Tairawhiti Children’s Team celebrates first year

Teams identify vulnerable children and families early to nip bigger problems in the bud.

Teams identify vulnerable children and families early to nip bigger problems in the bud.

BIRTHDAY WISHES: The Tairawhiti Children’s Team, a branch of a new government initiative to protect vulnerable children, marks its first anniversary with a cake shared by (back row left) George Brown, Naomi Whitewood, Nadine Weatherley, Sonya Cash, (middle row) Cath Jones, Rachel Johnson, Sarah Crichton, Lee Foley, Hokinga Wanoa, (front row) Nicola Dimery, Henrietta Edwards-Henry, Drina Hawea, Rosina Shandley, Jessica Proudfoot. Picture by Liam Clayton

IN ITS first year of operation, the Tairawhiti branch of a new government initiative to protect vulnerable children has had 160 referrals, 6 percent of a national total of 2600.

Part of a national network, the Tairawhiti Children’s Team (TCT) is not just another service or programme but a way to get existing services and programmes to work more effectively, says children’s team director Naomi Whitewood.

Children’s teams work with children and families who need something other than statutory intervention.

“A child might not be doing so well in education or there might be challenges around development, or possibly some involvement with the justice system, substance abuse or health needs that have not been addressed,” she says.

Referrals can be made by the family or by a health professional. TCT brings in practitioners from services and providers such as Te Runanganui O Ngati Porou, Barnardos, Anglican Care Waiapu, Turanga Social Services, Tairawhiti Police and Hauora Tairawhiti.

These people make up a child action network that works with the child and his or her family to provide an integrated approach.

“One night we had a family therapy counsellor, a senior paediatrician, a senior member from the child’s school and a social worker sitting with the family to create a plan,” says Mrs Whitewood.

“The plan is based around what the child needs. A lead professional co-ordinates that.”

“The role of the lead professional is to ensure the children’s team is making progress against that plan. A Children’s Team Panel monitors the quality of the progress until the child’s needs are met.

“TPT’s approach is to identify children who would potentially come to the attention of the state. This could involve low-level criminal activity, children turning up at school with health and hygiene issues, or children who have experienced an environment with family violence issues.”

All these examples have had some kind of intervention with no progress, says Mrs Whitewood.

Kaupapa Maori approach

A strong kaupapa Maori approach underlies the TCT’s work.

“The Tairawhiti model is strongly influenced through the Maori world view. There is a national model but we were able to ask whanau if they needed something like this, what would an ideal intervention look like.

“We also asked front-line practitioners, managers and principals what an ideal intervention would look like.

“We shaped a national model to meet what people said they wanted.”

Although TPT sees a higher percentage of Maori children than other ethnicities, the Tairawhiti Children’s Team is not exclusive and works for all children from all backgrounds.

Mrs Whitewood quotes Sir Mason Durie . . . “If you get it right for Maori, you’ll get it right for everyone.”

The TPT workforce allows whanau to be aspirational while addressing wants and needs, she says.

“We asked whanau ‘what would it look like when you are successful?’ This provides more opportunities for far-reaching outcomes. They are ready to have some hard discussion. The consent component is a point of difference. There has got to be buy-in.”

About 430 vulnerable children will be eligible for the Tairawhiti Children’s Team over the next two years.

These are children who do not reach the threshold for statutory care, but who have multiple needs that have not been met.

The Children’s Team aims to identify them earlier, and support them before their situation gets worse.

“What we’ve been doing to date is working in silos,” says Mrs Whitewood.

“This is not about creating another service but about bringing in other agencies and services together so they can work better together.”

IN ITS first year of operation, the Tairawhiti branch of a new government initiative to protect vulnerable children has had 160 referrals, 6 percent of a national total of 2600.

Part of a national network, the Tairawhiti Children’s Team (TCT) is not just another service or programme but a way to get existing services and programmes to work more effectively, says children’s team director Naomi Whitewood.

Children’s teams work with children and families who need something other than statutory intervention.

“A child might not be doing so well in education or there might be challenges around development, or possibly some involvement with the justice system, substance abuse or health needs that have not been addressed,” she says.

Referrals can be made by the family or by a health professional. TCT brings in practitioners from services and providers such as Te Runanganui O Ngati Porou, Barnardos, Anglican Care Waiapu, Turanga Social Services, Tairawhiti Police and Hauora Tairawhiti.

These people make up a child action network that works with the child and his or her family to provide an integrated approach.

“One night we had a family therapy counsellor, a senior paediatrician, a senior member from the child’s school and a social worker sitting with the family to create a plan,” says Mrs Whitewood.

“The plan is based around what the child needs. A lead professional co-ordinates that.”

“The role of the lead professional is to ensure the children’s team is making progress against that plan. A Children’s Team Panel monitors the quality of the progress until the child’s needs are met.

“TPT’s approach is to identify children who would potentially come to the attention of the state. This could involve low-level criminal activity, children turning up at school with health and hygiene issues, or children who have experienced an environment with family violence issues.”

All these examples have had some kind of intervention with no progress, says Mrs Whitewood.

Kaupapa Maori approach

A strong kaupapa Maori approach underlies the TCT’s work.

“The Tairawhiti model is strongly influenced through the Maori world view. There is a national model but we were able to ask whanau if they needed something like this, what would an ideal intervention look like.

“We also asked front-line practitioners, managers and principals what an ideal intervention would look like.

“We shaped a national model to meet what people said they wanted.”

Although TPT sees a higher percentage of Maori children than other ethnicities, the Tairawhiti Children’s Team is not exclusive and works for all children from all backgrounds.

Mrs Whitewood quotes Sir Mason Durie . . . “If you get it right for Maori, you’ll get it right for everyone.”

The TPT workforce allows whanau to be aspirational while addressing wants and needs, she says.

“We asked whanau ‘what would it look like when you are successful?’ This provides more opportunities for far-reaching outcomes. They are ready to have some hard discussion. The consent component is a point of difference. There has got to be buy-in.”

About 430 vulnerable children will be eligible for the Tairawhiti Children’s Team over the next two years.

These are children who do not reach the threshold for statutory care, but who have multiple needs that have not been met.

The Children’s Team aims to identify them earlier, and support them before their situation gets worse.

“What we’ve been doing to date is working in silos,” says Mrs Whitewood.

“This is not about creating another service but about bringing in other agencies and services together so they can work better together.”

Results of first year include:

• Two children and their families have been allocated housing.
• Benefit entitlements have been approved for some families. “Some families weren’t receiving their full benefit entitlements and with the support of Work and Income this has been realised,” says Tairawhiti Children’s Team Director Naomi Whitewood.
• Faster access to specialised health services.
• A reduction in “did not attends”. “One girl has re-engaged with much-needed services and support she had previously disengaged with,” says Mrs Whitewood. “We have had some whanau who were disconnected and have reconnected with whanau. This was about breaking down barriers and connecting people.”
• Barnados child and family practitioner Tania Rauna says a boy told her son, “ ‘I know what school I’m going to next year. Your mum told me.’ The whanau didn’t expect this child to go back to school. The father got a surprise to hear he was going back to school. This little boy has opened up a lot.”
• Working collaboratively with the panel was a new way to work, says Child, Youth and Family hospital liaison and supervisor Lee Foley.
“Child, Youth and Family find working with the Tairawhiti Children’s Team a really good relationship. It’s a really good thing. CYF’s approach is about collaborative working with families.”

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