How Children's Teams work

Cartoon image shows three professionals standing together.

This is a community wide, collective system change.

This page contains information on how Children’s Teams work, how this approach is different and describes the journey of a child through a Children’s Team.

How do Children’s Teams work?

Children’s Teams operate a different approach to coordinate services across agencies, nongovernment and iwi/Māori organisations to support vulnerable children and their families and whānau.

Children’s Teams accept referrals and assign a Lead Professional to each child who is dedicated to focusing on the child’s needs first and foremost.

The Lead Professional brings together a group of the relevant professionals from across the social, education, health and non-government sectors to tackle the issues a child and their family face.  They work across disciplines than just addressing one aspect of the problem.

The Lead Professional works together with the group to assess the child’s and family/whānau needs. They jointly prepare a Child’s Plan which the Lead Professional takes to the Children’s Team Panel for discussion and decisions on the services to be provided.

Children’s Teams:

  • focus on the individual child
  • get the right people working together
  • include frontline professionals from health, education, welfare and social services (both government and NGOs)
  • assign a Lead Professional who brings together other professionals and practitioners to form a Child’s Action Network
  • complete an assessment of the child’s needs and develop one Child's Plan to support each child using the local community
  • are responsible for keeping the plan on track
  • are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of each child in the Children’s Team.

The Children’s Team is responsible for ensuring that the child gets the support they need to thrive, achieve and belong – and to stay safe.

Who do Children’s Teams work with?

Children’s Teams work with children and young people up to age 18 vulnerable to maltreatment and at significant risk of harm to their wellbeing now and into the future as a consequence of the environment in which they are being raised and, in some cases, due to their own complex needs, and their family/whānau.

This includes, but not limited to:

  • children who are having difficulty attending and/or engaging in school
  • children with social or behavioural problems
  • children with unaddressed health issues
  • families and whānau with dependent children struggling with social or economic issues
  • families and whānau with dependent children where parenting capacity needs to be strengthened
    • families and whānau with dependent children for whom a statutory intervention maybe required if concerns and risk factors are not addressed.

How is the Children’s Team approach different?

In response to the White Paper for Vulnerable Children, Children’s Teams have been designed to support a new way of working to respond more effectively to vulnerable children within the context of their families. This is not a piece meal approach – it requires a system change. What's more, the Children’s Team approach must become absorbed into everyday behaviour as an expected and routine way or working. This is so we collectively model this way of working across the community.

The Children’s Teams recognise that no single agency alone can protect vulnerable children. Children’s needs are multi-faceted. Under this model agencies work together, share information and provide services in a coordinated way together with families/whānau and the community to keep children safe.

This approach requires accountability at every level – from the chief executives of government agencies in Wellington to the front-line workers interacting directly with the children and their families/whānau. The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 made the five heads of Health, Education, Police, Justice and Social Development are accountable to Ministers for developing and implementing a cross agency plan on vulnerable children.

Our practice framework

Central to the Children’s Team service design is a practice framework that brings together the Children’s Team’s way of working with children, their families and practitioners. Our approach is based on four key practice foundations:

  • Child centred, family/whānau focused – places the child at the centre in the context of their parents, family and whānau and wider community. It recognises the unique nature of children’s needs and the urgency of response that is required to prevent harm occurring.
  • Working in partnership – defines the nature of practitioner relationships with children and their family and whānau.
  • Evidence-based practice – is an approach to decision making (professional judgement) where practitioners bring together the best available evidence  to provide a basis for actions.
  • Trans-disciplinary practice – acknowledges that complex needs cannot be understood or addressed from a singular discipline or perspective.

Practitioners must get to know and be trusted by the children and families in ways that enable them to openly discuss significant issues. Only then can actions be tailored to the existing expertise and resources of the vulnerable children and their families and to the specific characteristics of the child and their family situation.

How do we know this approach works?

We know that:

  • the largely predominant factors influencing change are the client strengths, resources, & resilience and quality of the client experience or relationship with the practitioner
  • to achieve sustainable change we need to address the underlying issues facing a child and their family and whānau
  • to address socially complex issues – that no single agency alone can do this.

The Children’s Team approach and their implementation were evaluated by Superu in January 2014.

Summary of the Children’s Team process

All referrals made to a Children’s Team are reviewed by the Children’s Team Panel before they are accepted. The Panel is made up of senior and experienced practitioners and professionals in the community. They determine whether Children’s Teams are the most appropriate support, and may identify safety planning where required. They also provide recommendations for the Lead Professional if the child is accepted, or the referrer if the child is not accepted.

Children and their family/whānau agree to participate in the Children's Team. They actively engage in identifying their own needs, setting goals and in planning and taking action to address these and work towards their own improved wellbeing. Children, families and whānau are recognised as holding diverse and far-reaching relationships, as defined by the family and whānau.

After the child and family/whānau have agreed to working with the Children’s Team, a Lead Professional is assigned as their main contact.

Children’s Teams follow the process - assessment, plan, implement and review using the common assessment framework tool. This is led by the child and their family/whānau, steered by the Lead Professional and supported by the Child’s Action Network, a group of practitioners and professionals that support the achievement of the Child’s Plan.

When the child and their whānau have achieved their goals and are showing confidence and resilience, they come together with everyone to celebrate their success.

At the stage when the child and their whānau are ready to be supported by universal or specialist services, they exit the Children’s Team.

The Children’s Teams Practice Process Flow [PDF, 265 KB] shows that every child’s journey with a Children’s Team has a purposeful and focused beginning, middle and end.