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
Updates made to this guidance
The development of a plan for rangatahi transitioning out of our care needs to be agreed by an appropriate, comprehensive whānau decision-making process, such as a family group conference. If this is not available, we may also use a hui ā-whānau or family meeting process. The type of hui used for transition planning must be well facilitated and inclusive based on the wishes of the rangatahi and their whānau in a form that maximises their engagement in the decision-making.
Transitioning to adulthood
We want rangatahi to develop their knowledge and skills so that when it is time for them to transition into adulthood, they have the right kinds of skills, abilities and support networks in place to do this safely.
Rangatahi become eligible for transition services if they have been in care for at least three months consecutively after the age of 14 years and 9 months. This includes youth justice rangatahi who have been placed on remand or sentenced to a section 311 order.
For rangatahi in care or custody (excluding those on an extended care order under section 140(1)(d) of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, which can only be made, extended or terminated through a family group conference), the plan for transition must be developed and agreed by an appropriate, comprehensive whānau decision-making process, such as a family group conference. If this is not available, we may also use a hui ā-whānau or family meeting process. What type of hui we use for transition planning will be based on the wishes of the rangatahi and their whānau or family and in a form that maximises their engagement in the decision-making. It is important that this is well facilitated and inclusive. The planning for transition will be held at least once a year after the rangatahi has turned 15, with the final plan developed at least six months before they leave care. This is to make sure all considerations are accounted for by the time they leave care.
When rangatahi are 17 years old and in care due to care and protection concerns, and have never had a family group conference to plan for their transition from care into adulthood, social workers should refer them for a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting straight away. At a minimum, they should make sure that a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting is held six months before their 18th birthday.
Roles during transition planning
This guidance is for Oranga Tamariki social workers and coordinators working with rangatahi.
Before the family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting, social workers should discuss with rangatahi how things might happen and what feels most comfortable for them. This must include identifying who they would like to attend and support them at the family group conference, hui-ā whānau or family meeting. We need to help them consider and identify things that are important to them, and what they feel they need as they transition to adulthood. This will inform discussions about their aspirations and needs at their family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting. Social workers may need more than one meeting with rangatahi to discuss and develop these ideas for their plan.
If a transition worker is working with a rangatahi, get together with them and the rangatahi to decide on each other’s roles and responsibilities.
If a family group conference is proposed, coordinators need to support rangatahi to take a lead role – this is their life and their transition plan and they need support to take ownership of this in a way that feels comfortable to them.
Care and protection coordinators hold the family group conference if there is a care status for the rangatahi under Part 2 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, even if the rangatahi has offended. The purpose of the family group conference is to consider how to support the transition of the rangatahi out of care into adulthood. It is part of the review of the section 128 plan under section 135(4).
If the rangatahi has offended and the only care status is custody under Part 4 or Part 5 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, then a youth justice coordinator could hold the family group conference.
If a hui ā-whānau is proposed, these are best led or co-facilitated by whānau themselves with support from their community and/or Oranga Tamariki representatives (such as a social worker or kairaranga ā-whānau).
If a family meeting is proposed, this can be led by the whānau or family or a social worker, with support of a transition worker if one has been appointed.
If a family group conference is being considered to undertake transition planning, the following step-by-step guide will help you.
How to hold a transition family group conference
1 Meet with the rangatahi before you refer for a family group conference
Oranga Tamariki social workers should meet with rangatahi and their support people to explain the role of the family group conference and its purpose in helping them to plan for their transition from care into adulthood (including reviewing any existing relevant information collected as part of previous family group conferences).
Oranga Tamariki social workers should work with the coordinators at this early stage to help answer any questions about the family group conference process.
Most rangatahi will likely have attended a family group conference in the past and some may have negative feelings attached to their experience. Social workers need to explain to rangatahi what the conference will look like and be clear with them that this is their conference and it is about their life so their voice in the process matters. They need to help them be realistic about what the conference can achieve and to understand their role in making it a success.
It is not a legal requirement for coordinators to facilitate the conference. Social workers can offer rangatahi the chance to do this if they are comfortable to do so – it can be a leadership opportunity and a way for them to take charge of the process. Social workers (or someone else) can assist rangatahi in this role on the day. Alternatively, rangatahi may suggest someone else who they would like to take this lead.
When rangatahi want coordinators to facilitate the conference and they haven’t already met, Oranga Tamariki social workers should talk with them about how they would like to meet coordinators for the first time. Rangatahi may be comfortable doing this alone or they might want their social workers or someone else to attend.
2 Make a referral for the family group conference
Oranga Tamariki social workers make the referral for the conference using the same referral form they would use for a family group conference being held to address care and protection concerns. There is space in the referral form for them to add in any extra headings and details they think will be useful.
Social workers should talk to coordinators at their site about any other information they will need to accept the referral (such as the most up-to-date Tuituia assessment) and convene the conference.
3 Decide who will attend the family group conference
The people who are entitled to attend the conference are:
- their lawyer
- their social worker
- their coordinator
- their current caregiver
- their parents, guardians and members of their whānau or family and family group.
Coordinators are required to consult with all of these people.
If rangatahi already have transition workers, they play a critical role in the Family Group Conference process and support any plan developed with rangatahi.
In planning the family group conference, the wishes of rangatahi need to be considered, and they can suggest other people who they would like to be invited such as their transition workers, their caregivers, friends and members of their support network. Coordinators will talk with rangatahi about who they would like to attend and together they will agree the role of these other people at the family group conference.
Coordinators should also check with rangatahi to see if there are whānau or family or others that they specifically do not want to attend the conference, and they need to find out the reasons why rangatahi may feel this way. There may be whānau or family members who present a risk to the safety of rangatahi and these people may be excluded by the coordinator.
When the participants are decided, it is the coordinator’s responsibility to make contact with each of them to explain the purpose of the conference as some may never have attended a family group conference so won’t know how it all works. They need to cover how it will run and the importance of their role in supporting rangatahi in their transition into adulthood.
Even if rangatahi do not want their parents or guardians to attend, coordinators need to make that final decision. If the decision is that they not attend, the coordinator will discuss the rationale for this decision with the parent or guardian and will at least ensure they know the conference is happening and ask them for their views.
4 Hold planning meetings and engage with the rangatahi and their whānau or family
Once referrals are made, Oranga Tamariki social workers need to meet with their supervisors and coordinators to talk about what is happening with rangatahi and what the proposed plan for their transition from care into adulthood might look like. In this conversation, it’s important that they consider the long-term needs of rangatahi, their wellbeing and their support networks. They should also consult with and include transition workers if allocated for rangatahi.
Coordinators convene or set up the conference, and they do this by talking with rangatahi and their whānau or family to confirm a date, time and place to hold the conference. They also determine the way the conference may be opened and closed and any special features that they may want. It is important that coordinators ask rangatahi for their ideas and views about opening and closing the conference – they may want to take a lead on this if their whānau are comfortable supporting them to do this.
Just before any family group conference is held, Oranga Tamariki social workers and their supervisors need to meet with the coordinators. This to check that everyone is happy with the key ideas proposed for a plan for rangatahi. If there are financial needs attached to the proposals, they need to make sure this has been discussed and agreed with their budget managers.
The ideas should include but not be limited to:
- living situation
- health and wellbeing
- culture and whānau connections, including links to hapū, iwi and marae for rangatahi Māori
- peer and community connections
- legal considerations
- financial support
- life skills to be attained (based on their life skills assessment)
- documents (such as birth certificate, passport, IRD number).
Oranga Tamariki social workers need to ensure the key ideas discussed for the proposed plan provide detail around particular tasks that need to be completed and who will complete these. For example, in terms of connecting the rangatahi with their whānau, a task might be for their caregiver to take them to their marae to start the journey of exploring their whakapapa or ensure that they are registered with their iwi. Another example might be that rangatahi want to enrol in a course of study and their social worker will work with them to complete the application form, go with them on a tour of the campus and make sure they know the student support services available to them.
It is the social worker’s responsibility to ensure that a proposed plan is developed with rangatahi to bring to the family group conference for consideration.
If Oranga Tamariki social workers believe there may be some things that might get in the way of agreeing to a plan on the day, they may hold a family meeting or hui ā-whānau before the family group conference. This can be a safe space for people to raise concerns or to share information, and means that any issues can be ironed out so that when the conference is held, a plan can be easily created without these issues or concerns getting in the way of some good outcomes.
A family meeting or hui ā-whānau could be useful if rangatahi are disconnected from their whānau and there is room to do some work to build that connection, or if there are few options for their living situation and there is a need to bring people together to brainstorm some ideas. Coordinators could also attend these hui to explain the family group conference process.
Professionals meeting for disability or mental health needs
If rangatahi have disabilities or mental health needs, social workers need to meet with relevant professionals to talk about the needs of rangatahi as they transition. They need to make sure all of the relevant services (and any new services identified) are involved and that people understand what is being planned for rangatahi. This meeting is particularly important when there is only one more conference to be held before rangatahi turn 18, as their plan will need to cover how to move rangatahi across to adult mental health and disability services.
5 Hold the family group conference
The cultural background of rangatahi is important for how the conference is run. For rangatahi Māori, social workers and coordinators need to make sure that they, or someone at the conference, is able to support any tikanga (such as karakia and mihi) which rangatahi may consider to be important.
Each conference is unique to each rangatahi but there are some key things that each conference may include:
- Whakawhanaungatanga – welcome, open the conference, introductions
- Celebrate the achievements and strengths of rangatahi
- Review the previous plan (if this isn’t the first family group conference held to plan the transition of rangatahi from care to independence)
- Hear from information givers (in some cases it might be useful for representatives from specific services – current and/or new – to come to the beginning of the conference and give a presentation about what their service offers or the work they are doing with rangatahi and what they see as needing more work and what they can offer moving forward. Make sure they are ready to explain this in a way that rangatahi can understand)
- Presentation of the proposed plan (rangatahi may do this or ask someone to do this on their behalf)
- Family time
- Agree the plan
- Agree the review timeframe
- Close the conference.
Family time may not be needed at each family group conference that is held but it does need to be offered. Family time could be helpful in situations where there are a number of different living options for rangatahi, and they want time with their family and others close to them to review these options and get their help to make a decision. Family time could also be used when the conference is being held but the preferences of rangatahi are still developing for their plan. In these situations, coordinators might give rangatahi and others some time together to mull over some key questions that rangatahi might still be working through, such as:
- What are my future goals?
- What do I see myself doing as a career?
- Where would I live if I could live anywhere?
The answers can be used to formulate the more formal makings of a transition plan which can be further developed when everyone comes back together.
While a big part of the focus of the conference will be on the transitional needs of rangatahi (how with support they’ll keep themselves safe, build their life skills, access services) – if there are other needs to be met around past trauma and abuse or due to their offending behaviour, these will be addressed in the plan as well.
Oranga Tamariki social workers and coordinators should keep an eye on rangatahi throughout the conference to check if they’re feeling uncomfortable, tired or need a break. They might also want to identify who else in the room is also able to continue to check on the wellbeing of rangatahi throughout the conference. These can be intense conversations for rangatahi and simply taking a break may help them to engage in these decisions with greater confidence and clarity.
After the transition planning
Following a family group conference, hui ā-whānau or family meeting, Oranga Tamariki social workers need to check that rangatahi understand the transition plan, what needs to be done and who is doing what. If there is already a transition worker allocated, this should be done in conjunction with them.
Rangatahi also need to have a copy of their transition plan to refer to, and social workers then work with rangatahi to follow through with the tasks as outlined in their transition plan with the support of the transition worker if one has been allocated. If rangatahi are leaving care in the near future, there may be fewer tasks to complete and rangatahi may have more tasks to lead as responsibilities shift.
Reviewing the transition plan
Every transition plan will need to have a review date set before the transition plan ends. The transition plan will be reviewed at least once every 12 months but there may be times when there is a need to review more frequently, particularly where situations for rangatahi are in a state of change.
Once rangatahi turn 18, it is the responsibility of their transition workers to review the plan through whichever planning mechanism they and rangatahi deem fit.
If the transition plan breaks down
Similar to any family group conference held, if the transition plan breaks down for whatever reason before the review is due, Oranga Tamariki social workers need to ask the rangatahi and their whānau or family to reconvene. If this involves a family group conference, then the social worker also needs to ask the coordinator to reconvene. Examples of ‘break down’ could include a living arrangement change for rangatahi or them moving to another part of the country which results in the disruption of their support network.
If the rangatahi has a disability or mental health need
Regardless of their needs, all rangatahi need a plan for their transition from care into adulthood. When rangatahi have complex needs, they require even more planning to ensure their exit out of care is as smooth as possible. This includes rangatahi who may need to transition into adult services ti get the support they need. Social workers need to remember that while some rangatahi may never be independent in the same way as other rangatahi, they still require transition support and they should engage with the appropriate disability or mental health services as required.
Content in development
A resource outlining what 'adulthood' and 'independence' means for the group of rangatahi eligible for the Transition Support Service is in development.