Updated: 01 April 2017
Convening a youth justice family group conference is more than just setting up a meeting – every youth justice family group conference is unique to the child or young person and their circumstances. The youth justice co-ordinator must understand and reflect that uniqueness in his or her preparation for the conference.
Children and young people considered high risk with multiple needs will require more intensive assessment and involvement than those that are low risk who can be supported by their family/whānau and community to ‘right the wrong' and change their offending behaviour. Appropriate and early assessment will help identify the right supports and opportunities that will best enable them to change their behaviour.
A family group conference must have relevant and accurate information on which to develop meaningful and effective decisions, recommendations and plans. It is the youth justice co-ordinator’s responsibility to ensure this information is supplied to the family group conference and that the people who most effect and support change for the child and young person are in attendance.
This policy outlines key responsibilities when setting up a youth justice family group conference to ensure that it is unique to the child or young person and their circumstances.
Where a social worker has been delegated the functions of a youth justice co-ordinator under s427 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 (the Act), he or she is required to adhere to all policy requirements relating to the duties of a youth justice co-ordinator as outlined in this document.
There is no provision under the Act for youth justice and care and protection co-ordinators to delegate their respective functions to each other. A person appointed under the Act as a youth justice co-ordinator cannot convene a care and protection conference and the reverse applies.
Youth justice intakes for a family group conference are referred from the Police (s247(a)&(b)) or directed by the Youth Court (s247(c),(d)&(e)). Each type has a different timeframe for convening and holding the conference set out s249 of the Act.
When a child or young person commits an offence away from their own community, the Police or Youth Court may transfer the matter to the child or young person’s home station or court for processing. There will be times however when the matters are dealt with where the offending has occurred. This may involve two sites or two youth justice teams and requires clear communication between those involved.
Consultation is required between the referrer and the youth justice co-ordinator for all family group conference referrals from the Police and other potential enforcement offices such as the Department of Conservation.
The purpose of consultation is to explore the possibility of dealing with the matter by means other than criminal proceedings (s208(a) and s426(b)). This practice of diverting the child or young person away from the formal youth justice process is in their best interests and will be considered in relation to the nature and severity of the offending as well as their offending history.
Before the consultation, the youth justice co-ordinator will request that the Police (or other agency) provide:
The youth justice co-ordinator should bring all relevant information known to Oranga Tamariki about the child or young person to the consultation, to inform the discussion and decision making regarding diversion. This is particularly important when it is a child who has offended or the young person has recent or current care and protection involvement.
In these situations it is expected that the youth justice co-ordinator consults with the care and protection and youth justice supervisors to gain a thorough understanding of the current involvement, before consulting with the police officer.
The youth justice coordinator should check with the attending police officer whether he or she is aware of any domestic violence issues and/or any protection or other personal safety order that apply to the young person or members of their family/whānau.
If issues around domestic violence, protection orders or other personal safety orders are identified that apply to the young person or members of their family/whānau, careful consideration must be given to how these will be managed during consultation and the holding of the conference. Consideration might be given to using technology such as teleconference or video conference to ensure the safety of all those attending the family group conference.
For Court directed family group conferences (s247 (c)(d)&(e)), which have shorter time frames, it is useful to obtain victim(s) and family/whānau contact information; the Summary of Facts and the direction to convene the family group conference before leaving Court. The police should provide a YORST for a young person within three days of the court direction for family group conference.
When a young person arrested for an offence (other than murder, manslaughter or a traffic offence not liable by imprisonment) is brought before the Youth Court, and does not deny the offence, the Youth Court will direct a youth justice co-ordinator to convene a family group conference and adjourn proceedings until the conference has been held.
Family group conferences for children who offend are held under s247(a) of Part 4 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 and as such are youth justice family group conferences, convened and held by a youth justice co-ordinator.
All children who are referred to a youth justice co-ordinator for their offending under section 14(1)(e) must be allocated a social worker who will assess the child's needs, strengths and risks prior to the family group conference in accordance with the Assessment and decision making policy.
It may be useful to have a family meeting or hui-a-whānau prior to the family group conference. Bringing all the key family members together with the child can be helpful in preparing everyone for the family group conference by sharing information and establishing ways in which the intent of the conference can be met.
A young person who has offended and for whom a youth justice family group conference is required may become subject to an extended care agreement under s140.
The offending profile is an initial screen and recording tool used for children and young people who offend. It records the date of the pre-family group conference case consultation, the attendees and the outcome of the consultation. In preparation for the family group conference the offending profile assists in determining the requirement for further assessment of the needs, strengths and risks of children and young people who offend.
An offending profile will be completed and recorded in CYRAS:
The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for ensuring that the offending profile:
Prior to the pre-family group conference case consultation the youth justice co-ordinator will open an offending profile and enter or update the initial information and gather all other available information about the child or young person. This will include, but is not limited to, the Summary of Facts, YORST, and CYRAS history and the completion of an education screen.
The youth justice co-ordinator will circulate the offending profile to the youth justice supervisor and social worker (if allocated) so that they can add information they consider relevant and necessary for the pre-family group conference case consultation. If the child or young person is in a residence, the residential case leader can also add to the profile if required. Other staff members who may have some information about the child or young person may also be included as necessary, e.g. care and protection supervisor.
The youth justice co-ordinator may not have met the child or young person and their family/whānau at this point; however if there has been prior contact or involvement with the family/whānau it will inform the case consultation.
The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for ensuring that the outcome of the pre-family group conference case consultation is entered in the offending profile – this will include any assessment required, those responsible for undertaking or requesting information and the rationale for proceeding or not with a Tuituia assessment.
In addition to consultation with the Police it is important that there is discussion within Oranga Tamariki about the next steps in the convening phase.
A pre-family group conference case consultation is required for all children and young people referred for a youth justice family group conference under s247, s281 and s281B of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, including children in care and protection residences and young people on remand in youth justice residences.
Where a child or young person is in a residence, the consultation must consider whether on-going custody is required. The residential case leader is to be included in the pre-family group conference consultation.
If the coordinator has received any information on care and protection matters (under s14(1)) the case consultation should also consider whether further investigation is warranted and how these might be addressed using s261 at the conference.
Where a practice leader or other required person is not regularly on site then they must be consulted and their agreement sought to any decisions made at the pre-family group conference case consultation.
A child who has offended will always have a Tuituia assessment completed by an allocated social worker. In most cases the decision to have a Tuituia assessment will be made at the pre-family group conference case consultation. However there are exceptions and a Tuituia assessment will always be completed by the allocated social worker for the following:
Where a Tuituia assessment already exists for a child or young person, the assessment will be updated and a report completed for the family group conference. The child or young person must be encouraged and assisted to participate in the assessment and supported to express their views. Their views must be taken into account.
Not all young people referred for a youth justice family group conference will require a Tuituia assessment or a social worker being allocated prior to the holding of the family group conference. For those children and young people considered to be at a lower risk of re-offending, the youth justice co-ordinator will convene the family group conference using the available information, after consulting with all entitled persons and relevant professionals.
The Tuituia assessment will be completed prior to the family group conference, discussed with the child or young person and their family and used to inform the family group conference. The social worker will attend the conference as an information giver.
It is critical that we look for, recognise and act on signals that a young person may be at risk of self-harm, suicide, alcohol or drug abuse or psychological distress.
The following screens will be used by staff trained in their use:
These screens must be applied whenever mental health, suicide, and/or substance use is identified as a concern or potential concern at any phase of our work; when a child or young person is held in police custody or enters a residence.
An education screen must be completed for every child or young person referred for a youth justice family group conference and the child or young person’s consent is not required for this process.
If the screen recommends further assessment, consent must be sought from the child or young person to make a referral for an education assessment completed by an educational psychologist from Group Special Education.
Where health concerns are held for a child or young person, consent must be sought from the child or young person to make a referral for a health assessment to be completed by an approved youth justice health assessor.
A family member must agree to support the child or young person during the assessment process.
Exceptions are where a screen or assessment has been completed in the preceding three months
When a child or young person who offends is brought into the care of the chief executive under sections 139,78,101,102,110(2)(a) or 140, prior to the family group conference being held, the decision to proceed with either a Gateway assessment or health and education assessments will be made at the pre-family group conference case consultation. The most appropriate course of action to meet the needs of the child must be implemented.
Section 251 of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 details the people who are entitled to attend the family group conference.
“Entitled” means that they have a right to attend, take part in the discussions and have a say in the decisions, recommendations and plans of the family group conference.
The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for consulting with these people and facilitating their attendance where possible at the family group conference.
Although the initial contact is usually by letter, consultation is not achieved until the co-ordinator has made personal contact either by telephone or preferably face to face. Where a personal visit is not wanted or possible, further contact should be made by telephone.
The youth justice co-ordinator must make every effort to consult face-to-face with the child or young person, their family/whānau and the victim(s) and make reasonable endeavours to consult with:
When consulting the co-ordinator assists everyone to understand that the conference is not confined to accountability for offending and addressing the underlying causes of that offending, but is also required to consider whether formal proceedings (i.e. laying the charges in the Youth Court) should be instituted or not.
The co-ordinator , and social worker where allocated, must engage with the appropriate professionals to make sure that all relevant information and reports are provided to the family group conference including, but not limited to, health, education and care and protection concerns.
Professionals can attend the family group conference as information givers and their attendance will be encouraged and facilitated where appropriate.
Engage the child or young person and their family/whānau as early as possible and spend time building a relationship with them. This will involve ensuring they understand the charges, explaining the family group conference and youth justice processes and answering their questions. There are useful tools such as the Three Houses that can be used to support your engagement.
The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for ensuring that the child or young person is encouraged and assisted to participate in the convening of the family group conference to a degree appropriate to their age and maturity. The youth justice co-ordinator must also ensure that the child or young person is given reasonable opportunities to express their views and that any views they express are taken into account. The child or young person must be given support to express their views if assistance is required.
s250(1) allows for the co-ordinator to discuss with the family/whānau what procedure should be adopted at the conference in addition to who should attend and the time, date and place for the conference.
The co-ordinator must work with the family/whānau to set up the conference in a way that will:
This could include having someone other than the co-ordinator, chosen by the family/whānau to facilitate the conference. It is important to consult with the other entitled members when considering an alternative facilitator as a decision to choose anyone other than the youth justice co-ordinator as facilitator will have to be agreed at the beginning of the conference.
When discussing the time, date and place of the family group conference, it will be useful to have already spoken to the victims of the offending and ascertained their views as to where and when they would like the conference held.
This gives the family/whānau an opportunity to consider the victim’s wishes in this matter and if they can be accommodated, may encourage the victim to attend.
Family/whānau attendance at the family group conference is critical so it is important to help them be involved and to participate. Families/whānau provide the ongoing support and monitoring for children or young people so it is important to listen to their story respectfully and understand their strengths and anxieties. Be prepared to encounter resistance, particularly when involving wider family/whānau in the conference and when the family has a history with Oranga Tamariki.
It is important to establish ethnicity and when working with Māori, iwi affiliation. This knowledge will help to contact and involve the wider whānau and provide support to the child or young person and their immediate family.
Think about what needs to done to respond to a family's cultural, ethnic and spiritual beliefs. Perhaps they would like someone else involved; an interpreter, cultural leader or elder may be needed for both family/whānau consultation and the conference.
It is important to establish if the child or young person has a significant adult to support them at the family group conference and preferably into the future. Ideally this adult would come from within the child or young person’s family/whānau and consideration should be given to how to encourage and support them in this role. Otherwise family friends, teachers, sports coaches etc could be potential mentors. Mentoring programmes are also available and should be considered where necessary.
It may be useful to have a family/whānau meeting or hui prior to the family group conference. Bringing all the key family/whānau members together with the child or young person can be helpful in preparing everyone for the family group conference and establishing ways in which the intent of the conference can be met
When an entitled person cannot physically attend the family group conference but wishes to participate, the youth justice co-ordinator will enable his or her participation as appropriate (for example with telephone conferencing or receiving the views verbally or in writing and presenting them at the family group conference).
Family members who are the subjects of protection or other personal safety orders may attend the conference without nullifying the order. Discussion should occur around the details of these orders; including why they were made, and who is covered by the Order. You should also ensure that any safety issues are fully addressed and that all entitled members are aware that the person is attending. If concerns exist, consider how these can best be managed so that no one is put at risk or made to feel victimised.
Seek advice from specialists working in the field of family violence if it is appropriate.
For more information and guidance refer:
A youth justice coordinator cannot exclude an entitled person from attending a youth justice family group conference.
If the attendance of any particular person is considered inappropriate discuss that with the person and the other family members as to how their input to the conference can be best managed. Contact Legal Services if you need assistance in deciding about the appropriateness of the attendance of any family members where there are personal safety orders in place, or other concerns.
Family members who are imprisoned are not precluded from attending the conference in person. An application can be made under s65(2)(b) of the Corrections Act 2004 to the District Court for a temporary release. The co-ordinator can make an application after consultation with their manager and the relevant prison staff. It is important to remember that there may be a significant cost for escorting a prisoner to and from the family group conference. Safety issues need to be considered and other family members informed.
It is important to be extra vigilant in identifying any immediate risks to the child or young person’s mental health and wellbeing when children and young people are involved in the youth justice system.
Indications may not be immediately present or obvious so it is necessary to be alert to the child or young person’s changing behaviour and take the appropriate steps to keep them safe.
The victims are important people to involve in the conference and every effort should be made to consult with all victims who are entitled to attend the family group conference – as required under s250(2)(a).
Although the initial contact is usually by letter, consultation is not achieved until the youth justice co-ordinator has made personal contact either by telephone or preferably a face to face meeting.
Victim attendance and personal participation will always be the prime objective and co-ordinators must make every effort to persuade the victim that their attendance at the family group conference is the most valuable and effective contribution they can make. Submissions should only be requested after all avenues to persuade the victim to attend have been exhausted.
Victims may be reluctant to attend; it is therefore important they understand why they are being asked to be involved in the conference and that they are made to feel safe and supported. If the victim is a child or young person, their parent or guardian needs to be involved to make sure they understand the family group conference process and to provide support for them at the family group conference.
The victim may feel that they are the 'wronged' party and their emotional wellbeing and goodwill for the process needs to be assessed. It is important to talk the victim about the time, date and venue for the conference and make sure that their needs are being met. If the victim, after discussion, is unable or unwilling to attend the conference, there are other ways of having their voice heard at the conference. This may take the form of a support person, a representative, participating by teleconference or a written or verbal submission to be presented at the family group conference.
Victims may have language and cultural needs. You should consider early in the family group conference process if an interpreter is required to facilitate consultation and participation at the family group conference and how any cultural considerations can be met.
If the offender is a child or the family group conference is addressing care or protection issues under s261, the victim can legally participate in any discussion and decisions on these issues and cannot be asked to leave the conference while this is taking place.
Under s269A, the youth justice co-ordinator is required to take all reasonable steps to discuss with the victim whether they wish to be notified of the child’s or young person’s progress in completing his/her plan and if so, how they wish to be kept informed of that progress.
Discuss this during the convening stage although the victim may not wish to make a decision until a later date. The coordinator will check in with the victim after the holding of the conference to confirm his or her wishes.
It is important to try and get agreement from everyone regarding the time, date and place for the family group conference. This includes the police or informant, the victim and the child or young person and their family/whānau. Be sure to discuss the victim’s wishes with the family/whānau and try to find a solution that meets with the approval of all concerned. If you are unable to hold the conference in accordance with the victim’s preferences, be sure to explain why and try and find a compromise.
Sometimes though, despite our best efforts, it is not possible to get agreement. In these situations the youth justice co-ordinator will need to make the final decision on when and where the conference will be held, and to record their attempts to make contact or secure agreement in a case note under the family group conference record in CYRAS. If, after speaking to the family/whānau they are unwilling to attend the conference, the conference will still proceed. However, the youth justice co-ordinator should not accept this refusal without continuing to persevere with the family/whānau. Identify the barriers and work through them; it may be necessary to seek mediation or advice from a cultural or community leader while being mindful of any privacy issues and respectful of the family/whānau position. It may also be possible to get a written or verbal statement to be presented at the family group conference in lieu of attendance.
For the conference to have a good outcome it needs to be well informed. This means gathering appropriate information about health, education, and any other sources that may be relevant and/or referring for screens and assessments. The pre-family group conference case consultation is a good place to start discussing the available information and deciding what else may be required to fully inform the conference and whether a social worker is needed to provide screening and assessment information and support. An education screen will provide good information on the child or young person’s current educational situation.
The allocation of a youth justice social worker prior to family group conference to undertake a Tuituia assessment or to update a current Tuituia can provide valuable information about the child or young person’s underlying needs and risks. Every effort will be made to share the assessment with the child or young person and their family/whānau prior to family group conference so that there are “no surprises”.
If external reports (such as health, education, psychological, psychiatric) or a particular programme is suggested, consult with the report writer or programme provider to ascertain when the information will be ready.
It is useful to do this before you convene the conference as this will enable you to maximise your convening and holding times to ensure that the required reports are available for the conference. If there are potential delays for this information, the youth justice co-ordinator can consider seeking a special reason for delay under s249(6).
Discuss with the assessors about how they will present their information to the family. If they cannot attend the conference, discuss how their information might best be presented in their absence.
It is important that all the preparations for family group conference are recorded. The family group conference preparation screen should be used to record findings about needs and risks for the child or young person and intervention options to bring to the conference.
If formal proceedings have not been laid in the Youth Court, the function of a family group conference convened under s247(b) is to consider whether the young person should be prosecuted or dealt with in some other way. When consulting with entitled persons you need to ensure that everyone understands that the conference is not confined to accountability for offending, but is required to give consideration to whether or not formal proceedings should be instituted.
There are certain circumstances under which a family group conference may not be required.
The youth justice co-ordinator should refer to s248 for the conditions for waiving a family group conference and also note the recording requirement to complete a Notice of Waiver for the Youth Court.
The co-ordinator must also consider whether there is any reparation due to victims of the offending and whether the family group conference would serve any useful purpose. The child or young person’s whānau or family group must also agree to waive the family group conference.
From time to time there will be costs associated with convening the family group conference and/or for the programmes and service proposed by the conference. When these costs cannot be met by the family/whānau or community, the youth justice co-ordinator will need to ascertain the funding possibilities.
Family/whānau members and victims should not be prevented from attending family group conferences due to financial constraints and the youth justice co-ordinator should consider how these costs can be reasonably met. This can take the form of petrol vouchers and other payments to support travel, accommodation, child care and loss of wages.
Most of these costs can be met through the family group conference convening budget, however if they are substantial (flights etc), they will need to be negotiated with the youth justice manager.
Family/whānau members or the youth justice co-ordinator may know before the conference that they are going to suggest particular services or programmes for the child/young person or his/her family/whānau. If family and community resourcing has been assessed and is inadequate, the youth justice co-ordinator should discuss any significant requests for funding with his/her manager prior to the family group conference. Ultimately the youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for seeking agreement to the resourcing required in the plan.
If it becomes apparent, in the convening or holding of a s247(b) intention to charge family group conference, that the Police intend to pursue the matter by laying a charge in the Youth Court there are a number of options available to the family group conference and it is important that the family be encouraged to seek legal advice. It is the role of the youth justice co-ordinator to make the family group conference aware of those options. These include:
When a 12 or 13 year old child is referred by the police for an intention to charge family group conference, the youth justice co-ordinator should discuss with the family how they might access legal advice. This is important as the alleged offences must have a maximum penalty of or including life imprisonment or for at least 14 years (s272(1)(b)) or the 12 or 13 year old must be a previous offender as defined under s272(1)(c). Special consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate to deal with such high tariff offending without the child and family/whānau having received legal advice.
In some situations special reasons may exist for completing a family group conference outside the statutory timeframes. This may become obvious during the convening of the conference, or may occur once the conference is already underway. Either way it is the youth justice co-ordinator’s decision to hold a family group conference outside the normal timeframes or to adjourn it to a later date. This is an important decision and the reasons used to justify the delay may be challenged in the Court.
If you are considering delaying a family group conference, the nature of the 'special reason' needs to be considered against the impact of delaying the conference and the general legal requirement of adhering to timeframes. Remember it is important that there is resolution to the offending as quickly as possible for all involved, and any delay should be as short as possible. Consulting with others and considering the youth justice principles outlined in s208 may help with making this decision.
A special reason ought to be something out of the ordinary and the following are some examples of what may constitute special reasons:
The reconvened family group conference should ideally be within the original timeframes unless there is a special reason for a longer adjournment.
Sometimes special reasons only become apparent after attendees have been notified of the holding of the family group conference. Unless you can ensure that every invited member is properly informed of the change it will be necessary to hold it as arranged. If the special reasons are still apparent, the family group conference should then be adjourned.
If the decision to delay is likely to affect Court timeframes then it is important that the Court Registrar, the child or young person, their advocate and the Police be advised in writing. The reasons for the delay should also be recorded.
Attending to the matters outlined above should ensure thorough preparation which will promote family-led decision-making and an appropriate outcome for the child or young person, victims, and other participants of the family group conference.
Do not hesitate to adjourn the family group conference to facilitate a better plan or outcome for the child or young person and victims if you consider there are special reasons to allow it. Getting the first family group conference right affords the best opportunity to avoid re-offending.
This section is in regard to young people on remand in a youth justice residence and children who have offended and who are placed in a care and protection residence.
When a young person on remand or a child has been admitted to residence the residential case worker is to be included in the pre-family group conference case consultation wherever practical (this should involve using available technology).
If a Tuituia assessment cannot be completed prior to admission to residence or if it needs to be updated during the time the child or young person is in residence, the social worker and the residential case leader will work together to complete it. The site social worker as the key worker is responsible for completing the Tuituia assessment and reports as necessary.
The child or young person will have a health and education assessment when admitted to residence. Where appropriate, further assessments may be undertaken with the child or young person in residence. This information will be shared at the multi-agency team and be made available to the field social worker through CYRAS or through other joint planning meetings.
An Individual Care Plan will be completed for every child and young person held in a residence for over five days.
The site social worker will be consulted and able to contribute to the Individual Care Plan, reviews, and multi-agency meetings. The residential case leader is responsible for updating the individual Care Plan for the child or young person. This is done in collaboration with the field social worker, residential health and education providers, the child or young person and their family/whānau, and other multi-agency team members. The child or young person must be encouraged and assisted to participate in planning and review and given support to freely express their views. Their views must be taken into account.
Site social workers can be requested to approve funding for external assessments and decisions to do so will need to be made by those with appropriate delegations. In the event that there is any dispute between parties, the matter will be referred to the youth justice manager and the residential manager for resolution if required
The residential team leader clinical practice will sign off the internal assessment process for residences. The site social work supervisor will approve the Tuituia assessment where residential staff and field social workers have been involved.
If a young person has denied the charges or not entered a plea and is remanded in custody, it is inappropriate to undertake any work with the young person that would require an assumption that he or she has engaged in offending behaviour. Assessments such as Tuituia would not be appropriate at this stage.
The function of a section 247(c) family group conference is to consider custody pending determination of the charge/s, so any information gathered at this early stage should bear that limited purpose in mind. As the section 238(1)(d) order makes the chief executive responsible for day to day care, the chief executive can gather information to assist in meeting any presenting day to day needs as an incidence of custody.
The youth justice co-ordinator should take steps to encourage the family group conference to incorporate a review process to prevent the young person remaining in a section 238(1)(d).
Please refer to Key information: Custody for children and young people following arrest for all information on working with children and young people following their arrest by the Police.
All children and young people who are considered to be high risk will be managed in accordance with the Management of high risk children and young people (youth justice) — Policy.