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


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Crampton, D. (2004).
Family involvement interventions in child protection: Learning from contextual integrated strategies.

Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 31(1), 175-198.

This book chapter discusses how the use of family group conferencing and family-involvement interventions in child protective services is increasing in the U.S. and other countries. The author describes some key ideas from John Braithwaite’s writings (such as the regulatory pyramid) and discusses their applicability using evaluation research of family involvement strategies (including family group decision making and team decision making). The author argues that Braithwaite’s “contextual integrated strategy” can help identify strategies to develop effective family involvement interventions and best practices for these interventions. The examined best practices for family group decision making include preparation time, private family time and prescribing outcomes. Family involvement interventions can also help bring additional community resources to the aid of child protective services.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; program evaluation; child welfare; child protection; family involvement; CPS interventions; John Braithwaite; regulatory pyramid; team decision making; best practices; preparation time; private family time; prescribing outcomes

Graber, L., Keys, T., & White, J. (1996).
Family group decision-making in the United States: The case of Oregon. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 180-194).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This book chapter describes the development and use of family group decision making in Oregon’s child welfare agency and child protective services. Background information on the use of family group decision making is discussed, such as the pressure to maintain children in their own homes, which led to the development of family-focused interventions. Two types of family group decision making meetings evolved in Oregon: the family unity meeting, which uses a facilitator throughout the meeting, and family group conferences, at which the family has time to deliberate in private. This chapter focuses on the family unity meeting model (developed in 1989) and the basic processes and operations of these meetings, as well as the underlying values and beliefs. Family unity meetings are also being used with family support teams, with Touchstone (a school-based drug and alcohol intervention project) and in juvenile corrections. Finally, this chapter discusses workers’ attitudes and practices around the family unity model and data from a survey given to caseworkers about the prevalence of meetings and specific uses of family group decision making.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; family unity meeting; family support team; values; beliefs; juvenile corrections; Touchstone; Oregon; caseworker survey; operations; family-focused intervention; child welfare; child protective services; family group conferences; FGC; collaboration; stakeholders

Burford, G., & Pennell, J. (n.d.).
Family group decision making: An innovation in child and family welfare.

Canadian Child Welfare, 140-153.

This article describes the process establishing the Family Group Decision Making Project in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The authors illustrate the project’s emphasis on cultural suitability. Advisory committees were formed to plan how the project could fit with local context and culture. These committees depicted a great deal of collaboration between government and nongovernment representatives. The article offers a case example illustrating how the process works and the flexibility it offers to family groups. The authors stress that family groups will use their own knowledge, resources and wisdom to make decisions that attend to their children’s safety and protection needs.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; Canada; Newfoundland; Labrador; abuse; child; family; social worker; advisory committee; referral; preparation; follow up

Mirsky, L. (2003, May 7).
Family group conferencing worldwide: Part three in a series. Restorative Practices EFORUM.

Retrieved June 11, 2010, from

In this third part of a series, the author illustrates the use of restorative processes in child welfare, schools and the justice system. In Northern Ireland, thanks to its cultural fit with ancient Irish culture, family group conferencing has been successful in placing children with their extended families instead of relying on foster care. Likewise, restorative school group conferences have been successful in changing youth behavior. The article confirms the importance of culture during conferences. In Ontario, Canada, family group conferencing starts with any ritual the family chooses. Joan Pennell, professor and director at North Carolina State University, stated that family group conferencing “creates a safe and healthy context for children and families via three pathways: family leadership, community partnerships and cultural safety.” Family group conferencing has a lot to offer to children, families and communities but it faces resistant professionals, missing policies and lack of funding.

Keywords: family group conferencing; school; extended family; child welfare; Tyrone; Armagh, Northern Ireland; Olmsted County; Minnesota; young offenders; ritual; domestic violence; substance abuse

Mirsky, L. (2003, February 20).
Family group conferencing worldwide: Part one in a series. Restorative Practices EFORUM.

Retrieved June 11, 2010, from

This article describes the strengths that family group conferencing offers in different countries, notably the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands and the U.K. It also depicts some challenges family group conferencing is encountering in funding, practice and policy. Family group conferencing offers families a unique possibility to decide what is best for their children. The article cites data showing family group conferencing as effective in placing children with family members and reducing reoffending rates. In the U.S., and at a lesser level in the U.K. and Canada, policy makers are reluctant to institutionalize family group conferencing and position family groups as leading decisions. “Conferencing turns the system upside down and puts the needs of individuals first,” said Rob van Pagée, CEO of Eigen Kracht Centrale in the Netherlands, one of the family group conferencing leaders interviewed in this article.

Keywords: family group conferencing; private family time; restorative practices; New Zealand; American Humane; family rights group; U.K.; Canada; aboriginal; child welfare

Helland, J. (2005).
Family group conferencing literature review: Prepared for the child and youth officer for British Columbia.

Unpublished manuscript.

This article reviews literature on family group conferencing. The author points out the difference between the “pure” New Zealand model of family group conferencing and family group conferencing as practiced elsewhere, notably in the U.S. Furthermore, the author points out the positive outcomes of family group conferencing compared to outcomes of more traditional processes practiced by child welfare services. These benefits include better family connections, permanency for children, cost effectiveness for the system and sustainable plans. Additionally, the author emphasizes the importance of cultural awareness of the process and promoting families’ involvement.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; family; social worker; child welfare; Pennell; Burford; Merkel-Holguin; New Zealand; Kelso

Fraser, S., & Norton, J. (1996).
Family group conferencing in New Zealand child protection work.

In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 37-48). Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This book chapter outlines the family group conferencing process used in New Zealand, including preconference arrangements and the conference format. The process and model is illustrated through a case study. The authors emphasize the power that family group conference coordinators have over the process. Successful family group conferences occur when coordinators and other professionals share decision-making power with families.

Keywords: New Zealand; family group conferencing; FGC; power sharing

Pennell, J. (2004).
Family group conferencing in child welfare: Responsive and regulatory Interfaces.

Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, XXXI(1), 117-135.

This article examines how family group conferencing (FGC) achieves the balance between responsiveness and regulation in child welfare. The article gives an overview of the movement toward response regulation in child welfare in the U.S. and the balance between child safety and family support. Differential response has been one way to handle reports of child abuse and neglect in a less regulatory manner. The article goes on to explain Braithwaite’s theory of responsive regulation, which focuses on restorative practices. FGC can play a role in promoting responsive regulation, even in differential response systems, and this article explains the process of a FGC. The North Carolina Family Group Conferencing Project objectives and their measurement instrument, the Achievement of FGC Objectives questionnaire, are described. This questionnaire was used to assess model fidelity and improve FGC implementation, training and policy. A factor analysis was then conducted and found that there are three ways to foster responsive regulation: family leadership, cultural safety and community partnerships. The article elaborates on each of the three factors and asserts that the three work together to keep productive collaboration between the family group and their community and government programs.

Keywords: family group conferences; FGC; responsive regulation; child welfare; differential response; North Carolina Family Group Conferencing Project; family leadership; cultural safety; community partnerships; factor analysis; track; interface

Schmid, J., & Mandell, D. (n.d.).
Family group conferencing in a multicultural urban environment.

Unpublished manuscript.

This article explores family group conferencing practice in Toronto, Canada. The authors underline the importance of cultural sensitivity while preparing for and facilitating the process. They identify that immigrant and refugee families are overrepresented in Toronto’s child welfare system, arguing that the majority of these families are affected by poverty. Additionally, the article distinguishes between two definitions of Culture: Culture refers to values and beliefs associated with an ethnicity and culture refers to a unique, localized culture that individuals create for themselves, such as families and clans. The authors argue that it is important for family group conference coordinators to understand these cultures to better serve their clients. Understanding the culture is sometimes not enough, especially when families have different understandings of their own culture or when the children embrace the Canadian culture rather than that of their country of origin. The authors recommend recruiting coordinators from a wide array of cultures to respond sensitively to the needs of different cultural groups.

Keywords: Toronto; family group conferencing; FGC; culture; immigrant; immigration; family; child

Ban, P., & Swain, P. (1994).
Family group conferences: Part two: Putting the “family” back into child protection.

Children Australia, 19(4), 11-13.

In this article, the authors evaluate the state of Victoria’s Family Decision Making Project in Australia. Key findings show that families are able to make protective arrangements for their children while supported by their extended families, even in cases of long-term physical or sexual abuse. In addition, when families own the process, they can support their children exiting foster care to live within the extended family. The authors differentiate between family decision making and case planning meetings, where including the family in decision making is limited, if not absent. Furthermore, the authors argue that when families are decision makers, they develop more sustainable plans that tend to last longer than expected. Lastly, the authors point out that while empowering families to make decisions for their children, which often means becoming their caregivers, resources need to be commensurately reallocated and not withdrawn.

Keywords: family decision making; FDM; Victoria; New Zealand; children; family; care; welfare

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