Child-centred practice

Published: May 9, 2017

Do adults know what’s best for children, especially when they won’t be the consumers of whatever decision is made?

Reforming how we respond

Paul Nixon, Chief Social Worker, says children have been subjected to what adults think is good for them for a long time. “The Government reforms are aimed at building a new consensus on the role of children and young people, families, iwi, communities, non-government organisations and the State in how we respond together. “For practitioners working with children, what does a child-centred system look like and what does this mean for their practice?”

Paul identifies five elements:

  1. Focus on results for children, rather than on processes to manage volumes and risks. Know what really enhances their wellbeing – their health, safety, happiness, cultural identity, sense of belonging, achievements and participation.
  2. Collectively understand oranga tamariki – the child’s wellbeing – rather than seeing one part of the child’s experience in isolation: the risk, their health or their education. If, for example, a child is excluded from school their chances of being abused, of re-offending or having their home environment break down go up significantly and their prospects of gaining employment go down. Understanding children’s needs holistically requires families, agencies and others to work together to meet all their needs.
  3. Making children's participation and voice front and centre in assessment and decision making is a ‘must do’. This means involving them in designing services, shaping practice, evaluating success, setting policy, appointing staff, training the workforce, advocating and promoting children’s voices.
  4. Knowing who you are, where you’re from, your heritage and culture are integral to wellbeing. Family and cultural connections help build resilience and support networks and provide the survival skills for dealing with isolation, racism and structural discrimination that reduce their life chances.
  5. Moving towards a society where children are valued as much as adults. This would include children influencing decisions about their community and being equal citizens.