I will know I've achieved this standard when...
I have spent face-to-face time with the family, whānau, wider family and (where relevant) the caregiving family of every tamaiti I work with
- Tamariki do not live in isolation; they sit at the centre of a family and whānau (and sometimes caregiving families) who play important roles in keeping them safe and helping them shape their identity and development. While tamariki will always be the focal point of your work, early and on-going ‘face-to-face’ (in person) engagement with family, whānau, wider family and caregiving families is vital. They need and deserve to be part of the solution, no matter what the problem is.
- We want family, whānau and caregivers to feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. Regular contact helps give them the confidence to contact you before small problems become big ones. Face to face contact can also help assist with quality conversations which help build trust.
- Explore family and whānau connections widely; don’t be constrained by barriers that might come unexpectedly (for example - if whānau do not wish to share their whakapapa with you).
- Don’t forget fathers – some of our tamariki are disconnected from their fathers and paternal whānau or family, and this can be a truly rich source of information and support that is often unexplored.
- Pay attention to specific issues and needs for whānau, such as mental health concerns, alcohol and drug issues, other stressors such as poverty, physical disability, hearing loss, and other things that may create barriers to their engagement or understanding of the process.
- Think about where you’ll meet family, whānau and caregiving family members (e.g. at their home, in a community setting, in the office). Also think about how you’ll use tikanga and other cultural approaches that can help make them feel more comfortable and respected as you begin building your relationships.
- Whānau or caregivers may like to have support people with them who understand our processes, especially in times of stress, to ensure they get good information and understand what is happening.
- Do you need to open and close your meeting or interaction in a particular way – for example with a greeting or karakia / prayer in te reo Māori or a Pacific language? If family, whānau, wider family and caregivers come into your office, how will you welcome them and create a safe space for open discussions?
- Remember that family, whānau and caregivers may have had their own experiences of abuse or situations of being under someone’s power and control when they were younger (or currently), and this may make their contact with you uncomfortable and sensitive for them (e.g. they may show anger when they are actually fearful). Be understanding, calm and help them find the strengths that exist within. Ensure they know they can have a short break if needed.
- Make sure you are transparent about your process and your role, so that the whānau and caregiving family are clear about what is happening and your intended approach. Being clear helps makes the process more effective for all involved.
I have gathered information on what is happening for te tamaiti and for their family, whānau, wider family and (where relevant) the caregiving family, and have sought their views, wishes and feelings to inform my assessment, planning and decision-making
- Following on from the work you’ve done to understand the strengths, needs and views of te tamaiti, you need to build an understanding of the capacity of their family, whānau, wider family and caregiving family to provide safe care and nurture and develop the wellbeing of te tamaiti.
- You need to know their strengths, vulnerabilities and protective factors. Areas to explore include:
- their views of themselves and others in the family, whānau and caregiving family
- their role within the family, whānau and caregiving family
- their hope for the future
- when have things gone well and what was different then
- their strengths and resources and how these complement each other to support the wellbeing of their tamaiti
- their willingness, confidence and capacity to carry out a plan for a tamaiti and make safe and sustainable change.
- You’ll also talk to those people who sit around the family, whānau and caregiving family, such as professionals and members of the local community. They can provide valuable information about strengths, resilience, skills, knowledge and resources. They can also tell you what has and hasn’t worked well in the past, which will help you when thinking about supports for the family, whānau and caregiving family.
- Remember to share what you’ve learned and what you think about what you’ve learned with the family, whānau and caregiving family. Be transparent and open. Some things might be hard for them to hear but it’s better to be upfront than to hide your thinking. Also, share the good things they’ve achieved and acknowledge the potential that they hold, and use these as a driver for future change (e.g. “You’ve done so well with ………, now let’s look at ………”).
I have ensured their participation and voice is included in the assessment and decision-making
- Ensuring the participation of family, whānau and the caregiving family in everything that happens is important. They are vital pieces of the puzzle and we need to value what they have to share. Participation acknowledges their right to be listened to, their right for control over their life, and their right for their views and experiences to be taken seriously.
- Your first step will be making sure that family, whānau and the caregiving family have the information they need in order to provide an ‘informed’ voice. Do they know all of your worries? Do they know what you think is going well? Do they know what others are saying and thinking? Do they know what Oranga Tamariki needs to see from them to feel confident that they can provide safe care for their tamariki?
- Next, think about where to engage with them, and the tikanga that needs to sit around this. When people feel respected and that they’re in a safe place, they will feel more comfortable to say what they think. Also think about how you will obtain their voice. If the whānau speaks te reo Māori, think about engaging a te reo Māori speaking facilitator in discussions to maintain rapport and connection with the whānau. If they speak a Pacific language or another language, think about doing the same thing.
- Lastly, how will you record their voice in any documentation that you produce? Does the family, whānau or caregiving family have any views about this?
- Remember - even after participation has occurred, this does not mean you need to do exactly what the family, whānau and caregiving family want. Sometimes what they think should happen and what you think should happen will be different, and for good reason. You will still use your professional judgement and apply a ‘safety and wellbeing’ lens over your assessment and decision-making to keep the best interests of tamariki first.
- People often feel that they have lost control and so it is important to provide choice where possible – even small choices can help build a sense of efficacy and resilience.
- Be transparent with the whānau and caregiving family about the assessment and decision-making processes you are using, so they are not confused about what is happening and your role in these processes.
I have given information to family, whānau and (where relevant) the caregiving family about our processes, their rights, what’s happening next and have kept them informed as my work has progressed
- Think about how you will give information to the family, whānau and the caregiving family. In writing? In conversation? Visually? Do they need time to consider the information? Do they need someone to support them when they receive the information? Do you? Ask them what their understanding is of what you have shared with them and get them to explain it back to you. What do they think about what you have shared?
- Be clear with them about what the process will be from here (e.g. no further involvement, family group conference), and let them know that they play a vital part in this. Nothing can happen without their involvement, and at key points they need to be given opportunities to express their views about the situation and next steps. Their views matter too.
- Remember to incorporate the strengths and resources within the family, whānau and caregiving family into the plan – we need to encourage the things they already do to create safety. Also think about what supports might be needed to help the family, whānau and caregiving family to achieve their goals, and build these into the plan.
- Make sure that the family, whānau and caregiving family get a copy of the plan and that it is written in a way that they can make sense of and is located in a place they can easily access.
- Most importantly, do what you say you will do. Meeting your commitments will help family, whānau and the caregiving family see that you are genuine, child-centred, and can be relied upon.
- The family, whānau and caregiving family will likely be in the life of te tamaiti beyond the involvement of Oranga Tamariki. Keeping them involved in the planning and decision-making will help protect this relationship, and makes it more likely that te tamaiti will have people in their life to fall back on when they are struggling and to go to when good things are happening.
I have spent time with, and given relevant information to, any victims of offending by te tamaiti and enabled their participation in the decision-making process in a way that works best for them
- When you are working with tamariki who have offended, you need to remember that the victims of offending by te tamaiti have vulnerabilities and rights too, which also need to be considered. You need to have a strong focus on the interests of the victim and support them through the family group conference process. This needs to be done sensitively, especially as victims may be experiencing trauma and significant stress as a result of the offending.
- Consider how you will initially approach the victim, taking into account the type and level of offending which has impacted on them. Consider how you can meet with them in a safe, calm and comfortable setting which will work well for them. You can discuss what is comfortable for them when you make initial contact.
- Also consider if the victim is a child and if they are, consider whether you will need to speak to a parent or caregiver first. Other things to think about include the victim’s culture or language – make sure you are aware of these. If you need to, get assistance or advice from other colleagues to make sure your engagement is culturally responsive and effective given the needs of the victims.
- Is the victim prepared to meet you face-to-face? Give them the opportunity to discuss the offending in a way that best suits them, also at a time of day and venue that suits them. It is important that you communicate with them and ask for information and their perspectives in a non-intrusive way where they feel safe, comfortable and unthreatened.
- When you talk together, remember that good communication includes listening to their story without interruption, allowing them to tell it “their way” and giving them time to talk about how the offending has affected them. Ask what happened for them from their own perspective. Show respect and empathy for what may have been a distressing experience, as this helps to build understanding and trust.
- Also explain the philosophy and the process of the family group conference, as this will help them to better understand the purpose of the family group conference and their important role in it. Discuss what possible outcomes there may be from the conference and explore their expectations. You will have information you can leave with them, but it is important that you discuss it with them to ensure they fully understand.
- Talk to the victim about the time, date and venue for the family group conference and do your best to take their wishes into consideration. This will confirm to the victim that they have an active role in the proceedings. If you can’t hold the conference in accordance with their preferences, be sure to explain why and try and find a compromise.
- Explore and clarify with them any assistance they may need to attend the family group conference; for example: do they need financial assistance or an interpreter, or a letter from Oranga Tamariki for their employer to assist in getting time off work to attend?
- If victims are reluctant to attend because of safety concerns, take their concerns seriously and explore them thoroughly. If they cannot or will not attend, discuss with them the best way of having their voice heard at the conference.
- If the victim provides a submission, check with them how they want to be identified at the conference.
- Ask the victim if and how they want to be kept informed of progress concerning te tamaiti who has offended, as identified through their family group conference plan. The victim may not be certain about this until at, or after, the family group conference.