangatahi who are in custody to prepare for their hearing. Te tamaiti or rangatahi may appear in court in person or through an audio or video link. If te tamaiti or rangatahi will attend their hearing through an audio or video link, we:

  • ensure someone is with them to support them during the hearing
  • check in with them and their support person as soon as practicable after the call.

If te tamaiti or rangatahi will appear in person at court, we:

  • consult with residence kaimahi to arrange transportation, including escorting, and ensure their timely attendance
  • ensure flights and vehicles are arranged
  • consider any risks associated with the transportation, such as absconding
  • may talk with the Police about their risk assessment and any support we need.

We keep communicating with whānau or family throughout the process, so they know what is happening for their tamaiti or rangatahi.

Providing files, reports, plans, family group conference outcomes, and applications for court hearings

When tamariki and rangatahi are appearing in court, we:

  • check CYRAS for any current care status or history, existing plans, chronology, or previous youth justice involvement
  • send reports, plans and family group conference outcomes to the court 1 to 3 days before hearings so judges can prepare for sentencing
  • ensure reports and outcomes are made available before the hearing to:

If there are complex legal issues, we consult with our Legal Services team for advice before court and arrange for their attendance, if necessary.

Assessments and specialist reports directed by the Youth Court to identify needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi 

The court may request an assessment or specialist report from an external provider so informed decisions can be made about appropriate interventions and supports. We:

  • support the preparation of the assessment or report where required, to identify the needs and aspirations of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
  • liaise with the writer and provide any information they may require
  • do our best to make sure the assessment or report is available for the hearing.

These assessments and specialist reports may include section 333 psychiatric or psychological reports, health and education assessments, cultural reports, progress reports, early release reports, effectiveness reports, and social work reports and plans.

We consider the detail in these reports to help us understand the often complex needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi as we are doing our planning and engaging with them and their whānau or family.

Family group conference outcomes for the Youth Court

Where there has been a non-agreement at the family group conference, the coordinator still needs to send the outcome to the court. While the outcome records that no agreement was reached, the youth justice coordinator can get agreement from all participants to record any components of the plan that were agreed to. This would give more context to the judge and support decisions on next steps.

If the whānau or family have come up with a plan and it was not agreed with, the youth advocate or lawyer for child can present this plan at court.

However, te tamaiti or rangatahi needs to admit to the charges if section 14(1)(a) is involved or there are care or protection concerns. Section 258 enables the family group conference to formulate plans even if there is non-agreement that te tamaiti or rangatahi is in need of care or protection.

The court supervisor records the judge's directions and communicates the outcome to the youth justice coordinator, social worker, supervisors, and residential kaimahi if applicable. If no parent, caregiver or whānau or family were present, the social worker contacts them and informs them of the court outcome.

At court hearings

We ensure that te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family continue to be aware of what's happening in court, and understand any directions, orders, bail conditions, and future hearing dates.

Bail conditions need to stay relevant and meet the changing needs, strengths, and areas of challenge for te tamaiti or rangatahi. The social worker should advocate for the right conditions, including for the interests of victims:

  • The duration of specific conditions needs to be considered in the context of how te tamaiti or rangatahi perceives time.
  • We may be able to propose incentive conditions – for example, reduce a curfew when no breaches have occurred and te tamaiti or rangatahi is doing well.

The social worker should also regularly review the bail conditions with the youth advocate.

Casenotes in CYRAS

Youth Court case records should be updated to record court directions, bail or custody details, youth advocate details, and any parents or caregivers, whānau or family, supporters, and iwi or other social service providers present at the hearing.

Policy: Case recording

We liaise with the court registrar to obtain copies of court orders, education screens and any forensic information, and specialist assessments that have been released by the court to be uploaded to CYRAS where appropriate.

We check the summary of facts to see if they include the victim's details, and information about reparation – this helps the youth justice coordinator to convene a family group conference, if directed.

We also ensure the Police have provided the Youth Offender Risk Screening Tool (YORST) where a family group conference has been directed.

When a tamaiti or rangatahi in care appears in Youth Court

When a tamaiti or rangatahi in our custody, care or guardianship appears in court, a social worker (preferably the key worker) is required to accompany them. Our role is to support te tamaiti or rangatahi and provide information to the court on their care status and plan. The judge will usually request their Family Court file to inform Youth Court decisions.

We should always strive to ensure that plans in the Youth and Family Courts align.

Court sanction of the plan from the family group conference

At the Youth Court, the judge will consider the decisions, recommendations and plans made at a family group conference, and may:

  • accept the plan and:
    • set a further appearance date that allows sufficient time for te tamaiti or rangatahi to complete the tasks as agreed at the family group conference, or
    • adjourn proceedings until specialist reports are provided, including section 333 psychological or psychiatric reports, social work reports (section 334) and plans (section 335), progress reports and updates
  • not accept the plan and direct another family group conference to be held
  • deal with the matters before the court in another way.

Planning for the next court appearance

Following a court hearing, we ensure that te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family understand the court outcomes, specifically the conditions of their bail if it has been granted. We explain the next steps to them, including if a family group conference has been directed, and the next hearing date.

The court supervisor notes in the court record any actions and tasks that need to be followed up before the next hearing, including updating youth justice coordinators and social workers.

Placement in a bail or remand home, or a residence

When te tamaiti or rangatahi is placed in a bail home, the Youth Court supervisor ensures that te tamaiti or rangatahi and the home receive a copy of the bail conditions. Similarly, when te tamaiti or rangatahi is detained in a remand home or a residence, the court supervisor ensures that te tamaiti or rangatahi and the remand home or residence receive a copy of the custody order.

Social work reports (section 334) and plans (section 335) for the Youth Court

Where the court accepts the family group conference's outcome for an order under section 283 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, we:

  • provide the court with a section 334 social work report for orders such as supervision, community work, supervision with activity, and supervision with residence
  • provide a report when rangatahi are brought before the District or High Court for sentence, or a decision made under section 283
  • may be required to provide reports for other section 283 orders if a judge says.

The social worker outlines the factors the judge considers on sentencing, which are listed in section 284. It includes the effect on the victim of the offence and any need for reparation to be made to the victim.

Victims (who may include whānau or family) have the right to be present at a hearing under section 329(1).

Alongside a section 334 report being submitted to the court, the social worker can also submit an informal plan to the court (not a section 335 plan), to monitor the family group conference outcomes, where no court orders are recommended. This allows for court monitoring, bail conditions where relevant, and the potential for a section 282 discharge from the Youth Court.

The social worker clearly identifies the reasons behind any recommended outcomes. They include social work analysis and relevant practice findings or general research that has been relied on to form views in the report or plan.

The reports should identify and address the static and dynamic risk factors that will help reduce the likelihood of reoffending, such as:

  • developing and strengthening connections that align with the oranga needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
  • developing the oranga of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family
  • building on natural resources
  • engaging with education or employment
  • building on individual strengths
  • improving self-esteem and resilience
  • increasing pro-social attitudes and behaviours
  • using leisure time positively
  • preparing for adulthood and transitioning to independence.

Our practice framework dimension whai pūkenga outlines practice prompts about how we listened to, talked with, and provided information to te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.

A section 335 implementation plan is also required to accompany the section 334 report to the court, where a supervision, community work, supervision with activity, or supervision with residence order is made under section 283. If the section 334 report proposes a plan, the section 335 plan outlines the activities that need to be undertaken and how it will be monitored.

This reflects how we have built a shared understanding of what needs to be in the plan, including:

  • clear objectives
  • clear indications of how objectives will be met (or have been met in relation to Effectiveness Reports)
  • who will be responsible for defined actions
  • the timeframe during which the actions will be achieved.

Our plans focus on engaging and connecting tamariki and rangatahi in education, training or employment, and ensuring that they are living in a safe environment with whānau or family or caregivers. The plans should also include any support they are receiving from specialist services to address issues identified in assessments and/or reports such as trauma, physical disability and neurodisability like FASD or ADHD.

Where te tamaiti or rangatahi is at school, we develop education plans in consultation with parents or legal guardians.

Consideration needs to also be given to the appropriateness of accessing parenting education (including if the rangatahi is becoming or is a parent), mentoring, and alcohol and drug programmes. The plan outlines cultural support needs if this support is not available within their own family, whānau, hapū, iwi or community.

The plan includes social service providers engaged, and services negotiated or contracted to support te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family.

Incorporating our practice approach into reports and plans

We give life to our ngākau whakairo practice framework dimension by ensuring te tamaiti or rangatahi can exercise their right to freely express their views and participate in the preparation and review of their plans. We consider their views and incorporate them into the plan.

Policy: Participation of tamariki – providing information, ensuring understanding and incorporating their views

When planning, we recognise and have regard for whai oranga, which reflects the wider impact of offending on oranga and supports the restoration of mana for te tamaiti or rangatahi, their whānau or family, and victims. This approach acknowledges the whakapapa of tamariki and rangatahi Māori and genealogical connections for all. We also try to incorporate the whanaungatanga responsibilities of whānau, hapū and iwi and family, community or church.

Duties of chief executive in relation to Treaty of Waitangi (Tiriti o Waitangi) – section 7AA(2)(b) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989

Practice standard: Whakamana te tamaiti: Practice empowering tamariki Māori

For te tamaiti or rangatahi, their report and plan reflect the importance of significant relationships and connections, especially those with siblings, and ensures that these are supported and maintained. This also includes recognising values, cultural beliefs, and practices, as well as links to significant places such as marae. This actively promotes our practice framework dimension of whai mātaurangathe voice, lived experiences and collective knowledge of te tamaiti or rangatahi and their whānau or family in the planning process.

Wherever practicable and appropriate, we consult with te tamaiti or rangatahi about any information that may be disclosed about them in an assessment, report and plan. They should also be involved when their plans are being reviewed.

Where te tamaiti or rangatahi is in care or custody, we create or update their All About Me plan.

All About Me plan to meet the needs of tamariki and rangatahi

Transitions for children and young people who offend: Actively planning for success

Policy: Youth justice family group conference – supporting, monitoring and reviewing the plan

Policy: Participation of tamariki – providing information, ensuring understanding and incorporating their views

Consulting about sharing information