Strengthening Families in practice

Strengthening Families is a co-ordinated process where multiple agencies are working with a family/whnau.

Examples of the process

The family/whānau and the agencies agree on an action plan. This is used to keep track of progress and ensure all the agencies involved and family are following through on their commitments.

Being involved in a Strengthening Families process can be hard work and take commitment but it is worth it.

Key features of Strengthening Families

  • The process is voluntary.
  • The process is flexible to meet the needs of each family/ whänau. This may include following tikanga Māori, meeting in evenings, choosing a neutral venue to meet.
  • The process ensures that the family’s voice is respected. It is about getting the most from everyone already helping a family.

Why use the process

The process keeps the family/ whänau at the heart of every conversation and decision. It is not about involving another professional in a family’s life, but getting those who are already involved working together more effectively, this may include new professionals.

Benefits of Strengthening Families for agencies include:

  • better support is offered to families you are working with, as gaps are identified and the best services to provide support are lined up
  • agencies get the full picture of what is going on, so collectively they can tackle root causes
  • the process happens in a neutral setting with a trained facilitator so any conflict or negativity is avoided
  • each agency is accountable for doing what they say they will
  • families stay in control, and are supported to take charge of their lives.

Roles of everyone involved in helping families

Lead or link person

Every family/ whānau is assigned a main contact person.

A lead agency worker could be a budget advisor, social worker, school principal or other professional. They set up and run meetings, draft and circulate an Action Plan. After the first meeting, they check to see whether or not the things agreed to by everyone are actually being done. As well as providing the required support to the family/ whānau to achieve their actions in the Action Plan, the lead or link person may modify the plan if there is a change of circumstances. The Strengthening Families co-ordinator needs to be kept up-to-date of progress and changes (if any), and to supply a final report.  

A lead agency may be sorted out as soon as families are involved with Strengthening Families, or it might be sorted out at the first meeting.

Strengthening Families Co-ordinator

Strengthening Families Co-ordinators are responsible for the overall smooth running of the process. They help families and the agencies who can help them to get involved. Most Strengthening Families Co-ordinators are employed in community organisations. There are about 60 co-ordinators throughout New Zealand.  

Meeting facilitator

To make sure everyone gets the most out of meetings, an independent person may run them. A facilitator puts the interests and dreams of the family/ whānau at the heart of the meeting, and makes sure everybody has a say.

Community and government agencies

People working in community and government agencies provide services and support to families.

These may be social workers, truancy officers, case managers, budget advisors, etc. People working in these and other roles will attend Strengthening Families meetings.

Typical meeting structure

Before the first meeting a lot of homework is done. The family/ whānau takes stock of strengths, issues, priorities and dreams. What is covered, who participates and the timing and venue are all agreed to by the family/ whānau. Then all the agencies involved with a family are invited to attend.

Typically the first meeting will cover:

  • Welcome and introductions
  • Brainstorming any issues and family/ whānau goals
  • Creating a plan – deciding what each agency and the family will contribute, then record this in a plan
  • Setting a review time.

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