Speaking the same language: Navigating information-sharing in the youth justice sphere

Joanna Appleby, Dr Matthew Shepherd, Dr Barbara Staniforth


Introduction: Qualitative research was undertaken to explore professionals’ experiences of cross-sector information-sharing about the mental health needs of young people in youth justice residences in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Methods: Eight focus groups (N = 36) were conducted across Aotearoa New Zealand. Half of these were with case leaders from each of the four Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children – youth justice residences. The other half were with youth forensic service (YFS) clinicians who provide mental health services in each youth justice residence. 

Findings: The findings showed positive cross-sector relationships, despite a lack of policy around information-sharing in this context. Themes from case leaders included the practicalities of the residential environment (including restriction on young people’s freedoms and managing group safety), and case leaders’ brokerage role between competing theoretical frameworks in residence. Themes from YFS clinicians included the importance of cross-sector information-sharing for the assessment and discharge phases of mental health input. Overall themes included the impact of relationships on information-sharing, and the importance of including residential care team staff within information-sharing practices. A proposed model of information-sharing in this context has been developed.

Conclusions: Effective information-sharing in youth justice residences is imperative to ensure that young people receive appropriate mental health input in residences, and that residence staff are supported to provide the best care for these young people. Social work has an important role within information-sharing practices with use of systems theory, translation of clinical jargon, and advocacy for the needs of young people involved in multiple systems.


Information-sharing; communication; interagency; youth justice residences; youth forensic

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/anzswj-vol31iss1id537


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