Practice, Policy and Implementation: An International Annotated Bibliography of Family-Engagement Strategies in Child Welfare


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Rohm, A., & Bruce, L. (2008).
Responding to culture in family group decision making: Summarizing interviews with Kevin Ward and Inshirah Hassabu.

Protecting Children, 23(4), 38-46.

This article describes the important role that culture plays in family group decision making processes by summarizing four telephone interviews with two family group conferencing coordinators, Kevin Ward and Inshirah Hassabu. The authors describe both Ward’s and Hassabu’s unique cultural backgrounds and their views regarding the importance of cultural competence when working with children and families. Both interviewees emphasize that the meaning of culture is subjective (even within communities and families) and that coordinators must be culturally respectful by allowing families to share what their culture means to them. According to the authors, this type of cultural competence is in accordance with the values and principles of family group decision making; it allows the family to lead the process by describing their culture in their own words. Hassabu remarks that handling the preparation phase of the conference with care and consideration can help coordinators enhance their levels of cultural competence with families. The authors also describe how family group conferencing can be used to ensure that the voices of children are heard, and they provide suggestions for coordinators on how to encourage child participation when it challenges the family’s cultural view of children’s roles. Other important elements to discuss with the family are the timing of the conference, their preferred language and whether they would like the conference to open or close with a traditional ritual. The authors conclude by stating that family group conferencing offers a way to engage families and respect their cultures, and that honoring a family’s culture contributes to the success of family group decision making. In addition, the authors encourage child welfare agencies to incorporate the values and principles of family group conferencing into their own organizational cultures in order to make family group decision making a meaningful and sustainable practice.

Keywords: children; community; coordinator; cultural competence; culture; family-driven; family group decision making; FGDM; First Nations; language; power; preparation phase; timing; tradition

Crampton, D. (2007).
Research review: Family group decision-making: A promising practice in need of more programme theory and research.

Child and Family Social Work, 12(2), 202-209.

This article documents the international spread of family group decision making throughout the U.S., Canada and England. The author attempts to move family group decision making from a promising practice to an evidence-based practice. The author emphasizes the fact that preparation is critical for a successful conference. Adequate amount of quality preparation time, averaging 20 to 25 hours per case, is necessary to deliver the promised outcomes. Program resources might not allow this amount of time to be spent on preparation, which undermines the quality of the process and its outcomes. The article also suggests developing clear referral criteria instead of leaving the decision to make referrals at the discretion of social workers.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; preparation; referral; Alberta; Michigan; England; Sweden; child welfare; empowerment; family

Robertson, J. (1996).
Research on family group conferences in child welfare in New Zealand. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 49-64).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This book chapter summarizes results from several early evaluations of The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989, the New Zealand law that instituted family group conferencing. Results demonstrate that families are attending conferences and taking part in decision making, and children are increasingly remaining in their homes or in kinship care. There is also a high rate of agreement on decisions between families and social workers, although it is unclear how much negotiation is necessary or how often workers are setting bottom-line expectations prior to the conference. Further research is needed on the cultural responsiveness of family group conference coordination and venues and the ongoing monitoring of plan implementation. Ultimately, more research is necessary to determine outcomes; are family group conferences succeeding in meeting the care and protection needs of children, youths and families?

Keywords: New Zealand; family group conferences; FGC; Children, Young Persons and their Families Act; evaluation; research

Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Maori Perspective for the Department of Social Welfare. (1988).
Puao-te-ata-tu (day break).

Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Social Welfare.

This report presents the historical background of Maori culture as it differs from the non-aboriginal, dominant culture. In addition, the report points out the difficulties that Maori people encounter when they come into contact with a welfare system that was constructed on the dominant culture’s views and visions with no or minimal consultation with minorities. According to the report, Maori people felt that the system exercised institutional racism against them. The report recommends a radical change in the department of social welfare to accommodate the needs of minorities. This report served as the main impetus to introduce family group conferencing in New Zealand in 1989.

Keywords: Maori; Department of Social Welfare; New Zealand; family; social worker; Maori; marae; recommendation; Hipu; racism

Walton, E., McKenzie, M., & Connolly, M. (2005).
Private family time: The heart of family group conferencing.

Protecting Children, 19(4), 17-24.

This article speaks to the critical nature of private family time during family group conferencing processes. The authors argue that private family time supports the commitment to family leadership; without including a time for families to meet privately, conferences become less family-driven and more professionalized. Recent New Zealand research suggests that the intentional basis behind private family time -- for the family to make decisions without professional involvement -- is increasingly being hindered. The authors describe a qualitative study conducted with care and protection conference coordinators to determine why this latest trend may be occurring. Subjects were generally supportive of the process and purpose of private family time and reported that it occurred more frequently than not. However, the subjects also stated that it is not always possible. Common reasons for not providing private family time included the family asking for professional involvement due to safety concerns; concerns that the family would feel isolated due to the low number of family participants; the family requesting professional consultation; ability and health concerns within the family; and agreement by the family that private family time was unnecessary. While some coordinators reported feeling comfortable (and in some cases obligated) to remain present during private family time, the authors state that New Zealand law requires the provision of private family time unless the family specifically requests professional involvement. Moreover, the authors argue that the philosophy of family group conferencing should be reinforced through worker training and that it is the responsibility of family group conferencing professionals to protect private family time whenever possible.

Keywords: care and protection coordinator; Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act; empowerment principle; family group conference model; FGC; family group decision making; FGDM; focus group; leadership; New Zealand; private family time; professionalizing processes; questionnaire

Connolly, M. (2007).
Practice frameworks: Conceptual maps to guide interventions in child welfare.

British Journal of Social Work, 37(5), 825-837.

This article discusses the development of a practice framework for child welfare in New Zealand. The author presents the identified outcomes as securing safety, promoting stability of care and restoring or improving well-being of children. The framework’s philosophical perspectives as described by the author are a child-centered perspective, a family-led and culturally responsive perspective, and a strengths- and evidence-based perspective. The author argues that these perspectives are supported by research and literature such as the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The author also emphasizes the importance of family and culture. Finally, the article explains how principles and perspectives are interwoven into the framework.

Keywords: framework; child welfare; perspectives; principles; New Zealand; engagement; assessment; culture; family; child

Longclaws, L., Galaway, B., & Barkwell, L. (1996).
Piloting family group conferences for young aboriginal offenders in Winnipeg, Canada. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 195-205).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This book chapter examines the results of a small pilot project to use family group conferences for eight aboriginal youth offenders in Winnipeg, Canada. Families were able to come to consensus and develop plans using the family group conference process, and conferences were conducted in culturally appropriate ways that honored the families’ heritage and wishes. However, victims were rarely involved in the conferences, and family plans were largely ignored by judges. More attention needs to be given to presenting the plans to the court in a way that will lead to greater acceptance. The chapter recommends more pilots of family group conferences with aboriginal offenders and youths from other ethnic and cultural groups.

Keywords: family group conferences; FGC; aboriginal; native; Canada; juvenile justice; youth offenders; pilot project; evaluation

Angus, J. H. (1991).
Perspectives on The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989: The act: One year on.

Social Work Review, 3(4), 5-6.

In this article, the author describes the promising results of the implementation of family group conferencing in New Zealand one year after the enactment of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989. The author describes family group conferences as a formal process which brings together families, whanau (extended families) and other interested parties to make decisions about how to deal with issues of youth care, protection and offending. Despite the recognition that it is too early to come to any firm conclusions about the overall success of the act, the author notes that 5,000 conferences were held during the first year of implementation.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; New Zealand; young person; children; family; victim; care; offending; placement; removal; welfare

Barbour, A. (1991).
Perspectives on The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989: Family group conferences: Context and consequences.

Social Work Review, 3(4), 16-21.

The author presents the argument that family group conferences are a central part of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989. She also asserts that the outcomes of family group conferences were a predictable outcome of historical development, political influences and social work practice in New Zealand. She analyzes the historical political backgrounds, social work theory and practice that supported the emergence of family group conferencing. The author also presents an outline of the family group conference structure and how the process unfolds, including its strengths and philosophical and practical weaknesses.

Keywords: family group conference; FGC; New Zealand; children; family; welfare; strengths; weaknesses; sexual abuse

Hassall, I. (1996).
Origin and development of family group conferences.

In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 17-36), Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This book chapter traces the policy and political history of The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989, the New Zealand law that instituted family group conferences. Leading to the act were calls for increased family involvement in child welfare and juvenile justice proceedings, recognition that Maori families deserved more culturally responsive practice and concern over the harmful outcomes for children in out-of-home placement. The chapter also explains how family group conferences differ in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and their anticipated advantages and risks.

Keywords: New Zealand; family group conferences; FGC; Children, Young Persons and their Families Act; policy; history

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