Māori Family Navigators

Kaitoko Whānau Programme Evaluation

Vivienne Kennedy, Kirimatao Paipa & Fiona Cram, for Katoa Ltd, Auckland

Funder: Te Puni Kokiri

Timeframe: 2011

Kaitoko Whānau are whānau (Māori family) advocates, ensuring that whānau get access to the resources and services they are entitled to. The objectives of the Kaitoko Whānau programme are to:

  • Reduce social dislocation within participating whānau (whanaungatanga);
  •  Increase access to and coordination of social assistance (kotahitanga);
  • Improve resilience and mobility in Māori communities (rangatiratanga); and
  • Improve access to quality education, employment, health services and housing opportunities.

The evaluation of the Kaitoko Whānau programme was undertaken by Katoa Ltd during 2011, in the first year of programme implementation. The Key Evaluation Questions were:

  1. How is the service delivery model of Kaitoko Whānau (Kaitoko as ‘social navigator’) expected to better meet needs of vulnerable whānau?
  2. How well has the delivery of the Kaitoko Whānau initiative progressed?
  3. In what ways is Kaitoko Whānau impacting on whānau participating in the initiative?
  4. In what ways, if at all, might Kaitoko Whānau be improved?

Eleven host organisations, their Kaitoko Whānau, key community support people and agencies, and whānau were interviewed about the implementation of, and outcomes from, the Kaitoko Whānau programme.

The evaluation found very strong evidence that the Kaitoko Whnau initiative works. Host organisations and Kaitoko Whnau met expectations and the early outcomes experienced by whnau exceeded expectations.

In its first year of operation the Kaitoko Whnau initiative has been reaching whnau that have been deemed vulnerable and ʻhard-to-reachʼ. Kaitoko Whnau contend that these whnau are easy to reach when the time is taken to build respectful relationships with them; relationships that engender trust and a knowing by whnau that the Kaitoko Whnau is both listening to, and hearing, their story. Within these relationships Kaitoko Whnau respect the mana of whnau and provide a safe space in which whnau can be Mori.

The success of the Kaitoko Whnau initiative rests upon the skills and expertise of the Kaitoko Whnau. These taonga (treasures) are well connected with their communities, highly motivated to support whnau in their needs and aspirations, and able to move with confidence in both the Mori and global world.

Host organisations have chosen the Kaitoko Whnau with care and have provided back up and support that included supervision and mentoring, as well as ensuring that Kaitoko Whnau do not burn-out by trying to be responsive beyond their capacity. The mana (status) of the host organisation is the firm basis from which the Kaitoko Whnau go out and move in their communities and offer support to vulnerable whnau. The Kaitoko Whnau initiative is well placed to move into the next three years of operation, supporting and navigating vulnerable whnau.


Kennedy, V., Paipa, K. & Cram, F. (2011). Evaluation of the Kaitoko Whānau Initiative. A report prepared for Te Puni Kōkiri. Auckland: Katoa Ltd.

Also see the commentary of a report out of the United Kingdom on interventions with troubled families. This report complements many of the findings in the Kaitoko Whānau evaluation.

Kaitoko Whānau Hui, November 2010

On 25-26 November 2010 Te Puni Kōkiri held a hui to bring together Kaitoko Whānau, Oranga Whānau and their host organisations. On the second day of that hui Fiona Cram and Vivienne Kennedy presented about the evaluation of the Kaitoko Whānau programme and asked the hui to assist with the development of the evaluation questions by discussing three topics:
  1. Engaging with whānau
  2. Planning with whānau
  3. Whānau success
There was time in the hui for groups to discuss and give feedback on the first two topics. For each topic the groups discussed common themes from whānau journeys, along with barriers to and enablers of those journeys
Fiona Cram,
13 Jan 2015, 19:06