Trans-disciplinary practice

Working across disciplines to ensure all of the child's needs are met.

What is trans-disciplinary practice?

No single agency can address all the needs of vulnerable children and whānau. Some children and families have complex or multiple needs which are not based on what a single agency can provide.

Trans-disciplinary means working together across disciplines to ensure all the needs of the child, family and whānau are met. In order to be child-centred, you must work across disciplines, agencies and sectors to meet all of the child’s needs. It means working closely together with Health, Social Development, Education, Justice, Police, Corrections agencies and other non-government, philanthropic, community, iwi/Māori and Pasifika organisations.

A key aspect of working in a trans-disciplinary approach is sharing information so everyone has the full picture.

Why is it important?

We know we get better results for a child when we work across disciplines, agencies and sectors to meet all of the child’s needs. Sector specific services are less likely to be effective as they will not address the complex, entrenched and compounding issues that the child and their family face.

The needs of children and their whānau should not be defined by what individual agencies and organisations can provide. Practitioners must work together to ensure services and supports are tailored, coordinated and coherent in order to achieve results for the child.

What does it look like in practice?

A trans-disciplinary team will jointly communicate, exchange ideas and work together to come up with solutions to problems. Their efforts are collective in determining the best ideas or approaches.

Key characteristics of trans-disciplinary practice are:

  • Shared assessment – the assessment is undertaken simultaneously, followed by a brief discussion of the information and building a shared view.
  • Shared purpose - practitioners coordinate activities with the child, family and whānau to enable them to manage demands on their time and reduce family stress.
  • Intensive on-going interaction among team members - enabling them to pool and exchange information, knowledge and skills and work together cooperatively.
  • Role transfer – occurs when a practitioner begins to utilise strategies and techniques from other disciplines. Role transfer also occurs with respect to children and families, for example, parents can be educated about appropriate activities to incorporate into a child’s daily routines.

How do I support my staff to work in a trans-disciplinary way?

This way of working depends on a shared understanding of team member’s expertise, trusting relationships and team processes. The skills necessary for collaborative inter-professional teamwork include:

  • listening and communication skills
  • negotiation skills
  • skills in giving and providing feedback, and;
  • skills in resolving conflicts and reaching consensus.

There are a number of tangible things managers can do to support their staff, including:

  • create an environment open to learning
  • provide the opportunity for team members to learn from one another and discuss shared strategies
  • plan the time required for the trans disciplinary teams to plan, implement and critique their work together
  • get involved and encourage your staff to participate in your local Children’s Team
  • review your organisation’s processes to ensure they support effective working together and prioritise the needs of vulnerable children
  • ensure your staff work collaboratively with other agencies and organisations
  • educate your staff about sharing information to protect vulnerable children
  • put in place effective supervision.

How are Children's Teams trans-diciplinary?

The Children’s Team approach is fundamentally trans-disciplinary. Lead Professionals and Child’s Action Network members come from across social sector, health, education, justice, Police, non-government and iwi/Māori organisations.

Children’s Teams coordinate services and supports for children and their family and whānau. They assign a Lead Professional who is the key contact for the child, family and whānau. The Lead Professional coordinates the other agencies and organisations that need to be involved to meet all of the needs of the child to form the Child’s Action Network.

The Child’s Action Network meet, share information and expertise. Together they share the responsibilities of assessing, planning and implementing services to the child, family and whānau.  

Any professional or practitioner involved with the child or whānau can be a member of the Child’s Action Network. Find out more about how you can get involved in a Children’s Team in your area.

What resources can help me put a trans-disciplinary approach in place?

Superu holds the latest research on what works best for children and families.