What is the child/young person and family consult
The consult is a tool that helps you structure your thinking about what you know is happening in the family/whānau. It helps you to identify and consider indicators of danger/harm alongside indicators of safety and strengths.
The consult aims to increase safety for te tamaiti by using the strengths and resources of the family/whānau to address the areas of danger or harm.
This turns strengths into protective factors — which over time are demonstrated as safety.
When to use it
The consult supports decision making at any point in the social work assessment, planning, intervention and review process.
The consult must be used:
- during the care and protection assessment (child and family assessment or investigation) to inform the analysis and next steps
- for all tamariki (aged 10–13 years) who offend
- for all tamariki (aged 14–16) who offend and who have a care and protection intervention which is current or has been active within the last three months
- when removal from or return home is considered
- as the framework for the professionals meeting held when returning te tamaiti home.
- when reviewing the child or young person’s plan.
The consult can also be used:
- during the youth justice pre-family group conference case consultation as a way to structure what is known about the risks and needs for te tamaiti and to support your decision as to whether a Tuituia assessment is required
- during the process of recording a Tuituia assessment especially when completing the 'why we are involved' and 'what we are worried about' sections
- when in a case-specific multi-agency/multi-disciplinary meeting, as a way to facilitate purposeful information sharing, focus on risk and safety, and support analysis and decision-making.
Who uses it
The consult can be used:
- by a social worker in discussions with the family/whānau
- individually by a social worker in thinking through their own case
- by co-workers when planning and analysing
- in supervision between a social worker and supervisor
- in a group consult process
- with the professionals/other agencies involved to ascertain their views.
The allocated social worker is responsible for ensuring that the written record of the consult is transferred into CYRAS, including into the relevant sections of the Tuituia assessment.
Using the group consult process
While it can be used in a variety of ways, the group consult process provides additional practice strengths and possibilities including:
- robust, open and transparent decision making
- a range of expertise and experience being brought to bear on complex issues
- building professional capacity.
For this reason Oranga Tamariki promotes the use of the consult within a facilitated group process using appreciative enquiry techniques to promote professional analysis and decision-making.
How to use it
The process of working through the elements of the consult in conversation helps us clarify our thinking and make sense of what is known.
The elements of the consult do not need to be completed in a particular order, but it's best to begin by defining the purpose of the consultation.
The purpose states what the critical decision is that needs to be made. This ensures that the conversation is focused and purposeful, and leads towards achieving a clear outcome. Review at the end whether the purpose has been achieved.
Genograms describe the composition of the family/whānau and key relationships. Completing a comprehensive genogram helps us understand the family/whānau and other relationships important to te tamaiti, including pets.
Danger/harm and safety continuum
The consult is headed with a double-headed arrow, reflecting that work with families/whānau operates on a continuum.
Under the danger/harm end of the continuum, consider information relating to past, current and/or future risk of harm for te tamaiti, including:
- offending that has been established or alleged
- other aspects of the situation that contribute to potential danger (eg alcohol or drug abuse, family violence, offending).
At the other end of the continuum, consider information relating to factors that indicate safety for te tamaiti. In this context, ‘safety’ is defined as ‘strengths demonstrated as protective factors over time’.
Being clear about the risks to the child or young person ensures that our involvement is transparent and focused on the areas that require attention and resolution. If the risk statement is not clear then identifying the safety goal becomes difficult.
Risk statements should relate directly to their impact on te tamaiti. They focus on:
- the adult behaviour and the impact if that does not change
- the behaviour of te tamaiti and the impact if that does not change.
It's important to use language that all members of the family/whānau can understand.
A useful structure for a risk statement is: I am worried that (the person and their behaviour) and this will result in (impact on te tamaiti).
Consider any needs te tamaiti has. Pay particular attention to those needs that pose the greatest risk to their safety and wellbeing. Use the Tuituia assessment framework, which should reflect all known needs of te tamaiti.
Consider strengths and resources within the situation or family/whānau that may be developed to achieve safety and reduce the possibility of future harm.
Strengths become protective factors when they are able to be used to address safety and/or behaviour change for te tamaiti.
Often there are areas of information that we are not sure about or do not yet understand how they contribute to potential danger/harm, risk or safety.
These are identified as grey areas, and should be identified for follow-up in your next steps.
These are factors or dangerous dynamics that may complicate our work with te tamaiti.
They are complicating factors because:
- they're factors that remain constant, and
- they have a dynamic relationship with danger/harm and safety for te tamaiti.
Try to determine if these factors or dynamics contribute to danger/harm or safety and record them so they can be addressed as next steps.
Te tamaiti is 16 and also has a child of her own. We need to consider their individual and mutually dependent needs in order to understand what this means for both.
We know the parent of te tamaiti has a mental health diagnosis. The impact on danger/harm or safety for te tamaiti depends on how the condition is being managed — and this could change over time.
Scaling is important — a continuum from danger to safety automatically embraces the possibility of change occurring. It is an accessible and straightforward way to show views about safety, and it allows comparisons over time and between key people.
Once you've identified the indicators of safety and of danger/harm, scale the case — 1 indicates immediate safety or protection is required and 10 indicates no safety issues or enough safety to close.
Where the consult is about a young person who has offended, there's additional scale for their offending behaviour and their progress towards pro-social behaviours and taking responsibility for their actions.
Working through the consult process will identify what the next steps are. They could be:
- gathering additional information
- meeting with the family/whānau to build safety around te tamaiti
- communicating the outcome of the consult with others
- finalising the Tuituia report.
Whatever they are record them clearly — using the SMART principles and the three Ws — What, When, Who.