Child offenders

A child offender is a child who breaks the law, aged from 10 until they turn 14. We work with children who offend in a way that acknowledges their age, looks at any family issues that may be affecting their safety, and puts the child on track towards a positive future.  

How we work with children who offend

The majority of children who offend are dealt with by the police through alternative action (for example, writing an apology letter or paying for damage).

Where a child's offending is more serious, they may ask us to hold a youth justice family group conference (FGC), to help them face up to what they have done wrong.

The child is central to this process, and we make sure they understand and are part our decisions. Our aim is to help the child face up to their offending, learn from their mistakes, make positive choices and move on.

We also look into any family issues which may worry us, and which may mean the child is not being kept safe or well looked after. The child's safety and wellbeing are a central part of the FGC.

The family and whānau will help find solutions so that their family can be strong, and they can help their child get back on track. The family agrees on a plan that deals with both:

  • Youth justice: The child's offending and how to put things right.
  • Care and protection: Making sure the child is safe and well cared for by the family.

The plan then needs to be carried out, with tasks that will help the child right the wrong, move on, and be well cared for as part of their family or whānau.

More detailed information on what happens at family group conferences can be found in both the Youth Justice and Keeping kids safe sections. The way we work with child offenders has elements of both these processes.