Updates made to this policy
References to safety plans have been added where plans are mentioned, and the section on independent services and advocates has been updated.
Practice framework prompts for this policy
Our practice framework helps us make sense of and organise our practice so it is framed in te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi), and draws from te ao Māori principles of oranga, within the context of our role in statutory child protection and youth justice in Aotearoa New Zealand.
What will I do to ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi is given information that they need and are entitled to know in a manner that supports their understanding?
What knowledge and whose views will help me understand and respond to the unique cultural context of te tamaiti or rangatahi?
How does te tamaiti or rangatahi participating in, and freely expressing their views about, actions or decisions that affect them contribute to their oranga? How will I help te tamaiti or rangatahi overcome difficulties expressing their views or being heard?
How might I adjust my communication and engagement approach in response to the unique strengths, needs, identity and circumstances of each tamaiti or rangatahi so they are able to participate in the decisions being made?
Have I been in a situation where decisions have been made about me when I wasn’t involved? How did I feel about being excluded? How does this change my practice about involving tamariki and rangatahi in all decisions that affect them?
Who this policy applies to
This policy applies to all tamariki we work with.
When this policy applies
These requirements apply when we are taking an action or making a decision under the Oranga Tamariki Act that significantly affects a tamaiti or rangatahi.
- investigation and assessment
- safety planning
- family/whānau agreements
- family group conferences
- the outcome of an assessment or investigation
- care arrangements, including care with an NGO partner, residences, youth justice and court orders.
This policy also applies when we’re working with rangatahi who are moving to independence or are involved with a transition support service.
Giving te tamaiti or rangatahi information and helping them understand it
Te tamaiti or rangatahi has a right to information about, and an explanation of, any actions and decisions that significantly affect them, including:
- legal proceedings
- family group conference proceedings and processes
- the options available and how these options could affect them
- all plans.
We must provide this information in a way te tamaiti or rangatahi can understand it.
It must be provided:
- as soon as we're reasonably able
- in a way that respects their mana
- in a way that's appropriate to their age, stage of development, culture, and any disability they may have
- in their own language, including sign language or through an interpreter if required
- in a way that makes use of communication tools where appropriate.
What to do if te tamaiti or rangatahi doesn’t have the capacity to understand the information
If te tamaiti or rangatahi doesn’t have the capacity to understand the information even with support, an explanation of this information must be provided to an advocate. This person must advocate for, or represent te tamaiti or rangatahi, and ensure their rights are protected and enhanced.
Their advocate could include:
- a member of their whānau, hapū or iwi
- their caregiver
- a guardian
- an adult they trust
- a formal advocate – for example, VOYCE Whakarongo Mai kaiwhakamana.
Information must be provided in a manner that respects the mana and wellbeing of te tamaiti or rangatahi and the sensitivity of the information.
Privacy considerations when sharing information
Unless it’s impractical or inappropriate to do so, we must:
- consult with te tamaiti or rangatahi when we are considering sharing information we hold about them
- ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi has an opportunity to discuss how information will be shared.
Supporting te tamaiti or rangatahi to participate and express their views
We must support and encourage te tamaiti or rangatahi to participate in, and freely express their views about, any action or decision that affects them.
- court proceedings
- family group conferences
- hui ā-whānau
- their All About Me plan, including safety, residential and transition planning
- how their plans are shared and with whom
- decisions about where they will live
- post-care living arrangements and supports.
Support must be provided to tamariki and rangatahi who require assistance to express their views or to be understood.
Support can come from:
- whānau or family
- a person with cultural competence, including a community leader
- a youth advocate
- VOYCE Whakarongo Mai — available to children in care or custody
- a specialist service provider, including disability service providers, or any other service under the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989
- transition worker — for those transitioning out of care
- any other appropriate person.
Te tamaiti or rangatahi is entitled to have a support person at a meeting or proceeding to provide support when te tamaiti or rangatahi is present, including a family group conference. The person leading the processes, or the person responsible, may exclude the support person from participating if they consider it impractical or inappropriate. The rationale for exclusion must be recorded.
A decision to exclude a support person for te tamaiti or rangatahi must be balanced against their right to have access to support and advocacy.
If te tamaiti or rangatahi is unable or unwilling to present their views in person at a family group conference or court hearing, their views may be presented by a representative that they choose.
They could also be presented in another way if te tamaiti or rangatahi prefers, such as:
- a written statement
- pictures or videos.
In a Youth Court, te tamaiti or rangatahi may be represented by their own barrister or solicitor, or a youth or lay advocate appointed by the court.
People responsible for encouraging participation
Certain people are responsible for ensuring te tamaiti or rangatahi is encouraged and assisted to participate, given reasonable opportunities to freely express their views and given the support necessary to overcome difficulties in expressing their views or being understood.
People who are responsible:
- the person directed by the court to prepare or review the court plan — this is the Oranga Tamariki chief executive’s delegate, which is usually the social worker for te tamaiti or rangatahi
- the person convening a family group conference, such as the care and protection or youth justice coordinator
- the person responsible for taking the action or making the decision on other processes, including care arrangements and transition from care. This could be the social worker, another delegate of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive, a care and protection coordinator or a youth justice coordinator.
For proceedings before a court – the judge, or other person presiding, and the barrister or solicitor representing te tamaiti or rangatahi is the person responsible for ensuring their views have been expressed and are considered.
Taking the views of te tamaiti or rangatahi into account and explaining decisions
The views and wishes of te tamaiti or rangatahi, alongside consideration of their oranga and best interests, must be taken into account for any significant decision that affects them.
The decision, the reasons for it, and how it will affect te tamaiti or rangatahi must be explained to them in a way that they can understand and respects their mana.
If a significant decision is made which is different from the views te tamaiti or rangatahi has expressed, we must explain this to them and record the reasons why.
Independent services and advocates for te tamaiti or rangatahi
Te tamaiti or rangatahi has a right to access independent advocacy services. We must ensure that te tamaiti or rangatahi:
- is made aware of this right
- knows about the relevant independent and advocacy services
- is supported to access these services.
This must include Māori, iwi, or kaupapa Māori services, Pasifika services and other advocacy options relevant to the identity and oranga needs of te tamaiti or rangatahi.
Independent services include:
- VOYCE Whakarongo Mai (advocacy for children with care experience)
- disability advocates
- rainbow youth organisations (such as Inside Out)
- the Children’s Commissioner’s Child Rights Advice Line
- youth advocates and lay advocates appointed by the Youth Court
- youth advocates appointed by the Oranga Tamariki chief executive where tamariki have been charged with an offence punishable by 10 or more years imprisonment
- lawyer for the child.
Ensuring te tamaiti or rangatahi is supported to provide feedback and make complaints
We must give te tamaiti or rangatahi information about how they can provide feedback or make a complaint and provide them with sufficient support, if required, to enable them to do so.
We must ensure te tamaiti or rangatahi is aware of, and knows how to make use of:
- the Oranga Tamariki Feedback and Complaints mechanism
- the grievance process within residences — Whāia Te Māramatanga.
We must specifically provide them with information about:
- what is feedback and what is a complaint
- where they can go, both within and outside of Oranga Tamariki to provide feedback or make a complaint
- who can give them support with this process
- what they can expect to happen when they provide feedback or make a complaint, including the possible outcomes and the timeframe for a response
- what will be recorded
- how they will be kept informed about the outcome of their feedback or complaint
- the processes and mechanisms available to them if they are not satisfied with the response by Oranga Tamariki to their complaint.
If te tamaiti or rangatahi makes a complaint, we must ensure that the outcome of the complaint assessment process and the actions taken because of that assessment are explained to them.
Tamariki in care or custody
The following sections of the policy apply to our work with:
- tamariki in the care or custody of the Oranga Tamariki chief executive
- tamariki under a sole guardianship or interim sole guardianship order
- tamariki under a wardship order where Oranga Tamariki is acting as an agent for the court.
Ensuring te tamaiti or rangatahi in care or custody has the information they are entitled to
We must provide te tamaiti or rangatahi in care or custody with the information they need to help them understand why they are in care or custody, their rights and entitlements, and what they can expect. This information must be provided on an ongoing basis as needed, as part of a continuous process of ensuring their understanding.
At a minimum, this must include information and an explanation about:
- the reasons they have been brought into care or custody, including the purpose and timeframe of any residential placement
- what they can expect, including:
- their rights as set out in the Oranga Tamariki Act, the Statement of Rights and the Residential Care Regulations – a copy of this document must be given to them and explained
- the timing of the assessment of their needs and making an All About Me plan to meet their needs
- how often they will be visited – as specified in their All About Me plan
- who they can contact if they have concerns
- their entitlements, including pocket money and clothing allowance
- how their family, whānau, hapū and iwi will be involved in decisions being made about them, and the reasons for their level of involvement
- their All About Me plan, and any associated plans such as a safety plan
- how they can participate in decisions to be made and processes that are to be undertaken in relation to their care or custody, and how their views will be used to inform decisions made about them
- the independent services that are available and how they can access them
- their rights to confidentiality and privacy, including:
- information about the purposes for which information about them will be collected
- how and when information about them may be recorded, used, collected and disclosed
- their record of important life events and how they can access this
- information about their post-care entitlements if they are transitioning to independence.
Advising te tamaiti or rangatahi of the outcome of an investigation or assessment
Where appropriate, te tamaiti or rangatahi must be advised of the outcome of the investigation or assessment verbally. Details of this conversation must be recorded on their CYRAS record.
Te tamaiti or rangatahi must be told:
- by the investigating social workers with support from the social worker of te tamaiti or rangatahi (where relevant)
- in an age-appropriate manner
- what actions were taken to investigate or assess the allegation
- the findings of the investigation or assessment.