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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/our-work/transitioning-to-adulthood/transition-to-independence/before-rangatahi-turn-18-preparing-them-to-leave-our-care/
Printed: 18/07/2024
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Last updated: 08/11/2023

Before rangatahi turn 18 — preparing them to leave our care

We must prepare and assist eligible rangatahi over 15 years old when they leave care or a youth justice residential placement to successfully transition to adulthood.

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

How we help prepare rangatahi

1 Start talking about transition from age 15

From the age of 15, social workers’ conversations with rangatahi will naturally include discussions about their transition from care or from a youth justice residential placement.

We need to:

  • help the rangatahi adapt to the idea of leaving care or a youth justice residential placement, and figure out what this transition means for them practically and emotionally
  • encourage and support rangatahi to express their views and take the lead in decision-making and planning (whakamana te tamaiti)
  • involve whānau or family, caregivers and other members of their support network, including professionals such as the lawyer for child, so they know what’s happening and can support the rangatahi
  • ensure that the rangatahi can access legal advice – this may involve their lawyer for child, if allocated.

For rangatahi Māori it is important that we also strengthen and maintain their whakapapa links to whānau. If further support for rangatahi is required ensure you talk with your kairaranga ā-whānau, local mana whenua, or an experienced Māori or bicultural practitioner onsite.

During this period, we want to help rangatahi:

  • develop life skills
  • build their capabilities
  • enhance their strengths
  • strengthen their support networks.

We should ask them:

  • what their goals are
  • what they want to achieve while they’re still in our care
  • what they want to happen after they leave our care.

We should tell them face to face and follow up in writing about the transition service that’s provided by Oranga Tamariki to support them after they leave our care, which includes:

  • providing them with advice and assistance until they turn 25
  • supporting them to remain or return to live with a caregiver until they turn 21
  • proactively maintaining contact with them until they turn 21.

Advice and assistance when transitioning out of care

Remain or return to living with a caregiver

Maintaining contact

We need to keep checking in with them that they understand the service, their entitlements, what this means practically to them and how they will access more information. This should include explaining that:

  • if rangatahi go on to ask for advice and assistance, that they must consent to share information with us so we can determine their needs
  • financial assistance can only occur if we have first considered what other financial assistance is available.

2 Match rangatahi with a transition worker

We advise rangatahi that when they turn 16, with their consent, we will refer them to a local service who will match them with a transition worker that meets the needs of the rangatahi, including their cultural needs. We will advocate on behalf of the rangatahi to ensure there is a good match between them and a transition worker.

We are responsible for leading the assessment and planning for rangatahi until they leave care or turn 18.

Transition workers will work with social workers and rangatahi to:

  • assist rangatahi to develop skills and knowledge
  • build their confidence and connect them with opportunities to broaden their networks of support
  • connect with whānau.

Once they turn 18 or leave our care, the transition worker will have the primary responsibility for maintaining contact with rangatahi and providing them with proactive support and assistance up until they turn 21.

We and transition workers need to have clear channels of communication while working together to help rangatahi prepare to leave our care. Regular meetings and reflections need to be scheduled so everyone is on the same page. Social workers and transition workers need to freely share information between themselves about how rangatahi are progressing and what needs to happen next.

If there isn’t a transition worker available, an Oranga Tamariki social worker will take on the responsibility of maintaining contact with rangatahi until their 21st birthday. 

Maintaining contact

Introducing the transition worker

Social workers need to give some thought about how to best introduce transition workers to rangatahi. They will have already shared with rangatahi what the role of transition workers are and how they will work together with them, but social workers may want to remind rangatahi about this before setting up any face-to-face meetings.

Generally it would make sense for social workers to be at the first meetings to facilitate the conversations and to help rangatahi feel more comfortable. Social workers may want to have a series of meetings before rangatahi feel safe to meet their transition workers on their own – although one meeting may be enough for some rangatahi.

Let rangatahi decide where and when the meetings should be held and check with them if they want anyone else to attend. They might feel happier having their whānau, caregivers or a friend with them.

3 Review custody arrangements

As part of preparing for their transition from care, we need to ensure rangatahi understand the various ways we can continue to support them, listen to their views and take their views into account. This should occur during any Family Court review or as part of a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting to prepare to leave care.

Rangatahi may have a view on whether a custody order is the best ongoing option. Another option could be discharging the custody order and seeking a support order. While this will remove the ability of Oranga Tamariki to provide board payments to caregivers as rangatahi will no longer be under a care or custody order, alternative funding to meet their reasonable needs could be achieved through other means, such as via agreement at a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting, or as part of the support order. The Family Court would be required to make any change in orders. Before that occurred, the lawyer for child would be able to give rangatahi independent advice and would be required to provide the views of rangatahi to the court.

A shift from a custody order to a support order before the age of 18 does not necessarily affect the eligibility of rangatahi to return to live with a caregiver from the age of 18 up to 21 if they have already met the criteria. It would only affect the Transition to Adulthood entitlement to remain or return to living with a caregiver if this reduced the custody order length to be less than 3 months. If this was to occur, then careful consideration should be given to suitable living arrangements from 18 years of age.

4 Build a solid and enduring support network around rangatahi

Relationships with key supportive adults, young people and organisations, including family, whānau, hapū and iwi, are essential for all rangatahi. Strong, trusting, supportive, positive relationships will help rangatahi build resilience and ease their transition from care. These relationships and networks also provide rangatahi with the emotional and practical support they need after they leave care. Building a wide network of support is among the most critical ways to help rangatahi to successfully transition to adulthood.

For rangatahi Māori, engagement with their wider network of support – either whakapāpā whānau (blood whānau) or kaupapa whānau (extended whānau friends and community network) – will be essential in reinforcing strong relationships as they transition towards independence (self-determination).

Help rangatahi develop and sustain relationships with:

  • family, whānau, hapū and iwi — talk with your kairaranga ā-whānau about how to make some of these connections if they’re not already in place
  • current and possibly previous caregiving families
  • significant adults to mentor and provide guidance to rangatahi (or become formal additional guardians), once they’re no longer in the custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive
  • significant people for rangatahi within their community, such as friends from sport, cultural, education, hobby or religious groups.

They’ll also have their transition worker as part of their support network while they’re preparing to leave our care and once they have left our care.

If they are not already connected, make sure they also know about VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai, an independent service for tamariki who have been or are in care.

VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai

5 Explore their involvement with whānau or family

The transition period is a good time to explore with rangatahi what kind of involvement they want to have with family/whānau members, hapū, marae or iwi, particularly if interactions have been or are difficult.

While rangatahi may not want to live with a particular family/whānau member, or the adult may not be able to provide a safe care environment, that family/whānau member may still be able to offer rangatahi some other type of support.

We can practise with rangatahi how they might broach potentially challenging conversations, such as how to say no if they don’t want contact with a family/whānau member or how to make contact in a way that is emotionally safe. This is also an area where support workers can play a role in supporting rangatahi.

6 Assess their needs

We should keep using the Tuituia assessment framework during the time that rangatahi start transitioning from our care to independence.

Tuituia framework and domains

Through Tuituia we assess their changing:

  • needs
  • strengths
  • aspirations, wishes and goals
  • life skills
  • cultural identity and connections to iwi.

The focus of the assessment will be different and will increasingly focus on how rangatahi exercise increasing autonomy for their own safety and wellbeing rather than relying solely on the adults around them. The support network of each rangatahi, particularly people they are living with, can offer lots of opportunities for the rangatahi to practise life skills and build their knowledge and confidence.

Oranga Tamariki has developed guidance around assessing life skills.

Supporting rangatahi to develop their life skills

VOYCE Whakarongo Mai — How-to videos

7 Make a plan

We meet with the rangatahi and whānau where possible to make a plan to:

  • reflect the goals and aspirations of rangatahi and chart how and who will help them get there – the rangatahi leads this process with support from their social worker
  • meet the identified needs (including areas of life skill development)
  • build on their strengths
  • mitigate risks – this could include the rangatahi having more contact with whānau or family and needing to manage difficult relationships and keep themselves safe.

Planning for the transition happens at an appropriate, comprehensive whānau decision-making process, such as a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting. It is important that the transition planning hui is well facilitated and inclusive. Social workers review the plan at least once a year, with the last review happening 6 months before the rangatahi leaves care.

Planning with rangatahi for their transition from care to adulthood

Hui ā-whānau

The social worker ensures the rangatahi has a current, relevant plan that:

  • is written in a way that makes sense to the rangatahi
  • can be easily passed on to (and understood by) transition workers when they move into their role.

Consider any restrictions (such as family group conference or Family Court rules) but a copy of the plan, or the parts of the plan that are relevant to them, should be shared with whānau and other significant people who are involved in supporting rangatahi to both leave care and become thriving young adults. Remember to talk to rangatahi about who will be receiving this information and why.

Policy: Family Court

Planning with rangatahi for the transition from care to adulthood

Policy: Care arrangements – Approved independent living arrangements

Content in development

A resource outlining what 'adulthood' and 'independence' means for rangatahi leaving our care is in development.