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


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Use the search field below to find studies in the annotated bibliography.


Christenson, B., & Maloney, S. (2006).
One family’s journey: A case study utilizing complementary conferencing processes.

Protecting Children, 21(1), 31-37.

In this article, the authors use a case example from Olmsted County, Minn., to illustrate an increased efficiency of family group decision making. In this case, family group decision making facilitators used a case-planning conference to urgently address a situation in which a newborn baby and her mother tested positive for methamphetamine, followed later by a family group decision making conference. The authors analyze the reasons that the complementary processes were successful with this family group.

Keywords: case planning conference; family group decision making; FGDM; Olmsted County; social worker; methamphetamine; family

Mulhern, G. (1996).
Network conferencing with young people. In K. Morris & J. Tunnard (Eds.), Family group conferences: Messages from UK practice and research (pp.31-38).

London: Family Rights Group.

This book chapter discusses a three-year pilot of networking conferencing, which is an adaptation of the family group conference model being offered to homeless youths at St. Basil’s Centre in Birmingham. This chapter discusses the planning of the pilot project and its five key objectives, at the points when a conference can be offered to a youth. The staffing and induction, steering group and research elements of the pilot are also described. The authors describe the unique aspects of implementing family group conferencing with homeless youths. These issues include the timing of conferences, the strengths of the young people, the use of mini-conferences, help with access to files, the roles of professionals and staffing issues.

Keywords: network conferencing; family group conferences; FGC; Birmingham; objectives; homeless; youth; staff; research; timing; strengths; mini-conferences; professionals; resources; support

Merkel-Holguin, L., Nixon, P., & Burford, G. (2003).
Learning with families: A synopsis of FGDM research and evaluation in child welfare.

Protecting Children, 18(1&2), 2-11.

This article presents the findings of research and evaluations of family group decision making and shows family group decision making to be more effective than other, traditional child welfare approaches and practices. The authors emphasize the positive outcomes of family group decision making when strategic alliances and community partnerships are built. Some of the specific results highlighted are that involving family members results in timely permanency for children; families offering resources to support plans does not eliminate the need for formal services; and the engagement of families and fathers through the process is enhanced. The authors recognize that family group decision making remains a marginalized practice, with referrals fluctuating based on the uneven development and implementation of agency policies.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; safety; permanency; evaluation; research; family; children; fathers

Worrall, J. (2001).
Kinship care of the abused child: The New Zealand experience.

Child Welfare, 80(5), 497-511.

This article represents a small qualitative research process examining the experiences of five New Zealand-born European families, who cared for a total of 14 kin children who had suffered abuse or neglect. This research focuses on issues relating to the sets of relationships that existed in the extended family, placement stability, planning procedures and current legal status, assessment and training of caregivers, the characteristics of the children, and supports needed and accessed both within and outside the family. The research suggests that improvements need to be made in all areas of focus, as they are the primary variables that contribute to placement success and positive outcomes in kinship care.

Keywords: qualitative; New Zealand; kinship care

Hughes, G. (1996).
Implications for agency practice. In K. Morris & J. Tunnard (Eds.), Family group conferences: Messages from UK practice and research (pp. 21-29).

London: Family Rights Group.

This chapter discusses some of the issues and problems discovered by sites using family group conferences in the U.K. Topics discussed in this chapter include organizational issues, such as worker flexibility and budget structures; methods of evaluation and performance, such as numbers attending family group conferences, level of participation and level of satisfaction; family involvement; confidentiality of information; anti-oppressive practice; practical issues, such as timing, venue, refreshments and monetary compensation; and the role of the coordinator. The chapter notes that family group conferences may work best when coordinators are viewed as independent of agencies.

Keywords: United Kingdom; U.K.; challenges; problems; family group conferences; FGC; organizational issues; evaluation; confidentiality; coordinator; budget; performance measures

Merkel-Holguin, L. (1998).
Implementation of family group decision making processes in the U.S.: Policies and practices in transition?

Protecting Children, 14(4), 4-10.

This article compares the implementation of family group conferencing in New Zealand where it was developed, to family group decision making as it is applied in the U.S. The author finds that the most common models of family group decision making in the U.S. are family group conferencing and family unity meetings. The article discussed the challenges, which are also encountered in New Zealand, and importance of modifying family group decision making processes so that they meet the needs of the community they are implemented in. The author goes on to state that in order for family group decision making to be sustainable in the U.S. it needs to examine staffing, training and education, and connecting philosophies to practices and policies. The author concludes that evaluations, flexible funding, education and training for child welfare professionals, and revised agency structures that support family-led processes are challenges in implementation.

Keywords: New Zealand; United States; U.S.; family group conferencing; FGC; family group decision making; FGDM

Schmid, J., & Sieben, M. (2008).
Help or hindrance: Family group conferencing as alternative dispute resolution in child welfare.

Protecting Children, 23(4), 10-18.

This article explores many of the differences of presenting family group conferencing as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism in Ontario and British Columbia, as well as the positive and possible negative consequences of this lens for family group decision making. Fundamentally, family group decision making is not a dispute resolution mechanism, but may result in differences being resolved. There is concern about model fidelity and about family group decision making being placed at the end of a spectrum reserved for high-conflict families. The debate is further explored and conclusions about this approach are made based on the experiences of these two provinces.

Keywords: alternative dispute resolution; family group conferencing; FGC; Canada

Mirsky, L. (2003, November 4).
Hampshire County, U.K.: A place of innovation for family group conferencing.

Retrieved June 11, 2010, from

This newsletter article outlines the family group conferencing work occurring in Hampshire County, England. They have instituted family group conferences in the child welfare, youth justice, education and domestic violence settings. The article details the history behind these programs, lessons learned and plans for the future.

Keywords: England; Hampshire County; family group conferencing; FGC; child welfare; youth justice; education; domestic violence

Burford, G., & Pennell, J. (n.d.).
From agency client to community-based consumer: The family group conference as a consumer-led group in child welfare.

Unpublished manuscript.

In this article, the authors introduce an approach to family group conferencing based on the concept of the consumer. The authors argue that the term consumer expresses the right to determine what services are provided and how they are delivered. The article calls for family group conferences as consumer-led approaches in child welfare rather than as the traditional agency-directed framework. The authors give an overview of the family group conferencing process, including the import of the preparation phase, and describe the benefits of the process.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; consumer; social worker; consumer-led group; family; child welfare

Connolly, M. (2006).
Fifteen years of family group conferencing: Coordinators talk about their experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand.

British Journal of Social Work, 36(4), 523-540.

This article gives an overview of the emergence of family group conferencing in New Zealand in 1989. The author notes that research shows that family group conferencing has been successful in addressing offending youths and has demonstrated the value of family-focused practices. Based on the author’s research of family group conference coordinators in New Zealand, she concludes that coordinators are satisfied with the new way of addressing child welfare issues and that they are improving their practice, compared to the early stages of implementing family group conferencing. In addition, the author found that coordinators are giving more importance to the preparation phase and that some choose to be more directive during the conference. The article describes restrictions in funding and the need for more financial support for the process.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; New Zealand; Aotearoa; family; offending; child; youth justice; coordinator; decision making; qualitative research; care; protection

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