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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/residential-care/working-in-residences/the-journey-through-residence-for-tamariki-and-rangatahi/
Printed: 14/06/2024
Printed pages may be out of date. Please check this information is current before using it in your practice.

Last updated: 01/07/2019

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 approach

What is a residential placement

A residential placement is a supportive environment with a focus on thorough assessment, so that we understand and meet the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi.

The goal of any residential placement is to create sustainable change which enables te tamaiti or rangatahi to return to their community.

This information provides guidance for all staff working with tamariki and rangatahi in, or moving to, a residence. It reflects obligations under both the Oranga Tamariki (Residential Care) Regulations 1996 (Residential Care Regulations) and the Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018 (National Care Standards).

Preparing for arrival

When a tamaiti and rangatahi first arrives at a residence, they will probably be really anxious about having left their whānau or family, friends and places that they are familiar with. The key social worker can help ease their anxiety by providing them with as much information as possible about the residence and what to expect before they arrive at the residence, including the “When you need to stay in a residence” brochure.

Their social worker will update or commence a Tuituia assessment and the All About Me plan to help the transition go smoothly. Make sure that te tamaiti or rangatahi, the whānau or family and caregivers are all involved in this planning process, and plans are recorded in CYRAS so that they can be accessed by residential staff. A pre-entry consult is a good way of getting the social worker, residence staff, te tamaiti or rangatahi and whānau all involved in the decision making and planning.

Residence staff can prepare for their arrival by familiarising themselves with any information already known about te tamaiti or rangatahi.

Residence staff should:

  • Check CYRAS for any relevant information such as the All About Me plan, family group conference plans, offending profile etc.
  • Review the Tuituia assessment to identify any needs, strengths and risks
  • Check with the key social worker that you have all the information you need, including the plan for their transition.

Residence staff should talk with te tamaiti or rangatahi, and their site social worker about what they need to bring with them to the residence. This will include:

  • their custody order
  • medical consent
  • sufficient clothing and personal belongings for their residential stay
  • taonga and their life story book
  • Tamariki All About Me Plan
  • medication.

If these items are unavailable on the day of admission, ask the site social worker for these to be provided as soon as possible. The property of te tamaiti or rangatahi is recorded on a property sheet, signed by the them, and labelled when they arrive so that they don't lose anything during their stay. Some items will not be allowed in the residence and there may be items tamariki don’t want to bring into the residence. We need to talk to te tamaiti or rangatahi about this and about how they would like any belongings that don’t come with them to be looked after.

Residential staff should use the residential assessment triangle to think about where in the residence this particular child or young person is best placed. A pre-admission consult with the team leader about the group dynamics in the residence and any other factors the team leader will need to consider to help make this decision.

Sometimes tamariki or rangatahi will come into a residence on very short notice and there is very little time for assessment and planning. You should give these tamariki as much information as you can about the residence, and re-assure them that they will be supported over the next few days to settle them in.

The information below is useful to understand more about what te tamaiti or rangatahi may be going through at this particularly difficult point in their life.

Policy: Transitions within care

On arrival

During the admission process, reassure te tamaiti or rangatahi and acknowledge that they may have concerns about the residence and not knowing how things work or who to talk to. Let them know that they will get an introduction and orientation to the site as soon as you've completed admission.

Also make sure you:

  • arrange for a staff member to show them around once you've completed the admission. Let them see where they will sleep and other key parts of the residence as soon as possible as this will help lessen their anxiety.
  • take the time to explain some of the details around residential routine
  • introduce them to staff members that they can talk to if they need help
  • provide them with a copy of the child friendly Statement of Rights and the 'When you need to stay in a residence' brochure (if they don’t already have these), talk with them about it, and answer any questions they might have about their rights
  • inform them about Whaia Te Maramatanga and how to access it
  • provide information about VOYCE — Whakarongo Mai.

Explaining rights and entitlements to tamariki and rangatahi

Talk with te tamaiti or rangatahi about who they want to have contact with within their family, whānau, hapū and iwi and others who are important to them, particularly siblings and caregivers while they're in residence, and make sure that they understand the process for this. Make sure they are familiar with what is planned for them and their contact arrangements, so they know what to expect over the coming days and weeks. If there are people that have been deemed unsafe for a child or young person to have contact with during their residential stay, this should be identified in their All About Me plan and make sure you explain why.

Initial screening and checks

Complete the screens for the admissions process upon arrival which will help you to assess physical and emotional health of te tamaiti or rangatahi, and build on the Tuituia assessment. This information needs to be provided to the social worker for te tamaiti so that they can develop or update their All About Me Plan to support these needs.

This includes:

  • the SACS (Substances and Choices Scale), Kessler and Suicide screens (SKS)
  • an initial health check.

SACS, Kessler and Suicide screens (SKS)

When this initial screening process identifies any immediate health needs (e.g. sight or hearing) or mental health needs, take action to address these. The case leader should record immediate support and actions in the Risk Summary in youth justice residences or Operational Plan in care and protection residences. More long term needs and support should be recorded in the All About Me plan. For rangatahi in a Youth justice Residence, this could be in their Individual Care plan, which is then linked to their All About Me Plan.

If te tamaiti or rangatahi has arrived at the residence with any medication, hand this to the nurse or shift leader as soon as possible. It is important that medication is kept secured and safe at all times and that te tamaiti or rangatahi receives it when required.

Planning for the stay

Planning begins before tamariki and rangatahi enter the residence, and is a continually evolving process to meet their changing needs and reflect their progress.

All tamariki and rangatahi in the care or custody of the chief executive need to have an All About Me plan, completed by their social worker, that describes the support and services required to meet their needs. Tamariki and rangatahi also need a plan for while they are in a residence that describes their objectives and responsibilities. This is recorded in their All About Me Plan, or for rangatahi in Youth justice Residence, in their Individual Care plan, which is then linked to their All About Me Plan.

Tamariki and rangatahi will also need to have a Risk Summary in youth justice residences or Operational Plan in care and protection residences describing any safety or immediate needs and how to manage these. For residential stays less than 5 days they should also include details about the specific strengths and needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi, education, recreational activities, and contact with significant others.

We need to enable and support tamariki and rangatahi to participate in decisions about them and have input into their plans. Their views need to be taken into account and recorded. If we can’t give effect to their views, this must be explained to te tamaiti and recorded.

Whānau, caregivers and other significant individuals for te tamaiti or rangatahi should also be included in the development of the plans and their views taken into account.

Tamariki need to understand what is planned for them in a way they understand. The child friendly Tamariki All About Me Plan, is one way their information can be shared in a way that is right for each tamaiti. Think about the best way to do this, in a way that is appropriate for their age, development, disability and language. In a youth justice residence giving tamariki a copy of their All About Me plan or Individual Care Plan might be appropriate, but we will need to work through it with them to make sure they understand it. Consider what documents can be safely left with te tamaiti or rangatahi, or secured confidentially for them to access when they want to.

Engaging with te tamaiti or rangatahi

When a tamaiti or rangatahi is placed in residential care, it is important that we understand their strengths and needs and support them to change their behaviour and improve their wellbeing.

  • Manage your interactions with te tamaiti or rangatahi to reinforce that they are safe and their views are respected.
  • Let them know that even when they get something wrong, they can use this experience to learn new things - these are ‘teachable moments'.
  • Make sure that tamariki and rangatahi feel safe in their placement; they will not be able to focus on making changes and trying new things if they feel unsafe.
  • Role-model pro-social behaviour. Tamariki and rangatahi who enter residential care may not have had adults in their life who have been able to guide them about appropriate interactions with others and how to resolve conflict in a safe way. This is an ideal opportunity to role model behaviour which encourages tamariki and rangatahi to see different ways of interacting with others.


Each residence has a dedicated medical team that can help you to administer medication correctly. Staff members who are designated to administer medication (i.e. shift leaders and team leaders) should go over the medication files with the nurse and clarify any instructions which may not be clear to them.

See full details on administering medication in the Working with tamariki and rangatahi in residences policy.

Policy: Working with tamariki and rangatahi in residences

Behaviour change practice

All tamariki and rangatahi need routine, structure and boundaries to help them be successful. In the residential setting the care team is best placed to promote behavioural change. Your ability to develop and maintain warm and nurturing relationships, as well as enforcing consistent behavioural limits, will have a significant impact on the ability of tamariki and rangatahi to make sustainable changes.

To support best outcomes for the tamariki and rangatahi in residential care, maintain an approach that is consistent with the Oranga Tamariki Code of Conduct. We expect you to:

  • use respectful and professional language at all times
  • attend all training workshop opportunities in behaviour change practice
  • consistently model values such as respect, honesty, and responsibility
  • take responsibility for your own behaviour
  • recognise when mistakes are made and take appropriate action, e.g. apologise
  • maintain effective communication with tamariki and rangatahi and with other staff
  • manage conflict constructively
  • have a positive attitude to work.

Our residences provide a structured day with opportunities for developing and practicing behaviours and skills that tamariki and rangatahi need for everyday living.

Punctuated practice

All staff working in the residential environment receive training in the ‘punctuated practice’ approach. Punctuated practice is about keeping everyone safe in our environments using safe strong practice. It works best when we are connected and engaged with tamariki and rangatahi.

Punctuated practice is used to:

  • accurately identify both appropriate and inappropriate behaviours demonstrated by tamariki and rangatahi
  • respond in a timely manner at the appropriate level (when a response is necessary).

Punctuated practice is dependent on staff being well connected with te tamaiti or rangatahi so we can understand the triggers and early warning signs of escalating behaviours.

It is important to recognise that behaviours can quickly escalate from low level to high level. We should be looking out for triggers and early warning signs so we can intervene as early as possible at the lowest form of intervention.

It is important to review your responses to high level behaviour to assess if the behaviour started as high. It may be that it started as medium or low level behaviour and was not appropriately identified at the time, so escalated to high level. Discuss this in the shift debrief.

Operational plans in care and protection residences or risk summaries in youth justice residences are individualised for each tamaiti or rangatahi and provide management strategies for care team staff to consistently manage specific risks or behaviours of concern. Operational plans include triggers for behaviour and strategies for staff to influence positive behavioural change and de-escalate difficult behaviour.

Points and levels behaviour change system

We use a contingency approach (a ‘points and levels' behavioural system) with tamariki and rangatahi to help shape desired behaviour. The points and levels system emphasises recognition of and attention to pro-social behaviours, aiming to increase their use by te tamaiti or rangatahi.

The system incorporates a ‘response cost' component designed to help te tamaiti or rangatahi understand the negative consequences and disadvantages of reliance on inappropriate behaviours. In tandem with this, we focus on teaching te tamaiti or rangatahi the appropriate behaviours to use in place of the inappropriate behaviours. Through this approach we aim to reduce reliance of te tamaiti or rangatahi on inappropriate behaviours as a way of functioning.

The points system incorporates the use of ‘levels' to support progress of te tamaiti or rangatahi in learning and maintaining the behaviours and skills they will need for a successful and sustainable transition from the residence. As te tamaiti or rangatahi is able to consistently demonstrate pro-social behaviours, they will be recognised by graduating through the 1, 2 and 3 level incentive system.

The points system:

  • is designed for practicality, simplicity and ease of use by staff
  • is designed for ease of understanding and ‘use' by te tamaiti or rangatahi
  • is completed with the young person by the care team with the shift leaders
  • is in operation 24/7; across daily routines, programmes and school sessions in the residence
  • is computer based for efficiency and to facilitate regular evaluation of the young person or child's progress against specific objectives within their behaviour management plan
  • ensures an emphasis on recognising and rating the positive behaviour demonstrated by tamariki and rangatahi. Ratings are weighted to ensure positive behaviours carry a higher tariff, in comparison with inappropriate behaviours.

Teachable moments and pro-social modelling

The care team has huge potential to positively impact on the children or young people's wellbeing, motivation and behaviour change. As you spend the most time with the children or young people, you are there when most ‘teachable moments' happen.

Teachable moments are learning opportunities at times when te tamaiti or rangatahi behaves inappropriately or is having difficulties managing distressing feelings like anger, frustration or anxiety. Care team staff can help the young person to problem solve, develop coping strategies, or make appropriate choices. With your support, tamariki and rangatahi can then learn and practice the skills to manage their feelings and behaviour in a socially acceptable way.

Because they are more familiar with you and the residence environment, the children or young people are also more likely to be open about their core beliefs, attitudes, behaviour and feelings with you than they might be in a session with a therapist. This gives you opportunities for open discussion with the children or young people.

Shift planning and debriefing

When planning for a shift it is important that any other professionals that may require access to the tamariki and rangatahi, such as health and education professionals, or programme providers, are considered and consulted in the planning as appropriate. Make sure you have a good understanding of the time that is set aside for each activity and how you can change the plan throughout the shift if this becomes necessary.

Shift debriefing ensures that all information from the shift is captured, and any information about specific tamariki and rangatahi is passed on to the appropriate people within the wider residential team and social worker for follow up. Debriefs review the effectiveness of the planning and measure this against a variety of areas including safety, communication, teamwork, and strategies for managing both the group and individual needs amongst the tamariki and rangatahi. There may also be occasions where a serious incident has occurred during the shift, and it is important to remember that a Psychological First Aid debrief is available.

Night-time monitoring

Visual checks of tamariki and rangatahi in their rooms at night are complemented by audio monitoring.

The frequency of visual checks of children or young people is determined in their operational plan.

During the night one ground check is to be completed of the residence building. This includes checking the perimeter of the residence and the outside of all bedroom windows.

Keeping children and young people safe at night

Secure care

The ability to provide secure care is an option to prevent children or young people being a risk to themselves or others, when there is no alternative to ensuring safety. This is not a punishment — it's a way to manage a particular behaviour. It is important that tamariki and rangatahi are given a clear explanation as to the reason that they have been placed in secure care.

The Individual Care Plan, All About Me plan, and/or operational plan of te tamaiti or rangatahi may also need to be updated after they have been in secure care to outline different or more appropriate interventions which are hoped to help prevent further incidents.

Security and emergency management planning

Because we have the care of the tamariki and rangatahi 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we need to have appropriate measures in place to deal with any event that may arise.

Familiarise yourself with the Security Management Plan and the Emergency Management Plan so that you know what to do in an emergency and how to assist in maintaining security.

Preparing te tamaiti or rangatahi to leave the residence

Residences are not a destination for anyone, but rather part of the care journey to meet a child or young person's permanent care needs, including those returning to their whānau. From the very first day te tamaiti or rangatahi is in a residence, planning for transition from residence will be captured in their All About Me plan.

Transition planning will identify the needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi, including:

  • care arrangements
  • whānau or family support
  • education and/or vocational options
  • linking into appropriate health services and other identified specialist support services (such as alcohol and drug counselling or anger management support).

Tamariki and rangatahi on remand may leave the residence on very short notice, so make sure the plan for their transition out of the residence begins straight away, and is appropriate for a sudden release.

The team that sits around te tamaiti or rangatahi – which will include whānau or family, residential staff, the site social worker, health and education providers, significant others, any caregivers and te tamaiti or rangatahi themselves - will develop and monitor the objectives of the transition and make sure that:

  • planning around transition begins as soon as te tamaiti or rangatahi is admitted into the residence
  • information about te tamaiti or rangatahi is shared appropriately with those involved with the child of young person
  • post placement visits are arranged
  • there is assistance to help get the placement back on track if it is needed.