Oranga Tamariki has appointed its sixth and final specialist Māori role for the Bay of Plenty, which will begin next week.
Bay of Plenty regional manager Tasi Malu and the region's senior adviser Bridget Chugg said the position was part of addressing a culture shift in the region, which they highlighted as one of the agency's key priorities.
The specialist Māori role began as a pilot and was now being rolled out nationally. The role's title Kairaranga ā-whānau translates to a person who is a weaver of family connections.
Chugg said the role brought with it knowledge of tikanga which would be passed on to practitioners and ensure Oranga Tamariki's approach to whānau was appropriate.
"It's about preventing tamariki from coming into state care, so doing everything they can at the front ... making sure it's whanau-led rather than statutory-led."
Chugg said this was important for whānau to have their voice heard.
"We've got to stop telling our community what they need, we need to listen to our community and hear what they tell us they need.
"They're on the ground doing the mahi, we need to work together."
Malu said a Maori-centred approach for Oranga Tamariki, moving away from a more Western approach, was the way they believed was the future of the agency.
They both agreed the issues faced by Bay of Plenty tamariki were not unique to the region, however meth, housing and homelessness were identified.
Malu said creating and practising culturally capable leadership was "the way to resolve everything".
"If our practice is good and our practice is sound, and it's more around Maori-centre models, we'll be much better in the community."
The appointment was welcomed by Minister for Children Kelvin Davis during his visit in Rotorua yesterday.
Davis had his first regional visit in Taupō and Rotorua offices to meet with Oranga Tamariki staff and non-government organisation (NGO) workers, saying the new role would see more engagement with the community.
"That's where the solutions are."
Davis said the non-government organisations were concerned about the lack of resources they needed to do their job.
He said the main purpose of his visit was to discuss the direction he wanted to see the agency head into - "a lot more regionally-based solutions being driven by people on the ground".
"The people that work in the offices, NGOs, iwi, hapu, because they will tell you what the needs are."
Davis said he believed changes needed at Oranga Tamariki included enhancing relationships with whānau and Māori, developing a positive culture and keeping tamariki in the care of their whānau wherever safe.
Oranga Tamariki was being asked to entrust the funding and the decision-making to Māori and people on the ground in the regions. Davis said he has directed officials to develop a strategy, responding to these calls for change.
A key focus is supplying the regions and Māori with the resources for what's best for them and their areas.
Last month, Davis announced four Māori leaders he had chosen to form the newly-established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board.
The new board will advise Davis on the agency's relationships with families, whānau, and Māori; professional social work practices; and organisational culture.
The board commenced on February 1, and an initial report is expected by June 30.