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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/transitioning-to-adulthood/transition-to-independence/advice-and-assistance-when-transitioning-out-of-care/supporting-rangatahi-to-develop-their-life-skills/
Printed: 18/07/2024
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Last updated: 25/06/2024

Supporting rangatahi to develop their life skills

Identifying and building life skills is critical for ensuring rangatahi are ready to transition into their adult lives before they leave care or custody.

Transitioning into adulthood and becoming increasingly independent

Transitioning into adulthood and becoming increasingly independent comes with new choices, experiences and challenges. We encourage and support rangatahi to think about what this next stage of their life will look like for them. Identifying and building life skills is an ongoing journey and is critical in ensuring rangatahi are ready to transition into their adult lives before they are discharged from care or custody.

Concepts of independence and adulthood (PDF 204 KB)

Life is not a journey that can be navigated alone. Everyone needs relationships that support and nurture them, no matter what age they are.

Why we support rangatahi to develop life skills

Ngākau whakairo: the heart of the work embedded in practice

"Another thing was what the real world looks like outside of care because something I found while being in care is everything is handed to you on a silver or golden platter or whatever. You know, we don't get taught how to pay bills. We don't get taught about taxes. We don't get taught about the real stuff in the world… So, I didn't know anything about paying rent when I left care. So yes, those are some of the things I wish I was taught."
Care-experienced young person, Nā te tuakana pre-recorded webinar, He Akoranga

By law, most rangatahi in New Zealand are generally considered to be 'adults' once they turn 18 and will then access adult services. For rangatahi to be supported through a more successful transition into adulthood, they need:

  • skills – can they do it for themselves?
  • knowledge – do they know what they need to know?
  • relationships – who will walk alongside them?
  • support – what support will they have available to them as an adult?
  • connections – are they able to access the services and community support they need as an adult?

Once a rangatahi turns 15 years old, we start having more intentional conversations with them to understand and develop life skills. We focus on the skills they will need to grow and develop so they can transition into adulthood successfully.

The National Care Standards and the Oranga Tamariki Act require us to assess and ensure the development of rangatahi life skills.
Oranga Tamariki Act 1989
Oranga Tamariki (National Care Standards and Related Matters) Regulations 2018

Planning with rangatahi for their transition from care to adulthood

Example – Hemana

Hemana (15 years old) has started talking about how he wants to have his full licence once he leaves care, so he can get a car and travel around the country connecting with whānau.

He's already studied the road code and done a few of the online tests. He feels pretty confident in his knowledge about driving. Hemana tells you that he's been driving his uncle's truck around the farm every school holiday since he was 12 years old.

You sit down with Hemana and talk with him about what steps he needs to take between now and when he leaves care. You both work out together how long he must have his learners, then restricted, and how completing an advance driving course can help him get his full licence faster. You ensure Hemana knows he can be financially supported with the costs of getting his birth certificate and applying for his licence. Hemana realises that it will take a bit of planning and work but that it's totally achievable.

Who is involved

Whai mātauranga – the pursuit of knowledge and understanding

Understanding life skills needs to occur with and be increasingly led by rangatahi, and reflect their individual needs, goals and aspirations for their adult life. The social worker is responsible for making sure that there is an ongoing understanding of life skills for the rangatahi, and that relevant information and the plan for developing those life skills is recorded in their All About Me Plan and transition plan.

Policy: All About Me plan

Rangatahi can be referred for a transition worker from 16 (with their consent). The transition worker will start building a relationship with the rangatahi before they leave care and can help them identify and develop life skills.

Transition worker – information sheet (PDF 265 KB)

Supporters and important people in the lives of the rangatahi (transition worker, youth worker, mentor, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai kaiwhakamana, caregivers, school teacher, peers, sports and cultural activities, community groups) may contribute to understanding life skill strengths and needs. This information can be built into the transition plan, with specific actions included to identify and develop the life skills of the rangatahi.

Example – Maia

Maia has a great relationship with her guidance counsellor Ms Paul at kura and engages with her on a regular basis. You as her kaimahi recognise the importance of this relationship and have heard feedback from Maia that she's been planning her subjects with Ms Paul for the next school year.

You ask Maia if she would like to talk with Ms Paul about the work and study part of the life skills tool and have further discussions about her future after kura.

After Maia's conversation with Ms Paul, she has identified that she would like to go to university. You connect Maia with the Amanaki website, which supports care-experienced rangatahi to access tertiary education. Maia's transition worker helps her to think about what she needs to apply for a student allowance and Studylink support.

How we understand life skills needs

Whai oranga: the pursuit of oranga

Rangatahi will have different levels of skill and confidence in managing aspects of their own lives, and they will need ongoing support in some areas to develop this.

Understanding life skills requires a series of ongoing conversations to understand what rangatahi need and want as they become increasingly independent and move into adulthood. To support rangatahi to prepare for adulthood, we help them identify and develop a variety of:

  • skills (such as driving, cooking, writing a CV)
  • knowledge (like tenancy rights and responsibilities, how to budget and pay bills)
  • relationships (for example, whānau, caregivers, transition worker)
  • support (such as transition entitlements, education support, disability support)
  • connections (like a doctor, Work and Income, StudyLink, NASC or disability agencies, cultural connections).

Life skills tool (PDF 418 KB)

The life skills tool will prompt the kōrero with a rangatahi, providing a space to record their views and helping identify the skills, knowledge, relationships and connections that rangatahi want and need to support a more successful transition into adulthood. For disabled rangatahi, this will include the process of helping them to understand and have choice, control and access to adult supports that are available to them.

Practice when working with disabled people

Development of life skills will be an ongoing journey and building skills will happen gradually, over many conversations and interactions over a number of years.

"I went to the bank the other day to talk to the people, about opening a savings account… Usually when I go into places like shops, dairies [they] are all good but banks, places that need your ID, [where they] talk to you like for a long time – it's stressful. But over the past few weeks it's been getting better, probably because I used to jam the [video] games too much."
Young person, interview with Malatest

The life skills tool covers 6 domains:

  • whānau and relationships – how will you have good relationships with the people important to you?
  • being healthy and well – what does being healthy and well look like for you?
  • home – where do you want to live, and what do you need to support that?
  • study and work – what do you need to be ready for study and work?
  • money – what do you need to be ready to look after your own money?
  • community support – what supports do you need from your community?

There are prompts under each domain for different topics to explore and discuss. While comprehensive, it is not an exhaustive list and there may be other life skills or aspects of oranga that should be considered, depending on the individual wants and needs of that rangatahi. It also includes a checklist of documents or resources that rangatahi require before leaving care, as outlined in the National Care Standards.

When using the life skills tool and recording rangatahi views, we use a communication style and approach that best suits the rangatahi. We may print the tool as a poster to scribble on together or put it on the fridge to add to as the rangatahi thinks of new ideas. This might involve drawings, symbols, photos, notes or writing – whatever is meaningful for the rangatahi.

The life skills tool and notes from our conversation with the rangatahi should be recorded on CYRAS using the available header type in New Casenote: Transition – Life Skills Assessment.

Policy: Case recording

Once the life skills that need to be developed are identified, this should lead into the transition plan. The life skills tool develops understanding of the strengths, needs and areas of development for the rangatahi, and the transition plan identifies who will help them, when, where and how. The All About Me plan for the rangatahi should also be updated to reflect their transition plan.

Example – Michael

Michael has been living with his aunt (whānau caregiver) for the past 5 years, since he was 12 years old. He really enjoys living with his aunt and considers her to be like his second mum. You have a catch up with Michael one day and he starts talking about what he wants his life to look like when he leaves school. When you ask him about where he'd like to be living, he says that he wishes he could stay with his aunt for a little bit longer, at least while he gets started with the building apprenticeship he's working towards.

You mention to Michael that this might be possible as he is entitled to remain or return to living with a caregiver (ETRR). You explain to Michael that ETRR is different from living with a caregiver, in that he would be transitioning towards adulthood and with that comes certain responsibilities like paying some money towards his board from his own income and being a responsible adult in the house. You ask Michael if it would be ok to get the caregiver social worker to talk with his aunt about whether she might be agreeable to this. Michael is stoked at the prospect of this arrangement and agrees.

Policy: Transition to adulthood – Entitlement to remain or return to live with a caregiver

Using the life skills tool

Whai pūkenga: the pursuit of practice skills

The life skills tool supports our pursuit of relational, inclusive and restorative practice. Working with rangatahi and those supporting them, we are āta (deliberate and considered) around the individual needs, wants and long-term aspirations of the rangatahi as they move into their adult lives.

Understanding life skills fits within the relational approach:

  • relating with – who are the supporters of the rangatahi who will help them identify and develop life skills?
  • understanding with – what skills, learning, relationships, support and connections does the rangatahi need and want to be ready for adulthood?
  • planning with – how will the rangatahi be supported with this?
  • acting with – are we heading in the right direction, with each supporter doing what they said they would do?
  • reflecting with – celebrating the achievements of the rangatahi and supporting their next steps.

The use of the life skills tool should be adapted to meet the needs and identity of the rangatahi. This might include:

  • for disabled rangatahi – thinking about their communication preferences and how best to engage in this assessment with them, as well as what disability supports they will need or have available to them as adults, and what their own goals are (the Regional Disability Advisor can provide support)
  • for rangatahi Māori – thinking about their relationships and connection with their culture and whakapapa, and where to go to find support and connection to their whānau, hapū and iwi (either now or in the future, depending on their wants) (kairaranga ā-whānau can provide support)
  • for Pacific young people – thinking about their relationships and connection with their culture, and where to go to find support and connection to their aiga or family, village or church (there are Pacific advisors who can provide support)
  • for rainbow and takatāpui rangatahi – thinking about their individual gender and/or sexual identity, and what people and resources are available to support them.

Example – Jordan

Jordan identifies as non-binary and has experienced a lot of bullying, which has had an impact on their mental health. When you have a conversation about life skills, this is something Jordan identifies as wanting to develop support and skills around.

You talk with Jordan about the people they have around them who are positive supports, and they talk about a school rainbow group that they could attend. As Jordan shares, you identify that there would be social media and internet resources that might help connect Jordan with other rainbow rangatahi. When you raise this with Jordan, they are happy for you to discuss this with their transition worker, so they can support Jordan to find and access media that would be helpful to them. 

You help Jordan to contact the local Youth Health Hub for an appointment with a doctor to talk about their mental health and what further supports might be available to them. You plan with a whānau member that Jordan trusts to help get them to their appointment.

How to work effectively with Māori

Working with Pacific peoples: Va'aifetū

Practice when working with disabled people

RainbowYOUTH | ry.org.nz

Takatāpui: a resource hub | takatapui.nz

Rainbow organisations | Te Ngākau Kahukura

LGBTQIA+ Youth Support information sheet | Community and Public Health (PDF 254 KB)

About us | Enabling Good Lives New Zealand

Identity and culture – Tuituia domain

Best approach

Whai ākona – the pursuit of best practice

The development of life skills will be an ongoing journey and will take place over many conversations and years. It is important to review this regularly, as the wants and needs of rangatahi will change and develop as they journey closer to adulthood and gain a better understanding of what their adult lives might look like.

Rangatahi will look at those adults around them as role models. We have the opportunity to use 'teachable moments' when working with rangatahi to demonstrate and explain life skills such as communication, conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques – for example, having patience when someone you are meeting with is running late or apologising when you make a mistake. 

When supporting rangatahi to identify and develop life skills, it is also important to acknowledge our limitations and seek help when we need to. If rangatahi that we are working with need budgeting help but this is not our strength, we seek out an appropriate support to help with this – for example, the transition worker, a whānau member or a budgeting service.

Example – Wiremu

Wiremu is 17 years old and has moved into a flat. Previously, Wiremu has worked hard with his transition worker to set up a budget. When you catch up with Wiremu, he asks if you can buy him a feed as he hasn't eaten all day. You use the opportunity over the meal to ask him how he's managing and find out he's had some unexpected expenses and is struggling.

You talk with him about occasions you've had where money has been tight, and you've had to be careful with your spending. Wiremu agrees he needs some help and he uses your phone to contact his transition worker and set up a meeting to relook at his budget and what other financial supports are available to him.

Transition Assistance helpline

For advice and assistance on any part of supporting rangatahi through their transition to adulthood, contact the Transition Assistance helpline by phone or email.

Free phone: 0800 558 989

Email: transitionsupport@ot.govt.nz