Supporting young people
Updated: 21 June 2017
What's Important To Us
Oranga Tamariki is part of a wider sector working with young people and their families/whānau; we need to bring people together to work with the young person and their family/whānau in a way that will provide enduring systems of support for the future.
We need to work collaboratively with the young person, their wider family/whānau and professionals to ensure robust decision making and planning that is responsive to their individual needs. When it comes to young people, this is not just a good thing to do; they have a right to participate in the decisions that are made about their lives and all efforts need to be made to ensure this happens. Services need to be culturally responsive and provide the young person and their family/whānau with the opportunity to plan and support the young person's wellbeing, their sense of identity and belonging. Some key messages that support collaborative planning are:
- family/whānau should be strengthened and should participate in decision-making, and be responded to as practice partners (Puao-te-Ata-tu, 1986; Oranga Tamariki Act 1989
- families/whānau develop rich and diverse plans to support the child or young person when given the opportunity (Thoennes, 2003)
- families/whānau do respond positively when invited to take the lead (Burford, 2005; Titcomb & LeCroy, 2003)
- building alliances with communities will strengthen good outcomes (Pacific Responsiveness Plan, 2002)
- diverse families/whānau require culturally responsive solutions and reflexive social work practices (Puao-te-Ata-tu, 1986; Connolly, Crichton-Hill & Ward, 2005).
Bringing everyone together will assist in identifying the people who have the capacity and commitment to support the young person. This should not be delayed until a family group conference; people should be bought together at the earliest point to plan for the young person's immediate needs as well as look to the future.
The unique needs of each young person
The Tuituia assessment will have identified the unique needs of the young person. It is our job to ensure that the plan made with family/whānau and other professionals addresses these needs and pays attention to any particular areas of risk. Equally, because we have been focused on the young person during our assessment we will have a good understanding of their strengths; the plan builds on these strengths and gives the young person every opportunity to reach their full potential.
The importance of young people being engaged in education and/or vocational training
Young people not in education, employment or training are more likely to turn to crime (Farrow, Kelly & Wilkinson, 2007). We need to ensure that education and training providers are part of the collaborative group working with the young person and their family/whānau.
Collaborate early; the younger a young person disengages with education and/or the longer a young person is out of education, the less likely it is that they will successfully re-engage.
We need to advocate for young people who are disengaged from education due to behavioral or learning difficulties, stand-down/exclusion or family/whānau issues such as transience or lack of importance placed on education by parents.
There is a strong correlation between early school leavers and unemployment and/or lower incomes, which are in turn generally related to poverty and dependence on income support.
Data shows that those with no qualifications have unemployment rates far exceeding those with qualifications, and the lowest median incomes (Education Counts).
Search widely for people who are committed to the young person and plan with them
Searching family/whānau, iwi and hapū early and getting these people involved in developing the plan for the young person is vital.
In particular look for a key person that the young person can connect with, who will be there for them and role model pro-social behaviour.
Searching for family/whānau can take time but an intensified effort at this point will provide the young person with enduring support systems that will last beyond our involvement.
When working with young Māori be mindful of whānaungatanga. This is an inclusive process that has as its central theme the strengthening of the family/whānau.
Whānaungatanga implies respect for one another and the willingness to resolve and reconcile differences. It can be described as the inter-relationships and the ‘glue' that holds people together; a shared set of values and understandings that influence the relationships of those involved.
Building a relationship with Pacific young people and their family/whānau is vital to good planning. In order for the family/whānau to feel valued and respected in the planning process time must first be taken to acknowledge each person present, the role of each person, the issues and the effects on the family/whānau.
Commitment and participation need to be encouraged by acknowledging peoples' mana and dignity and recognising the family/whānau's ability to provide their own solutions. We need to also have knowledge of the family/whānau's religious beliefs and also the impact of perceived ‘shame' bought on the family/whānau by the parents or young person's behaviour.
Challenge parents when necessary
How parents behave impacts on young people and can shape the way they see the world, the value they place on themselves and others and the ideas they have about what is ‘okay' behaviour.
Challenge negative parental behaviour and work with parents to make changes so they are best placed to support and care for the young person and, break inter-generational patters of poor parenting.
Plans need to include mechanisms for enhancing the overall family/whānau functioning in order to enhance the young person's wellbeing. This may include thing like:
- assessment and treatment of parental alcohol and drug abuse issues
- addressing unmanaged mental health issues
- providing parents with education and tips on effective parenting
- addressing family violence dynamics
- establishing support systems in the family/whānau and community that will continue to encourage and role model safe parenting.
Think creatively about peer groups
Peers have a significant influence on young people and their behaviour. Plans need to consider how the young person is being influenced by their peers, how positive peer relationships can be encouraged and built on and what community solutions are available to address negative attitudes amongst some groups of young people.
While it is difficult to break negative patterns of behaviour in the face of peer pressure, it may be more realistic to focus attention on building the young person's resilience and self-determination skills so that they themselves have the ability to break the patterns.
Provide young people with every opportunity to experience a different way of seeing the world, responding to challenging situations and relating to others.
The more people brought together the more chance there is that innovative ideas will be found. Include people from the young person's community, culture or religion who are committed to supporting all the young people in their community.
Address accountability and identify needs
When young people offend addressing accountability for the behaviour is important. It is our role to work with the young person, their family/whānau and the victims to develop a plan that will provide the young person with an opportunity to ‘right the wrong'.
Equally, we need to use the information gathered in our assessment to ensure that the plan meets the young person's overall need for safety and wellbeing.
Actively monitor the plan
For plans to be effective they have to be actively implemented and monitored. Working with others to develop the plans is an opportunity to spread the load of tasks across those who are committed to, and have an interest in, supporting the young person to achieve to their full potential.
Utilise the specialist skills of education, health and other providers to monitor the young person's progress in each area. All of the people involved in the plan (including the young person) need to be clear about their responsibilities, how they will address any issues that arise and how progress will be reviewed.
Burford, G. (2005). Families: Their role as architects of civil society and social inclusion. Practice, 17, (2) 79-88.
Farrow, K., Kelly, B. & Wilkinson, B. (2007). Offenders in Focus: Risk, Responsivity & Diversity. UK: Policy Press.
Thoennes, N. (2003). Family group decision making in Colorado. Protecting Children, 18, (1&2) 74-80.
Titcomb, A. & LeCroy, C. (2003). Evaluation of Arizona's family groups decision making program. Protecting Children, 18, (1&2) 58-64.
Connolly, M., Crichton-Hill, Y. & Ward, T. (2005). Culture and child protection: Reflexive responses. London: Jessica Kingsley Press.