Child and youth voice research findings

Honour My World

Author: VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai

Rangatahi who transition to adulthood from the care of Oranga Tamariki have an ‘Entitlement to Remain or Return’ (ETRR) to living with a caregiver up to the age of 21 years. Since its introduction in 2019, the uptake of ETRR by rangatahi has been lower than expected. The reasons for this are not well investigated or understood. So why do rangatahi not engage in ETRR?

VOYCE -Whakarongo Mai have sought to answer this question by conducting research with rangatahi at various stages of transition from care to adulthood. They believe that the uptake of ETRR must be considered within the context in which it is accessed, and for that reason they have approached the question of ETRR uptake within the broader context of transition from care to adulthood.

This report is presented in plain language and available in accessible formats so it can be read and understood by as many people as possible. The term 'rangatahi atawhai', meaning 'care experienced young person' is used throughout the report.


To honour and express the VOYCE -Whakarongo Mai kaupapa, a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) approach was chosen for this project. YPAR is a significant shift away from traditional Western research approaches which tend to see professionals and academics as experts. Instead, YPAR values young people as the experts in their own lives and communities. YPAR aligns with te ao Māori concepts of ‘ako’ and ‘tuakana teina’ by sharing power with young people to create new knowledge.

Rangatahi atawhai aged 15 years and older were invited to take part in this research. Each participant took part in a one-hour interview, either online or in person, to talk about their experiences of leaving care. These interviews were ‘semi-structured’ and were led by rangatahi researchers wherever possible, with support and back up provided by VOYCE kaimahi. All the interviews were voice recorded, transcribed and then analysed to find themes and patterns.


Between November 2021 and April 2022, 23 rangatahi from across Aotearoa New Zealand were interviewed about their experiences of leaving care. The rangatahi interviewed identified with a range of genders and ethnicities. The rangatahi interviewed were at different ages and stages of the transition journey and had experienced a range of different placement types. Of the 23 rangatahi interviewed, 18 were eligible for the Transition Support Service, and 16 were eligible for ETRR. Fifteen rangatahi were accessing transition supports and one had taken up ETRR.

Of the 23 rangatahi interviewed, four had been made aware of ETRR by Oranga Tamariki. Although all four were eligible for ETRR, they were unable to access this entitlement as they were living with caregivers Oranga Tamariki had not approved. Five rangatahi were not aware of ETRR, even though four of these rangatahi were eligible for this entitlement and currently accessing the Transition Support Service.

Findings and discussion#

From the thematic analysis of the interviews conducted with rangatahi atawhai, Whakarongo Mai identified six key themes:

  1. Connection to birth whānau, identity and culture
  2. Quality and stability of caregiver placements
  3. Long-term and gradual transition to adulthood
  4. Mental health, wellbeing and community supports
  5. Diverse transition and accommodation needs
  6. Access to transition supports

Each theme represents a collection of distinct ideas, or sub-themes, that appear frequently across the statements made by rangatahi atawhai in the interviews conducted. 


On behalf of and alongside those whose voices are contained in this report, and the wider care experienced community, VOYCE – Whakarongo Mai made the following recommendations to Oranga Tamariki.

To increase the uptake of ETRR, undertake the following changes to the Transitions Support Service:

  • Revise eligibility criteria for transition supports and ETRR to ensure these provisions are available to all rangatahi atawhai who need them. This should be inclusive of those who exit the care system before 15 years, those living with caregivers under informal arrangements, Support Orders, or Guardianship Orders, and those who have exited Youth Justice Facilities
  • Increase compliance with annual transition planning hui between the ages of 15 and 18 years, and improve quality of this process by incorporating earlier and ongoing life skills assessments, engagement with transition workers and discussion of entitlements, including ETRR
  • Engage with rangatahi and caregivers to co-design more flexible ETRR provisions that enable fluid, ongoing and interdependent relationships to be maintained beyond full-time boarding arrangements

To increase the uptake of ETRR, undertake the following changes to caregiver provisions:

  • Increase the availability of caregiver placements within whānau and communities of origin, including for older rangatahi
  • Increase the quality of caregiver placements by upskilling caregivers to build authentic and enduring connections with tamariki and rangatahi
  • Increase the skillset of caregivers through compulsory, regular and ongoing training, supervision and support to enable them to meet the dynamic needs of rangatahi as they develop and transition towards adulthood
  • Develop more sophisticated and responsive caregiver approval processes to ensure the best interests of tamariki are upheld and to enable rangatahi to increasingly lead decision making

In order to increase the uptake of ETRR, undertake the following changes to the broader Oranga Tamariki system:

  • Introduce an entitlement to mental health and wellbeing supports, to enable tamariki to heal from trauma and build healthy relationships with caregivers
  • Invest resources in healing rangatahi relationships with birth whānau, and support these relationships to co-exist alongside caregiver placements
  • Increase compliance with National Care Standards for timely and appropriate assessment, planning, and provision of supports throughout care journey
  • Address staff turnover and practice issues, and streamline bureaucratic processes to improve rangatahi engagement with the care system

Read the full report here.

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