The Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft says that children and families may have missed out on proper placements within the system due to the inconsistent delivery of Family Group Conferences over the past 27 years.
"They are the absolute fundamental part of the system in terms of getting family, whānau, wider family engaging hapū and iwi together to reach community-based solutions."
A new report by the Children's Commissioner reviewed six sites run by the now disestablished agency, Child, Youth, and Family. It identifies the need for better oversight and training of FGC coordinators.
Judge Becroft says, "There has been variable practice, patchy delivery, and genuine concern and we can do much better."
Oranga Tamariki spokesperson Jo Harrison says, "We really welcome Judge Becroft's report and from the office of the Children's Commissioner, we think there are some really important messages in there to help us to continue to improve our practices around Family Group Conferences."
According to the report, more than 60% of children and young people in the Oranga Tamariki system are Māori. More than 65% of children and young people referred to youth justice FGCs are Māori.
Harrison says, "What young people and whānau have already told us is that they feel that they've not always had an opportunity to be ready for the conference, they've not always felt they've had a chance as a whānau to think through what the problems are and to start thinking through as whānau what the best plan might be for them to support their tamariki."
Child Youth and Family was replaced by Oranga Tamariki in April. Oranga Tamariki spokesperson Jo Harrison says they have made changes, including better training and iwi-based co-ordinators.
"Some really great work has been done by those iwi coordinators working with whānau from their iwi to make sure that there are better outcomes for tamariki."
Harrison would not comment on who was responsible for the previous poor delivery of Family Group Conferences, but she says there is still work to be done to fix processes.