Ngā Haerenga | Transition Journeys Longitudinal Study Phase 1

Published: July 30, 2021

This paper reports the findings from the first year of a longitudinal study exploring the outcomes and experience of rangatahi transitioning out of statutory care into more self-determined living arrangements. Phase One focusses on the preparation, expectations and anticipated journey of rangatahi in the months prior to leaving care.


Approximately 600 rangatahi aged 15-18 years transition out of medium to long term Oranga Tamariki statutory care (or custody) into more independent or self determined living arrangements each year.

To build our understanding of how this transition journey is experienced by rangatahi, including the goals they have, the outcomes they achieve and the things that help or hinder them along the way, we invited a cohort of 126 rangatahi nearing their time to leaving care to participate in a three-year qualitative longitudinal research study.

This paper reports high level findings from the first year of the study in which 44 rangatahi were interviewed 1-6 months prior to leaving care by three regionally based research teams (rōpū). The study uses semi-structured interviewing and kaupapa Māori methods and includes the voices of whānau and caregivers, alongside those of the rangatahi.

Key findings

Securing a safe, stable place to live was a top priority for most rangatahi. Being in work, training or education was similarly very important, as was connecting with others such as whānau, former caregivers, friends and community or support organisations.

Rangatahi were asked what factors they thought would help them to achieve their goals. Across the interviews, three broad success factors were commonly talked about:

  • Personal strengths such as being determined, resilient and self-reliant, likeable and having good social skills.
  • Good connections with whānau, current and past caregivers, and various support networks (including Oranga Tamariki’s Transition Support Service) – as well as, for some rangatahi Māori, connections with culture and cultural identity.
  • Security and certainty, including sufficient income and food, stable housing and access to reliable transport.

Rangatahi in custody also valued the support and therapeutic, cultural and educational elements of the youth justice residences.

Barriers to success were more often talked about than enablers, and there was a wider range. These included:

  • Financial insecurity and uncertainty about the future
  • Personal barriers, including tendencies to withdraw or switch off when stressed or bored
  • Health, disability, mental health and addiction issues
  • Challenging friends and whānau, such as “bad influences”
  • Bias and prejudice
  • Cultural alienation and disconnection from whānau, hapū, iwi and hapori
  • Not understanding entitlements and limited access to services.

Rangatahi identified a number of support needs for their transition journey. Rangatahi said they wanted:

  • Easier access to stable housing and more security regarding income and financial support
  • More choice and better access to effective mental health services
  • Improved engagement from Social Workers and Transition Workers
  • Improved understanding of entitlements, and support for accessing services
  • Ongoing opportunities for engagement, support and services post YJ residential care
  • Ongoing, early support for connecting and reconnecting to Māori culture
  • Support for moving into work, education or training
  • Better information and more responsive support for rangatahi with an intellectual disability.