Working with children

Children’s Teams

The Children’s Team approach is a way of working hand in hand with families and whānau to create safer lives for at-risk children. It's not another service, but it’s a different approach.

We work together with other agencies, non-government organisations and communities to put the child first and ensure their voices are heard. Together we share information and create one plan for each child.

It's everyone's responsibility

At the very least, this approach must become part of our everyday behaviour – an expected and routine way of working.

It requires accountability at every level – from chief executives of government agencies in Wellington to front-line workers interacting directly with children and their families.

The Children's Team approach

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All working as one

Children’s Teams bring together practitioners and professionals from iwi, health, justice, education and social services to create a single plan to help and support children who are at risk of abuse or neglect.

The problem

We know tamariki and whānau may require support from a range of sectors. Often the help they receive is fragmented, and sometimes even contradictory. This can lead to:

  • children not being at the centre
  • children’s voices not being heard
  • children and their whānau being overwhelmed by the number of agencies involved with them.
  • children falling below a key agency’s threshold for support so they don’t get the help they need
  • children not getting an effective, joined-up approach or integrated service response
  • services delivered in a way that creates difficulties for families, such as having to find transport or childcare so they can get to appointments
  • children getting short-term, inconsistent or conflicting support.

How is the approach different?

Children’s needs are multi-faceted. The team approach recognises that no single agency alone can protect children.

The approach is to provide joined-up support around our at-risk children and their whānau. There’s a focus on agencies working together and sharing information to reduce duplication and improve outcomes for children. 

different approach mum and son together

Who do the teams help?

Children and young people who don't quite cross the threshold to be involved in care and protection services, but still have complex needs.

We work with tamariki up to 18 years old, who are vulnerable to maltreatment and at risk of significant harm to their wellbeing.

This could be now or in 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 the needs of their whānau.

This includes, but is not limited to:

  • children living in homes where family violence is present
  • children who have difficulty attending school or engaging when present
  • children with social or behavioural problems
  • children with unaddressed health issues
  • whānau struggling with social or economic issues who have dependent children
  • whānau with dependent children where parenting capacity needs to be strengthened
  • whānau with dependent children for whom a statutory intervention may be required if concerns and risk factors are not addressed.

It's not another service, but it's a different approach.

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How we work

There are four key foundations to the way we work:

  • being child-centred and family and whānau focused
  • forming partnerships
  • being informed by the evidence
  • working together in trans-disciplinary teams.

Families taking the lead

Importantly, families must agree to be part of this approach. The child and their whānau are then supported to lead the change to improve their wellbeing.

One team working together

By working across sectors and organisations we can make sure the child gets the support they need.

The three levels

This approach works across:


To prioritise existing services, resources and new ways of working to create joint responsibility for our at-risk tamariki.


To get practitioners and professionals from health, education, NZ Police, justice and the social service sector to work together, put the needs of children first and share responsibility.


To improve the capability of the children’s workforce to work in a child-centred, trans-disciplinary way in partnership with whānau.

How did Children's Teams come about?

Children's Teams were designed in response to the White and Green Papers for Vulnerable Children. These papers highlighted some weaknesses in the way we worked with children and their families, and set out a programme of change to address this.