Mana Whānau is a six-month, intensive, in-home parenting support programme for:
- whānau who are at risk of having their children removed from their care by Oranga Tamariki
- whānau who need support to have their children return home from foster care.
The programme was developed by Lifewise in Auckland in 2017. Wesley Community Action joined in 2019 and now has three full-time Mana Whānau kaimahi (social workers) based in Porirua.
Mana Whānau is a whānau-led, evidence-based programme that works. It’s based on the belief that whānau can find their own solutions and that with the right support and resources most whānau can care for their tamariki safely.
This can be done by reducing toxic levels of stress to free up the mental bandwidth required for parents to care for their tamariki effectively and, where necessary, build new skills and capabilities. Toxic stressors include financial hardship, housing issues and mental distress.
How does Mana Whānau work?
Mana Whānau is different from traditional parenting courses. It’s not about telling whānau what to do but rather is based on modelling coaching and support – a “show not tell” approach.
Staff work intensively with whānau in their homes for up to 65 hours a week to:
- identify and reduce their stressors
- support strong and responsive relationships between tamariki and adults
- work alongside whānau in their home, coaching, modelling, positively reinforcing and providing opportunities to develop and practice the parenting skills they need to care for and parent their tamariki effectively and safely
- build natural whānau and community supports for long-term resilience.
Who can get support through Mana Whānau?
Mana whānau is for families who are on the edge of having their tamariki removed by Oranga Tamariki or have had them removed and are struggling to have them returned.
All referrals to the programme are made by Oranga Tamariki.
Mana Whānau works best for whānau who want to be part of the programme – whānau who acknowledge that there are issues to address and who want to make changes.
Mana Whānau is not suitable for people who are heavy methamphetamine users, but it has worked successfully for whānau with other substance-abuse or family-violence issues.
How successful is Mana Whānau?
An evaluation of the first two years of Mana Whānau found that of the 35 whānau who started the programme, 29 either safely retained their tamariki or had them returned from care. As a result, 78 tamariki now live safely together with their parents.
Many of their stressors were addressed: they were rehoused, their debts were consolidated and they got the benefits they were entitled to. Many also got access to counselling for mental health and behavioural issues..
The five principles of Mana Whānau
- Maximise choices for whānau: We work with whānau to increase their options and create real choices.
- Whānau-led with tamariki at the heart: We support whānau to work on their goals and priorities while providing a safe environment with tamariki at the heart.
- What it takes: Focussed, intensive, flexible and tailored for each whānau.
- Reduce stress: Helping whānau reduce stresses in their life first so they can then focus on building the skills they need.
- Build skills and resilience: Support to build responsive parenting skills and natural community and whānau supports.