Seeking solutions with families
Updated: 31 March 2021
What's Important To Us
Family/whānau decision-making is at the heart of the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. The key strength of family/whānau decision-making is the involvement of all those who know and are committed to the child or young person concerned, including the child or young person. Children and young people and their families/whānau have a right to come together and create their own solutions to issues concerning their safety and well-being. Families/whānau are the experts of their own lives.
This policy focuses on working with families/whānau to develop solutions to respond to care and wellbeing concerns for their children and young people.
It covers the participation of children and young people, using family/whānau agreements to support families/whānau.
Mokopuna participation and views
Mokopuna have a right to participate and express their views about matters that significantly affect them.
Mokopuna must be encouraged and assisted to participate to a degree appropriate for their age and maturity. Even very young mokopuna have a right to participate, and they must be supported to do this safely.
Mokopuna must be given reasonable opportunity to freely express their views on matters affecting them. Views that they express must be taken into account.
If a mokopuna requires assistance to express their views or be understood, support must be provided to assist them.
See the Participation and views of children and young people policy for further detail.
Mokopuna have a right to express their views in matters affecting them; this is critical to any plan that affects them. Even very young mokopuna have a 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 mokopuna while enabling them to participate
- How to help mokopuna make sense of the process so they can participate in an informed and empowering way
- How to enable and encourage mokopuna to present their views in a way that is meaningful to them e.g. through pictures and letters
- Assisting mokopuna to identify people who can support and talk for them if they are unable to do this themselves
- Supporting them 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 mokopuna can express their views in a way which takes in to account and strengthens their cultural connections and identity
Mokopuna will be given information about what will be said in hui ā-whānau by the social worker.
See Key information Keeping our focus on mokopuna for ideas about involving mokopuna in the decisions about their lives.
A family/whānau agreement can be considered when there are some concerns for the wellbeing of the mokopuna but enough positive safety factors in place (as captured within a Tuituia assessment) for the 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 the mokopuna is in need of care and/or protection. Please note: the law requires that a referral for a family group conference must be made when a social worker believes a mokopuna is in need of care or protection.
A meeting/hui must be held with the whānau to complete the family/whānau agreement, the purpose of which is to assist the whānau to support the ongoing safety and wellbeing of mokopuna.
The hui ā-whānau results in a family/whānau agreement that is realistic, achievable and relates to the ongoing safety and wellbeing of mokopuna.
The family/whānau agreement has a maximum length of three 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 the mokopuna 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 three months, the social worker must review the progress of the agreement in order to determine the next steps. This review must include the mokopuna and people involved in the agreement and must be recorded.