Family group conferencing in a child welfare context – A review of the literature
Family group conferencing in a child welfare context
Dr Leone Huntsman
Centre for Parenting & Research Research, Funding & Business Analysis Division NSW Department of Community Services 4-6 Cavill Avenue Ashfield NSW 2131 Phone (02) 9716 2222 July 2006
ISBN 1 74190 0107
What is family group conferencing?
Aim and scope of this review
The family group conferencing model
The basic model
Variations on the basic model
Key themes in the literature
Suitability of family group conferencing
Types of cases suitable for FGC 5 Suitability for culturally diverse and indigenous communities
Roles and attitudes of participants
Children and young people
Outcomes and long-term effects
Agreeing on and implementing plans
Placement of children and young people with extended family
12 Ongoing reporting and re-referral
Overall effectiveness of family group conferencing
Lack of research evidence
Implications for child protection policy and practice
Statutory responsibilities of child protection agencies
Family attitudes to child protection agencies
A mandate for FGC?
A systemic approach to FGC
Suggestions for future research
Family group conferencing (FGC) is a method of resolving, or attempting to resolve, family issues in relation to child protection. It brings together the family, the child and professionals to meet and develop a plan for future action. FGC began in New Zealand in the late 1980s, growing out of Maori cultural practice, and spread to many countries across the world through the 1990s. Its use in Australia is now legally supported in a number of states, but it has not become a part of mainstream practice among most child protection agencies. Review of the literature
After an initial explanation of the basic FGC model and some of its variants, this review looks at the considerable body of literature on FGC that has developed since the early 1990s. The aim of the review is to synthesise the available literature with a view to commenting on its use by child protection authorities in New South Wales, and to assess the need for further research in this field. Four major areas of study are outlined in the review:
Suitability of FGC. Some studies examine the types of cases that are suitable for referral to FGC. For example, use of FGC in some cases involving sexual abuse has been found by some to work well. Other studies have examined the suitability of FGC for Indigenous and other communities. It was found that some Indigenous communities in Australian have responded well but that considerable preparatory work is required if positive outcomes are to be achieved. 2.
Roles and attitudes of participants. The three sets of participants in FGC are the family, the child or young person and child protection professionals. Studies have found that family members generally have a positive response to FGC, and professionals also feel positively towards it but are often not satisfied with its longer-term outcomes. Some researchers fear, however, that children are not satisfied with their role in FGC and are not sufficiently central to the process. 3.
Outcomes and long-term effects. While there is a lack of reliable long-term studies on FGC, some consistent points are raised in the literature: while developing a plan of action at a conference is usually a successful process, implementation of plans is less so; FGC tends to lead to increased placement of children with extended family members, and that such...
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