Supporting families/whānau to safely care for their mokopuna at home
Updated: 24 February 2017
What's Important To Us
It is important that children and young people feel happy and secure in their home environment and that they have people close to them who can look after their needs and ensure their safety.
Home is usually the best place for children and young people to feel happy and secure, provided this can be achieved safely. There can sometimes be an element of risk in keeping a child or young person at home but at the same time, being removed from home can be confusing, unsettling and upsetting for many children and young people. It is our job to find a safe balance and always consider the best interests of the child or young person.
When your assessment identifies that a mokopuna can best be cared for within their home but there are issues for parents to address, the plan for the mokopuna needs to do three things.
- Address safety and care needs for the mokopuna while their parents work on their own issues.
- Support parents to make the changes they need to make in order to provide the best possible care for their mokopuna into the future.
- Build in a monitoring and review process to ensure safety needs are met and the plan is progressing.
Engaging with families/whānau and those who know them
We need to put effort into engaging with the family/whānau to identify their strengths, vulnerabilities and protective factors. Talking to the parents, wider family/whānau and mokopuna will help to identify the strengths and resources they have that can be supported and built on.
Using the Three Houses engagement tool can provide you, the mokopuna and their family/whānau with a visual structure to identify strengths (that may have previously been overlooked), be transparent about the risks and vulnerabilities, and build a picture of what safe family/whānau functioning will look like (their hopes and dreams).
When talking to the family/whānau you want to gain an understanding of:
- the views of each family/whānau member and also how they are seen within the family/whānau
- times that were an exception to the problem behaviour or maltreatment e.g. when were things going well and what was different then
- the strengths and resources of each family/whānau member and how these complement each other to support the wellbeing of the mokopuna
- the willingness, confidence and capacity of the family/whānau to carry out the plan for the mokopuna and make safe and sustainable changes.
It is also vital that we talk to the people who know the family/whānau such as professionals and community people who may have worked with the family/whānau for some time. These people will be able to provide valuable information about the family/whānau's history, their strengths, resilience and what has worked or not worked so well in the past. Working collaboratively with others helps to ensure a thorough and full assessment of the situation (refer to the Tuituia framework and domains).
The development of a joint understanding by workers, families/whānau and extended community as to what the dangers, risks, protective capacities and family/whānau strengths are, and what clear, meaningful, behavioral changes and goals are needed to create "rigorous, sustainable, on the ground child safety" (Turnell, 2008).
Addressing safety and care needs for mokopuna
Once everyone is clear about the strengths and vulnerabilities of the family/whānau, work with them to build a robust plan that will support and enhance the ongoing safety and wellbeing of the mokopuna.
When given the right support and opportunity families/whānau can often develop solutions to respond to care and protection concerns for their mokopuna. Utilising what you learned from the Three Houses exercise, key family/whānau members, wider family/whānau and professional supports, work with the family/whānau to develop a plan that focuses on:
- promoting safety
- strengthening family/whānau functioning
- changing harmful parental behaviour
- building the safety support system around the mokopuna
- establishing support systems that will endure beyond the immediate safety needs.
Involving mokopuna will enhance the plan and ensure that their concerns and wishes are considered.
Use the ‘five eyes on under fives’ for young mokopuna (this can also be adapted and used for older mokopuna) to make sure that someone is responsible for supporting and overseeing the various areas of the wellbeing of the mokopuna. The five eyes are people in the life of the mokopuna who are able to provide ongoing oversight and support, for example:
- immediate household member
- extended family/whānau
- community member, for example, professionals working with the family/whānau, Iwi social services, church and community support groups
- education and development e.g. school, pre-school, kohanga reo
- health e.g. GP, Wellchild provider, paediatrician, mental health provider for the mokopuna, parent’s mental health provider.
A robust plan is built around the following key elements:
- written down and available for all involved to see
- straight-forward statements about risks and vulnerabilities that are understandable to everyone, including the mokopuna. Think about how you can communicate these in age appropriate ways.
- clear statements about what changes in behaviour need to be seen in order to address the concerns
- involvement of a network of wider family/whānau and other people who have an interest in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the mokopuna
- specific and straightforward rules that support the safety of the mokopuna in all situations - at home, in the car, at friends, at bath time
- incorporation of options for times of high stress or breakdowns (e.g. respite care)
- what to do if one of the ‘sets of eyes' has concerns
- clear statement of roles, accountabilities and responsibilities
- attention to all aspects of the wellbeing and development of the mokopuna, including education and health needs
- time-framed and has a clear review process.
Supporting parents to make changes
When parents need to make changes in order to care for their mokopuna safely they will often need support, guidance and encouragement to take the first steps and to maintain progress moving forward. We have an important role in supporting parents to care for their mokopuna safely.
When formulating the plan for the mokopuna and considering what the parent’s responsibilities are within this plan:
- be clear about the behaviour that needs to change
- consider how you will directly support the parents; make time to work with the parents on setting up household routines, take opportunities to provide parenting tips, provide basic budgeting advice and role model positive behaviour management techniques when you are in the home
- make clear statements about how additional services and/or wider family/whānau members will be engaged to support the parents to make changes, who will make the referral and the timeframes for this to be completed
- make sure everyone knows that the people working with the parent will be reporting back to Oranga Tamariki about progress and any concerns
- bring everyone together at key points to check that the plan is progressing and the service is meeting the needs of the family/whānau
- make every effort to match the service with the parents' specific cultural, gender or special learning needs.
Consider what additional supports the parents may need along the way e.g. childcare while attending programmes. Family and peer supports are important to supporting sustained behaviour change over time, and engagement of such supports has been shown to improve the behaviours of those attempting to make changes (Donatelle, Hudson, Dobie, Goodall, Hunsberger, & Oswald, 2004). See Key information: Use of support orders for details about how a support order can be used to help families/whānau.
Implementing and reviewing to ensure safety and progress
An identified person needs to take overall responsibility for the plan for the mokopuna. We need to make sure that people adhere to their agreed tasks and that we pick up on any gaps that might compromise the safety of the mokopuna.
- visiting and spending time talking with the family/whānau
- talking with the mokopuna about how the plan is going for them and doing so in a place where they feel safe to express any worries they may have
- talking to the safe adults about younger mokopuna to ascertain if they have noticed any changes in behaviour, deterioration in health, regression or stalling in development or any other warning signs that the needs of the mokopuna are not being safely met in their home
- noticing the changes the family/whānau makes and providing positive feedback and encouragement when changes are achieved
- bringing together family/whānau and professionals who are involved in monitoring and supporting the safety of the mokopuna. Review the Tuituia assessment to identify change, improvement and remaining areas of concern
- paying attention to things that may indicate the plan for the mokopuna is not having the desired impact
- taking the necessary action to establish safety for the mokopuna when the plan is no longer providing an acceptable level of safety.
Donatelle, R.J., Hudson, D., Dobie, S., Goodall, A., Hunsberger, M. & Oswald, K. (2008). Principles of effective behaviour change: Application to extension family educational programming. Journal of Extension, 46(5).