Working with children and young people who are placed in a provider placement, supervised group home or residence
Updated: 05 July 2018
What's Important To Us
The decision to place a child or young person in an Oranga Tamariki residence or supervised group home, or with a service provider is never one that is made lightly. In these situations the child or young person will likely have complex needs that just can’t be met by our caregivers or by their family/whānau, and they may require extra support and oversight to keep them safe. It is important that when our children and young people are in these types of placements we don’t lose sight of them or their specific needs, and we keep on track with planning for their future.
This key information provides information about social work and practitioner roles and responsibilities before, during and after a child or young person has been placed with a provider, in a supervised group home or in a residence.
Placing a child or young person with a service provider or in an Oranga Tamariki residence or supervised group home is never a decision that's made lightly. In these situations the child or young person will likely have complex needs that can’t be met by our caregivers or by their family/whānau at that time, and they may require extra support, assistance in understanding, and oversight to keep them safe.
It is important that when our children and young people are in these types of placements we don’t lose sight of their specific needs, regularly hear their voices, have their voices reflected in the plan, communicate with whanau and we keep on track with planning for their future.
Preparing for the placement
The key to a successful placement is preparation and planning. Before the placement begins, develop a coordinated plan of support that will sit around the child or young person while they are in their placement.
Bring together everyone involved including:
- the child or young person
- their parents or caregivers
- extended family/whānau
- support people.
- the placement provider
Think about who else you might need to involve in the plan as the placement progresses as this is a dynamic and not a static process.
If the placement has to happen quickly and you don’t have time to bring everyone together beforehand, get everyone together within a week of the placement so that you don’t lose momentum with the child or young person.
In the plan, be clear about:
- the purpose of the placement
- the specific needs that will be addressed in the placement
- engage with the placement provider with clarity about any expectations of the placement for both the child or young person and on the provider
- how the child or young person will contact and communicate with their family/whānau, significant people and their social worker or practitioner
- how the placement will be monitored
- when the placement will be reviewed.
A robust plan can only be developed when an assessment of the child or young person has been completed by the social worker and other agencies, and we have a holistic understanding of the child or young person’s needs, strengths and risks. This needs to be done prior to placement and re-assessed and as we get to know the child or young person more and incorporating relevant sources of information.
For more information about planning and engagement, refer to:
To find out more about available placement options and the process for referring for a placement, go to Specialist placements for young people with high needs.
Help the child or young person to cope
Consider whether the proposed placement is the right fit for the child or young person, and only choose a placement that you believe will best meet their particular needs.
When considering a placement that raises questions for you ensure that you consult with your supervisor and raise your concerns. This will assist in identifying and providing clarity for safe ways of managing these concerns with the placement provider.
Remember that change — whether it is sudden or planned — can be really de-stabilising for a child or young person. Make sure they know:
- why they are moving to a new placement
- why you believe the placement is the right fit for them
- what will happen when they are in the placement (e.g. will they still be going to the same school? How often will they see their family/whānau?)
- how long you think the placement will last, and what is the longer term goal.
- Ask yourself: “if this was your Child/Grandchild/Nephew/Niece/Cousin what would you want them to know”?
- Consider creating a visual summary of this that the child or young person can keep and refer to.
Be honest if you don’t have all of the answers, but tell the child or young person that you will give them the answers when you do have them.
Agree responsibility for costs of the placement with service providers
Prior to the placement, clarify with the service provider what exactly we will be responsible for in terms of finances. In some cases, our contracts with service providers will cover some of the costs we would automatically fund if a child or young person was placed with an Oranga Tamariki caregiver.
Talk to a contract specialist in your region to understand what funding Oranga Tamariki and the provider will each be responsible for, and make sure you and the provider have a common understanding of these responsibilities before the placement starts.
As much as possible, make sure you have all finances approved before the placement begins, including financing for specialist assessments (if required). Pay special attention to clothing, pocket money, and school costs, and make sure there are no hassles or holdups with the provision of these items.
Agree responsibility for engagement between the service provider and Oranga Tamariki
If we are to work together to support the child or young person as effectively as possible it is important that transparent expectations of engagement between you as an Oranga Tamariki staff member and the service provider are clear from the outset. Talk to the provider, gather what their expectations are and be realistic about what you are able to deliver. Do not make promises that you are not able to deliver on. Remember regular communication with both the provider and child or young person will not only help to support the placement but increase your understanding of the child or young person, and as such ways to assist them. Make sure this is recorded in writing and that all parties have a copy.
During the placement
When a child or young person is placed in a group home, with a provider, or in a residence, you as their social worker still hold overall responsibility for them. This means visiting at least every eight weeks and ensuring their health and education needs are being met.
Clarify with the provider what their expectations are regarding the frequency and style of contact. The provider will then be able support the child or young person with this contact and its frequency. The visits may need to be increased initially as the child or young person settles in or the provider may require regular phone contact to commence in addition to face to face visits. The key is that this is negotiated, agreed and adhered to if both the placement and child or young person are to be supported appropriately.
Sometimes, particularly if the child or young person is placed in another area or another part of the country, it can be easy to take our eye off the ball and leave things in a holding pattern for the duration of the placement. There can be many individuals involved with a child or young person, the key to a successful placement is everyone seeing themselves as part of the same team, clear of each other’s roles, demonstrating great communication and working towards their strengths.
Keep in touch
The placement of a child or young person in a provider placement, supervised group home or residential setting, is a time when we need to intensify our efforts with the child or young person. This might mean visiting more regularly, and establishing additional lines of communication with the child or young person (i.e. video conferencing, text messages, email, phone calls).
It’s also really important to have regular contact with the lead worker at the residence or placement. Be proactive – ring them to find out how the child or young person is settling in. Don’t wait for them to tell you things are at crisis point and the placement is breaking down. Consider the use of the Child or Young Person consult tool and use if necessary, this is a great way of ensuring the child or young person’s voice is captured and that we are all working towards the same goal.
Meet with the child or young person's support network regularly
Ensure that the child or young person’s support network meets regularly (at least every three months as per policy) to check that the objectives of the placement are being addressed and the child or young person’s needs are being met. Perhaps other needs not previously known have shown themselves during the placement that will also need to be addressed. The frequency of these wider support network meetings need to be based on the needs of the child or young person, combined with whanau and service provider expectations.
We need to continually ask ourselves whether we really understand what is happening with the child or young person (and whether the child or young person understands what is happening for them). If we don’t know, how can we find out and who can help us do this?
Think about what information you need to gather now to make a sound decision about where the child or young person should next be placed.
Keeping the child or young person safe
It is also really important that everyone who has contact with the child or young person is attentive to how the child or young person is behaving and interacting with others. Sometimes, being placed in a non-family type of environment like a residence or supervised group home can be really upsetting and foreign for a child or young person.
Keep an eye on their mood and any signs of suicidal ideation or self-harming behaviours, and clearly outline in the child or young person’s plan what needs to happen if concerns arise. Use an engagement tool like the Three houses to help you to better understand how the child or young person is feeling, and where appropriate ensure an SKS is completed and the information from this screen used to identify further intervention.
Also make sure that the child or young person has a clear understanding about their rights while in care. Sit down with them with the children’s charter and go through each of the ‘rights’ with them so that they understand what they can expect from Oranga Tamariki and what they can do if their rights are being ignored. Ensure they have their own copy.
To understand more about Oranga Tamariki’s responsibilities for children and young people in care, see the Caring for children and young people policy.
Transitioning to a new living situation
Early on in the placement, start thinking about how you will transition the child or young person to their next placement.
If the placement is only for three months and you anticipate you’ll need at least two months to transition the child or young person to their new living situation, then planning for transition will need to begin and be underway almost as soon as the placement starts. Rushing a transition can be disastrous and have long-reaching impacts – never underestimate how long a successful transition can take.
When planning for a transition:
- involve those people in the child or young person’s support network as well as the child or young person themselves and their parents and other family/whānau in the planning.
- It is important to spend time with the child or young person on their own to help them understand and contextualise what is happening regarding the transition. This ensures their voice is heard and allows some control over what is happening in their lives. Create a visual timeline with them of key dates and events. Ensure the Child or Young Person has a copy.
- Profiling the placement needs for a child or young person can assist with a smooth transition. This can include having photos of the placement to show the child or young person or being able to introduce the caregiver prior to placement.
- decide on a transition objective (e.g. to return the child or young person back to their mother’s care) and work out what each party needs to do to make this a reality
- allocate specific tasks based on people’s strengths, and provide copies of the plan to those who are involved so that they are clear what their particular responsibilities will be.
After the child or young person has moved to the new placement
Set up review meetings at least once every three months so that everyone can come together to give their feedback on how they see the transition going, and record any tasks that arise from these meetings so that everyone knows what is expected of them. Keep these meetings going after the child or young person has moved to their new placement to iron out any issues that might crop up. Remember that these times are also critical, and your contact with the child or young person may need to be increased.
Transitioning is active and situations will change as the child or young person’s circumstances change or if new issues arise. It is important to be flexible while at the same time ensuring the focus always remains on the child or young person and their specific timeframes.
Be mindful that moving from one care arrangement to another (including returning home) can heighten their risk to self-harm or possibly suicide. Who will be keeping in touch with the young person to understand what is happening for them?
Be also mindful of the relationship that may exist with the previous provider. They may have a wealth of relevant information that can be used to support the child or young person or may even be able to provide a role such as maintaining contact. Ensure their emotional and psychological wellbeing is monitored in their new placement, and engage specialist support if required.
Please note: Te Poutama Arahi Rangatahi Residential Service has an agreed Reintegration Plan Protocol with Oranga Tamariki which needs to start six months prior to the young person leaving the residential programme.
For more information on transitioning, see the Planning for Transition plan template on CYRAS, or refer to:
Responding to allegations against caregivers
When a child or young person makes an allegation of abuse or neglect against a person who is supposed to be looking after them, we need to take this seriously.
When the alleged perpetrator works in an Oranga Tamariki residence, supervised group home or family home, or if a child or young person makes an allegation against a caregiver employed by a service provider refer to the Allegations of abuse, neglect, or harm of tamariki by caregivers policy.