I will know I've achieved this standard when...
I have a written assessment for each tamaiti describing their needs, strengths and risks
- Assessing the needs, strengths and risks for every tamaiti involved with Oranga Tamariki is central to the work we do. Assessment informs quality decision-making and planning for tamariki and provides a focus for future work.
- Your assessment starts by gathering information from a wide range of sources — te tamaiti, whānau, wider family, teachers, hospital staff, and others. Once you have this, reflect on and analyse the range of information you have gathered to determine what this means for te tamaiti.
- All tamariki have needs, and some may be more apparent or obvious than others. Look beyond 'what’s on top' and what is easily observable. It might be easier to focus on the presenting issue which has brought te tamaiti to the attention of Oranga Tamariki — but there is often more that is bubbling under the surface.
- Aim to consider the needs of te tamaiti, their strengths and risks (including protective factors) by taking a holistic view of their wellbeing. Always consider their safety, security, stability, wellness and development. Even when the immediate focus may be on safety and security, you will get insights into where support will need to focus, once those needs are met.
- To get a clear sense of the broad needs of te tamaiti, include information shared by other agencies or key partners and include them in the assessment process. This is part of providing a 'system of support' for te tamaiti, where you can draw on the insights of a range of people connected to te tamaiti in some way to help assess their needs, strengths and risks.
- Keep in mind how trauma affects the developing brain, and how tamariki manage relationships. Consider the impact or potential impact of trauma on te tamaiti and how this might explain their behaviours. Ensure you can get a clear history of trauma experienced by te tamaiti and their whānau, including intergenerational factors.
- Highlight those needs that you can see are unmet — these form the basis of your future work with te tamaiti and their whānau and help you identify what you want to be different for them. Trauma related needs for tamariki are often complex — focus on safety and stability first.
- Identify the strengths of te tamaiti and identify what they can achieve and how these strengths can be developed further. Look for what is working well for te tamaiti and for examples of their resilience. Consider how to use their strengths to generate hope and change. Every family situation will also have strengths to work with, and these might provide a route to possible support provision and safe care.
- Also be alert for 'risks' — risk is the 'threat of harm'. Does the information you have gathered identify current or potential danger? Is immediate action required? If yes, how will you build safety around te tamaiti? Risk should not drive decisions to remove tamariki from their parents or other caregivers; immediate safety and danger should. Identifying and managing risk reduces the potential harm to te tamaiti. Be clear what the risk is — describe the behaviour/s or situation/s and the possible impact on te tamaiti.
- Assessment is not an isolated event but a continual process of noticing, making sense of and responding to change and progress. Each assessment needs to be recorded so that you can see what this change looks like over time.
The assessment includes the views of te tamaiti, their family, whānau and (where relevant) the caregiving family
- Every assessment needs to include the views of te tamaiti, their whānau, and their caregivers. Neglecting to engage with them 'face-to-face' to find out what is happening means that the assessment won’t be as robust or as informed.
- Where and how you will engage 'face-to-face' will look different depending on whose views you are seeking. Whānau might like to meet you individually or as a group in a home, while tamariki may like a support person with them. Ask them what would help make them feel most comfortable, and keep checking in with them about their 'comfort levels' as you engage with them.
- Think about how to record the views you have gathered. Perhaps you can record them in their own voice (e.g. as direct quotes), or they might be woven into your entire assessment.
- Don’t forget the caregiving family — whether te tamaiti has been living with them for a short time or a long time, their viewpoint is important. They see te tamaiti every day, for hours at a time and when te tamaiti is happy and when they are sad. Caregivers have really important insights about te tamaiti and they need to be part of your assessment.
- Think about how to record the views you have gathered. Perhaps you can record them in the words of te tamaiti (e.g. direct quotes or drawings), family and whānau members and those in the caregiving family. You can also include these views throughout your assessment.
I have shared my assessment with te tamaiti, their family, whānau and (where relevant) the caregiving family and the assessment has been approved by my supervisor, line manager or person I am accountable to
- Sharing your assessment is a vital step in the assessment process. This is your opportunity to say to te tamaiti, their whānau, their caregivers and other professionals involved how you have made sense of the information you have gathered from them and other sources. Ask them what they think about what you’ve said. While this is your assessment, it is okay for people to disagree with it (or parts of it).
- You don’t have to change your assessment based on the feedback from key people involved, but keep an open mind — if new information comes up that you think might change your thinking, go back to your assessment and reconsider what you have written. Always make sure you record all of the feedback — while an idea might not work in the current state, it could be worthwhile exploring down the track.
- When your assessment is complete, share it with your supervisor and get their approval. Be open to critique — this is your assessment of the situation at the current time so it needs to tell the full story. If your supervisor doesn’t feel that they have this story, they will let you know. Perhaps sit side by side and go through the assessment together; that way you can see where they are coming from and what might need to be changed or enhanced.
I have ensured te tamaiti, family, whānau, (where relevant) the caregiving family, other agencies and those relevant people working with te tamaiti are fully informed in assessment and decision-making
- When tamariki and whānau become involved with Oranga Tamariki, it can be confusing and scary. One of your key roles is to help them navigate through the assessment and decision-making processes, so that they feel they have a good understanding about what it all means. Be careful how you explain things — jargon that you might use with other practitioners likely won’t make sense to whānau, and will just lead them to feel devalued and more confused.
- Talk with te tamaiti and whānau about what the assessment process looks like, and what it will involve. Explain that you need to gather information from them and other people so you can get a sense of what is happening for te tamaiti. This is about hearing the different perspectives and being able to put this together in a clear and concise way to tell the story of te tamaiti.
- Let them know that they are key people in the decision-making process. This is their tamaiti and their whānau. Tell them that making decisions might mean bringing people together, often more than once, and having some difficult, challenging and honest conversations. It is not always comfortable but it is necessary. Help them understand that your focus is always on the safety and well-being of te tamaiti. While you want the whānau to be strong in the best way they can be, changes that are made may still not provide safety and they need to be open to hearing this. Ask them to hold you accountable for your actions, and tell them you will expect the same of them.
- Other professionals and people working with te tamaiti will also need to know what the involvement of Oranga Tamariki looks like and what this means for them. Are they prepared to be available for meetings? Are they prepared to share their views? Can they be open and honest with whānau about their worries? Ensure that professionals and others have a clear sense of what safety does and doesn’t looks like so that as te tamaiti continues on their journey through Oranga Tamariki, they can remain vigilant.
I have a written plan for each tamaiti which describes the key actions that will be taken to address their needs, when and by whom
- When your assessment is complete, develop a plan to address the risks and build on the strengths that have been identified.
- Your starting point is outlining the specific actions that will be undertaken in order to meet the identified needs — these will come directly from your assessment. Include actions needed to maintain and enhance the things that are going well. For each action, describe how you will know whether they have made a difference. How will you know if things are better for te tamaiti? How will you know if things are worse? What will you see and hear? Doing this makes it easier to measure progress and success. For example, if a parent needs to attend a parenting course to learn new skills, explain what it is that you will see in their parenting of their tamaiti that will make you feel like the action has been completed satisfactorily. Simply writing 'parent to attend a parenting course' gives no expectations, other than for the parent to attend.
- Be specific about roles and responsibilities — make sure that everyone knows what they are expected to do, and also what others are expected to do. This holds everyone to account.
- Incorporate regular reviews of the plan to ensure everyone is on track. Regular reviews allow for the plan to be modified if needed, acknowledges the achievements that have been made and provides on-going feedback regarding necessary changes. Talk with everyone early on about potential consequences if they are not doing what they said they’d do so that there are no surprises.
- The time-frame for the plan needs to be focused on te tamaiti. Te tamaiti who is younger and less cognitively able will generally respond better to shorter timeframes. Timeframes need to be clearly outlined in the plan, especially in terms of meeting the needs of tamariki for stability and belonging if they are not living with their usual parent or caregiver.
- Keep the language of the plan simple and easy to understand, and provide a copy of the plan to te tamaiti, whānau and other involved people in a format that they can make sense of. Take into account any literacy /reading issues for both tamariki and whānau and consider the best ways to communicate with those involved about the plan.
The plan describes clearly the outcomes that te tamaiti, their family, whānau, caregiving family, and those working with them want to see achieved, their contribution to the plan and a date for reviewing progress
- The plan for te tamaiti describes the outcomes you, te tamaiti, whānau, caregivers and others are working towards. Outcomes-based plans highlight the noticeable changes that will be seen in the life of te tamaiti when the plan is complete. Your outcomes, in a sense, will be the opposite of your worries.
If your worry is that 'Joshua's parents might leave Joshua at home on his own or unattended while they are partying at home and Joshua might be frightened, might hurt himself or be hurt by someone who comes into the house', your outcome or what you’re heading towards is that 'Joshua's parents will make sure Joshua is always supervised by an adult who is sober/not affected by drugs and who everyone agrees is a safe adult'. Then you'll have actions for how to get there.
- Remember, specific outcomes always have a much greater chance of being accomplished than general ones. They also have to be something which everyone is both willing and able to work towards.
- Ensure that the plan also develops the capacity of the whānau to achieve the outcomes. This may include actions which build the attitudes, abilities, skills, and/or financial capacity that will be required. Whānau taking the lead in achieving the outcomes creates ownership and buy-in and makes it more likely that the outcomes will be met.
- Outcomes need to be grounded within a time-frame. When there is no time-frame tied to an outcome, there is no sense of urgency.