Seeking solutions with families
Updated: 14 March 2022
What's Important To Us
Whānau or family decision-making is at the heart of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. The key strength of whānau or family decision-making is the involvement of all those who know and are committed to te tamaiti or rangatahi concerned, including te tamaiti or rangatahi. Tamariki and rangatahi and their whānau or family have a right to come together and create their own solutions to issues concerning their safety and well-being. whānau or family are the experts of their own lives.
This policy focuses on working with whānau or family to develop solutions to respond to care and wellbeing concerns for their tamariki and rangatahi.
It covers the participation of tamariki and rangatahi and using family/whānau agreements to support whānau or family.
Tamariki participation and views
Tamariki have the right to participate and express their views about matters that significantly affect them.
Tamariki must be encouraged and assisted to participate to a degree appropriate for their age and maturity. Even very young tamariki have a right to participate and they must be supported to do this safely.
Tamariki must be given reasonable opportunity to freely express their views on matters affecting them. Views that they express must be taken into account. This includes consultation wherever practicable and appropriate, where disclosure of information relating to them is being considered.
If tamariki require assistance to express their views or be understood, support must be provided to assist them.
See the Participation of tamariki – providing information, ensuring understanding and incorporating their views policy for further detail.
Tamariki have the right to express their views in matters affecting them – this is critical to any plan that affects them. Even very young tamariki have the right to participate and they must be supported to do this safely. Think creatively about how you can ensure that their voice is heard. Can they attend meetings or Court? Can they write down what they want to see happen? Can someone help them speak or speak for them if they can't attend? You may wish to talk with their lawyer for child about this. Think about:
- how to ensure the physical and emotional safety of tamariki while enabling them to participate
- how to help tamariki make sense of the process so they can participate in an informed and empowering way
- how to enable and encourage tamariki to present their views in a way that is meaningful to them, for example through pictures and letters
- assisting tamariki to identify people (representative(s)) who can support and talk for them if they are unable to do this themselves
- supporting tamariki to talk in a language they feel comfortable with and to share how they feel about the decisions being made
- if they are too young or are unable to participate, whether there is an effective means of including their voice in the process
- how tamariki can express their views in a way which takes into account and strengthens their cultural connections and identity.
Tamariki will be given information about what will be said in hui ā-whānau by the social worker.
A family/whānau agreement can be considered when there are some concerns for the wellbeing of te tamaiti but enough positive safety factors in place (as captured within a Tuituia assessment) for the family/whānau to engage in a voluntary agreement with Oranga Tamariki.
A family/whānau agreement is not an option if the level of concern has reached the point where the social worker has formed a belief that te tamaiti is in need of care and/or protection. The law requires that a referral for a family group conference must be made when a social worker believes te tamaiti is in need of care or protection.
A meeting/hui must be held with the family/whānau to complete the family/whānau agreement, the purpose of which is to assist the family/whānau to support the ongoing safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti. Discuss who gets a copy of this plan and what information needs to be shared with relevant parties to support the plan.
The hui ā-whānau results in a family/whānau agreement that is realistic, achievable and relates to the ongoing safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti.
The family/whānau agreement has a maximum length of 3 months (with a possible one-month extension) and the whānau can withdraw from the agreement at any time. A second agreement can be made for a further three months, but cannot be extended. If the family/whānau agreement has not addressed the care and protection and wellbeing concerns the social worker must reassess whether te tamaiti is in fact in need of care and/or
protection within one or more of the grounds in section 14. If yes, the social worker must make a referral to a family group conference.
Towards the end of the 3 months, the social worker must review the progress of the agreement in order to determine the next steps. This review must include te tamaiti and people involved in the agreement and must be recorded.