Puāwai programme helping caregiving whānau navigate trauma

Published: January 27, 2022

A programme developed to help caregivers support tamariki who have experienced trauma is making a big difference to the lives of caregiving whānau.

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Stacey McGregor, Puāwai Puāwai Kaiwhakahaere Matua/General Manager.

Delivered by Manawaroa Ltd, a Māori-owned and operated organisation, Puāwai is a trauma-informed learning and support programme designed for Oranga Tamariki caregiving whānau. Originally developed as a pilot programme in Waikato in 2018, Puāwai has now expanded to support caregiving whānau across four regions.

Puāwai is one of the programmes developed in response to caregivers saying, as part of the establishment of Oranga Tamariki in 2015, that they needed learning opportunities to help them understand trauma and provide care for children who have experienced trauma, so they could heal and flourish.

Following the investment in the three-year pilot programme, the Caregiver Recruitment and Support team has developed partnerships that enable trauma-informed learning programmes to be available to caregiving whānau across the motu.

Building skills that support whānau resilience

Puāwai Kaiwhakahaere Matua/General Manager Stacey McGregor says the programme blends kaupapa Māori values with western science and positive psychology approaches.

“It’s all about finding the right balance; we know what works for Māori works for everyone. At the same time, not all whānau are the same, so we take a unique approach and wrap around whānau to support their wellbeing,” she says.

“We recognise tamariki are at the heart of what we do. All our work creating whānau resilience and hopeful, happy whānau has a positive flow on effect on tamariki in care.”

Puāwai gives caregivers new skills and tools to help them understand more about how to look after themselves and their whānau, and strategies for bouncing back from everyday challenges.

The main goals of the programme include educating caregivers about understanding – and how to respond safely to – the needs of tamariki who have experienced trauma, as well as the importance of culture and holistic understandings of wellbeing that support trauma-informed care.

“Through the whānau programme we break down big concepts so they are digestible and can be understood by whānau, and can be applied in a way that works for them.”

Awareness helps understanding of others

The programme is delivered in two parts, with the first half focussing on helping caregivers build an awareness of themselves.

“This is the starting point, as if we’re not aware of ourselves, our own thoughts and behaviours, and how situations impact us, we can’t make the best choices, or live and walk our values,” Stacey says.

The second half of the programme is about their tamariki, and how to build and maintain a safe and stable whare/home.

“Throughout the programme, we support whānau to apply their Puāwai kete of tools and skills in their home and with tamariki in their care, through a trauma-informed lens.”

Stacey says it is beautiful to see caregivers grow and blossom throughout the programme.

“When I receive feedback from caregivers about how Puāwai has supported them to feel more confident, less stressed, more connected and in tune with themselves and their tamariki – that’s the gold. We know that whānau are already resilient, and to hear them own their strengths is just incredible,” she says.

“It is their stories of change, their stories of growth, that are the true measure of our success. “

Creating connections alongside learning

When a caregiver is referred to Puāwai by Oranga Tamariki they will be invited to take part in an introductory session that outlines what the programme offers and some of the benefits caregivers can get from taking part.

“It’s essential we get their buy in – we’re not here to tell them, ‘You need this.’ Relationships are at the core of Puāwai, and we know we must work and engage in with whānau in a way that works for them,” Stacey says.

When they begin the programme, participants are put into a group with other caregivers, which meets – currently online, due to COVID-19 – for two hui each week. Every session is live and unique, and they provide an opportunity to meet other caregivers, make connections, and share about their whānau and experiences.

“Caregivers want to feel heard, acknowledged and validated for all they do for the tamariki in their care. For all of them, there’s that moment of, ‘Oh gosh, that’s an issue, I’m not alone,’” Stacey says.

The first hui in the week is for learning, while the second one is a time to review, reflect and share.

“In these sessions we talk about what is going well, what isn’t going so well, and any issues caregivers are facing. In this we share tips and tools, and most importantly encourage empathy and self-compassion.”

How Puāwai is making a difference

A caregiver of over two and a half years who recently participated in the Puāwai programme said they instantly felt supported, and that it was encouraging to feel they now had a support group.

“I am so grateful to have this platform/training available to us, from a Māori perspective and by Māori. Somehow the relevance and connection feels right. I feel the ahua emanating from your use of language. It is encouraging, validating and nourishing.”

“Puāwai feels like a breath of fresh air, a spring to drink from to keep ourselves nourished and enlightened.”

The caregiver highlighted the importance placed on self-care, saying that this is what attracted them to the Puāwai programme, as well as feeling they now had a gauge to evaluate how things were going for their whānau.

“The tools shared today can confirm that I am on the right track and am feeling positive about that, as it can often be difficult to measure outcomes and success in caregiving.”

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Stacey with Jaleh McCormack, Manager Caregiver Experience and Learning, and Caregiver Recruitment and Support Managers Echo Bignall (Taranaki/Manawatū), Tash Cianci (Bay of Plenty), Claire Reynolds (East Coast), Johnson Taoho (Waikato), and Donna Taituma, Advisor Partnering for Outcomes.

Working together for caregiving whānau

To date Puāwai has supported over 200 caregivers, and around 100 more have the opportunity to take part over first half of 2022. Puāwai has also worked with 60 Oranga Tamariki caregiver social workers, to help them best engage with and support caregivers throughout their Puāwai journey.

“Manawaroa are an esteemed partner, working collegially with Oranga Tamariki so that we can continuously improve together. They always hold the needs of tamariki and the caregiving whānau who they are supporting at the heart of their mahi – and advocate for them whenever this is needed,” says Jaleh McCormack, Manager Caregiver Experience and Learning.

Trauma programmes are available to caregivers in all regions across Aotearoa. Caregivers with Oranga Tamariki can reach out to their caregiver social worker to take part.