This searchable annotated bibliography includes summaries of more than 60 peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles and reports pertaining to the practice of family group decision making (FGDM) and other family engagement approaches in child welfare and beyond. Literature reviewed for this bibliography covers a wide variety of topics, from the origins and development of FGDM practice, to the involvement of children in conferences, to the use of FGDM in efforts to reduce racial disproportionality and disparities in child welfare. In contrast to our annotated bibliography on family engagement research and evaluative studies, this bibliography focuses on family engagement practice, policy and implementation literature. We hope this resource engages you in discussions on your own interests and practices in family engagement in child welfare decision making. This annotated bibliography is a living document and will be updated annually.


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

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

Walker, H. (1995, December).
Whanau family decision making: A liberating social work practice based on trust.

Paper presented at the Beyond The Bench VII Conference, Oakland, CA.

This article depicts the historical racism and inequality in treating people of color, including indigenous and black people in western societies. This disparity in treatment led to the enactment of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act in 1989 in New Zealand. Also, the author relates the opposition to family group conferencing in New Zealand which can be attributed to issues of governmental power and control, and the disbelief in families’ ability to make decisions and address issues they encounter in their homes. The author argues that families are capable of finding resolutions that offer the child safety and protection.

Keywords: trust; family decision making; New Zealand; family; children; care; protection; whanau

Velen, M., & Devine, L. (2005).
Use of FGDM with children in care the longest: It’s about time.

Protecting Children, 19(4), 25-34.

This article describes the results and practice implications of the KIN-nections demonstration project, an Arizona program that evaluated the impact of family group decision making (FGDM) on the permanency planning needs of children who had been living in out-of-home care for five years or longer and of those without an identified placement, despite their availability for adoption. The overall goals of KIN-nections were to increase relative adoptions, increase relative guardianships and evaluate the impact of FGDM when used for children with the greatest permanency needs (as opposed to using it only at the front-end of cases when children typically have more time for permanency planning). Throughout the article, the authors detail the largely positive findings from this study, including case examples of enhanced family connections through FGDM participation. For the most part, people involved with the KIN-nections program felt that conferences were beneficial even if a child permanency plan was not developed, implemented or successful; this speaks to the importance of FGDM as a process that can enhance advantageous and lasting connections between children and their extended family group. The authors suggest that future studies should examine implementation activities post-conference, as strengthened follow-up may be an opportunity to support permanency efforts for children. Overall, this study suggests that FGDM is an effective approach for working with child populations who are most in need of permanency. Accordingly, the authors argue that FGDM should be made continuously available throughout the life of a case.

Keywords: permanency; KIN-nections; family group decision making; FGDM; placement; relative; adoption; guardianship; older children; children of color; special needs; aunts; uncles; paternal involvement; training; follow-up

Unger, W., & Fatzinger, C. (2006).
Awakening the collective power: The implementation of FGDM in Pennsylvania.

Protecting Children, 21(1), 39-44.

This article chronicles Pennsylvania’s journey of implementation and expansion of family group decision making, including preliminary evaluation results. Pennsylvania’s family group decision making model is based on the family unity model and the family group conferencing model, and is focused on strengths, widening the family group and collectively making decisions. family group decision making was first implemented in Pennsylvania in 1999, and the number of counties implementing family group decision making has grown to 20 out of 67(by the time of publication), with more interested. This article also explores the cross-system implementation of family group decision making in juvenile probation, mental health, corrections, aging and faith-based communities.

Keywords: evaluation; Pennsylvania; cross-system; implementation; family group conferencing; FGC; family unity model

Stewart, T. (1996).
Family group conferences with young offenders in New Zealand. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 65-87).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This article presents an overview of the family group conference process. The author explains the different roles key stakeholders play in the process. Family group conferencing includes the young person, his or her family, the victim and his or her support, the information providers, the police, the lay advocates, the social workers and the youth justice coordinators. In addition, the article explains the different stages of the process from preparation to case closure and provides two case studies portraying successful conferences. Different stakeholders ensure the holistic approach of family group conferencing and offer the opportunity to victims, youths and families to participate in the decision making process. The process is culturally adapted to the specific stakeholders involved.

Keywords: family group conference; FGC; young person; family; victim; support; information givers; police; lay advocates; social workers; youth justice coordinators

Smith, D. (1996, October).
Child sexual abuse in the context of family decision making.

Paper presented at the UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Building a Better Future for Colorado’s Children and Families Conference, Denver, CO.

In New Zealand, the initial response to child abuse cases was to remove children from their families. In 1987, research by the Department of Social Services revealed sexual abuse of children while in the care of the state, which lead to questioning the safety of children in out-of-home care. In 1986, the Maori people reported to a Ministerial Advisory Committee that “the Maori child is not to be viewed in isolation, or even as part of a nuclear family, but as a member of a wider kin group,” That report jump-started the concept of family decision making. This article describes three phases of family group conferencing. Furthermore, the article points out the complex issue of adolescent sexual offenders who might be victims of sexual abuse themselves, which requires a separate conference to address the issue.

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

Sherry, M. (2008).
What have we learned about family group conferencing and case management practices?

Protecting Children, 23(4), 20-37.

This article explores the impact of family group conferencing on case management practices and vice versa through a summary of views of workers and managers at the Children’s Aid Society in Brantford, Ontario. Through the results of a focus group and individual interviews, Sherry further explores the impact of the family group conferencing experience, values and philosophy and case management practices. The themes from the focus group include a focus on trusting the process, an awareness of family strengths and dynamics, widening the family circle, power, timing and concerns in the hope of better answering the question: Does family group conferencing transform child welfare practice?

Keywords: family group conferencing; case management; transformation; qualitative; family-centered practice; caseworker

Schmid, J., Harris, C., Hassabu, I., & Barnwell, L. (2007).
Using family group conferencing in the context of death and dying.

Protecting Children, 22(1), 51-60.

This article describes the use of family group conference within the context of death and dying. The authors detail their experiences of coordinating family group conferences where the death of a caregiver was imminent, had recently occurred or was a central reason for convening the conference. The authors note that dying caregivers can feel both empowered and relieved to know that a plan has been made for their children after they pass away. Furthermore, the family group conference can help all family members process their feelings regarding the loss, and provide additional supports for the child who is losing or has lost his or her primary caregiver. Given the sensitive circumstances of such conferences, the authors describe the additional challenges that coordinators must effectively manage. For example, coordinators must carefully balance the issue of time; preparing a family for such an “emotionally intense” family group conference could take longer, but may need to happen faster depending on the progression of the caregiver’s illness. Likewise, the coordinator needs to be culturally respectful by recognizing that the grieving process is likely different for everyone. The family’s culture may also dictate whether feelings of shame or anger exist surrounding the nature of the person’s illness or death and the coordinator should allow these feelings to be shared while working to ensure the emotional safety of all participants. All family members must have adequate support and the ill or dying person should be made as comfortable as possible. It is the responsibility of the coordinator to tune in to his or her own triggers, while attending to the emotional responses of family members and service providers. Children should be given an opportunity to share their feelings and express their needs throughout the conference. Finally, the authors stress that the primary role of the coordinator is not one of a therapist; although challenging, the coordinator needs to resist concentrating on the emotional grief surrounding the loss, and maintain the focus of the conference on addressing the needs of the children.

Keywords: bereavement; ceremony; coordinator; cultural issues; death; dying; emotional intensity; family group conference; FGC; grieving; loss; mourning; planning question; practicalities; preparation; service provider; support; time pressures; trigger

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

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

Schmid, J., & Goranson, S. (2003).
An evaluation of family group conferencing in Toronto.

Protecting Children, 18(1&2), 110-112.

This article briefly explores the results of a three-year pilot project in west Toronto to evaluate family group conferencing with 25 families. The research team focused on model and partnership development, preparation of agency staff and community partners, the processes for initiating and managing referrals, and the actual family group conference.

Keywords: Toronto; Canada; evaluation; family group conferencing; FGC; pilot

Schmid, J. E., & Pollack, S. (2009).
Developing shared knowledge: Family group conferencing as a means of negotiating power in the child welfare system.

Practice, 21(3), 175-188.

This article argues that, due to the type of language it uses and its structures, the Anglo-American child welfare system can often alienate and marginalize the families it encounters. According to the authors, existing evidence suggests that families can feel like their knowledge and perspectives are given less recognition than those of child protection workers, creating a systemic power imbalance. To remedy this, the authors recommend the use of collaborative child welfare models such as family group conferencing to facilitate the co-creation and ownership of knowledge and challenge the “sanctity of professional knowledge” within the decision-making process. The authors draw from existing writing on family group conferencing and institutional power imbalances within child welfare to support their argument.

Keywords: information sharing; child welfare; family group conferencing; FGC; Anglo-American; power; culture

Schmid, J. (2006).
The business of engaging fathers (and other male relatives) in the FGC process.

Protecting Children, 21(1), 20-29.

This article argues for increased engagement and involvement of fathers, paternal relatives and male family members in child welfare decision-making processes, such as family group conferences. Fathers and other male relatives are often overlooked by child welfare practitioners due to a variety of practices, biases and misgivings, thus rendering fathers invisible and significantly limiting their involvement in case-planning. Moreover, the author notes that fathers, particularly those from minority groups, are often viewed as irrelevant and are stereotyped as a threat or liability. This article indicates that most children want to be connected to their fathers, male relatives and paternal kin, and that many of these men have similar wishes and are capable of making constructive contributions to their children’s lives and development. Likewise, when fathers are engaged and involved, their relatives are likely to follow, thus widening the circle of support for the family and for the child. The author stresses that male involvement in decision making “should not be at the expense of female involvement,” and that cultural family norms and safety issues must be attended to thoroughly when preparing participants for a family group conference. In addition, the author proposes the need for more male conference coordinators in order to approach and engage men in a more diverse and comprehensive fashion.

Keywords: bias; circle of support; coordinator; engagement; family group conference; FGC; fathers; invisibility; involvement; liability; male relatives; mothers; paternal extended family systems; preparation; stereotype; threat

Sandau-Beckler, P., Reza, S., & Terrazas, A. (2005).
Familias primero: Family group decision making in El Paso County, Texas.

Protecting Children, 19(4). 54-62.

This article summarizes an evaluation of the use of a hybrid model of family group conferencing and family unity meetings in El Paso, Texas, where the majority of families are Mexican-Americans facing unique barriers including language, documentation, service provision, transportation, assimilation and a lack of understanding of U.S. laws. The Familias Primero Family Group Conferencing Project was a model court intervention targeting families at every point in the child welfare continuum. The 14-month evaluation covered 53 conferences and the article presents findings on family communication, the participation of the extended family and social network, cultural responsiveness, satisfaction, safety and permanency, and goal setting.

Keywords: Texas; family group decision making; FGDM; Mexican-American; migration; immigration; family group conference; FGC; family unity meeting; evaluation

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

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

Roberts, D. (2007).
Toward a community-based approach to racial disproportionality.

Protecting Children, 22(1), 4-9.

This article explores the important role of communities in the development and well-being of youths, and describes the relationship between community-based approaches and racial disproportionality in the child welfare system. Although child welfare agencies have largely adopted the capacity-building nature of community-based social work in poor and minority neighborhoods, they have also often overlooked the sociopolitical and community impact of their concentrated presence in these areas. The author argues that existing racial disparities in foster care placement rates (higher for families of color) increase the chances that these children will grow up in neighborhoods with a high degree of state supervision, which will ultimately disserve them and their overall community. Alternatives to adversarial approaches are needed for poor and minority families that become involved in the child welfare system. Family group decision making is presented as an empowering and flexible approach that engages communities and families by emphasizing their strengths. While culturally competent practice is a valuable first step in addressing issues of racial disproportionality, it must be partnered with changes in child welfare decision-making processes (such as family group decision making) in order to reform the child welfare system and improve outcomes for poor and “minority” communities and families.

Keywords: community-based approach; community impact; cultural competence; family engagement; family group decision making; FGDM; foster care placement; individualized focus; neighborhood partnerships; racial disparities; racial disproportionality; state supervision; strengths-based approach

Quinnett, E., & Harrison, R. S. (2002, August).
The Family Unity Meeting Program in the County of San Diego child protection setting.

Paper presented at Dreaming of a New Reality: the Third International Conference on Conferencing, Circles, and other Restorative Practices, Minneapolis, MN.

This article describes how family unity meetings work in San Diego County. The county is culturally diverse and social workers investigate several thousand child abuse allegations each month. The county adopted family unity meetings as a strengths-based model. The authors emphasize the important role that coordinators and facilitators play during referral, preparation, the meeting and follow-up.

Keywords: family unity meeting; San Diego; coordinator; facilitator; strengths; social worker; sexual abuse; physical violence

Pennell, J., & Burford, G. (1996).
Attending to context: Family group decision making in Canada. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 206-220).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

In this chapter, the authors describe the preliminary findings from the family group decision making project in Nain, an Inuit community on the north coast of Labrador, the Port au Port Peninsula, in Western Newfoundland and St. John’s, Canada. The chapter relates how traditional responses to family violence were limited in their outcomes and that family group decision making is a culturally adaptable approach that results in better resolutions. The family group decision making process preserves family pride and offers the opportunity to family members to support each other. Family members found that the process was a success when they were able to move from a sense of personal shame and helplessness to family pride and efficacy.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; Canada; Nain; Inuit Community; Port au Port; St. John’s; Newfoundland; Labrador; shame; pride; family; domestic violence

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

Pakura, S. (2004).
The family group conference 14 year journey: Celebrating the successes, learning the lessons, embracing the challenges.

Unpublished manuscript.

This article explains the historical background for family group conferencing and the importance of culture and family ties in dealing with child welfare issues. Family group conferences were legislated and implemented after the Maori people voiced their need for a process that corresponds best to their cultural identity. The author offers recommendations in regards to funding, building core capacity in communities and recognizing that kinship care needs its own policy, services and resources framework. In addition, the article relates successes of family group conferences in reducing both foster care and reoffending. The author stated that family group conferences brought the Maori people closer together and presented drifting from underpinning philosophy of family empowerment inherent in family group conferencing as a future challenge.

Keywords: Maori; family group conferencing; FGC; family; children; New Zealand; kinship

Nixon, P. (2007)
Seen but not heard? Children and young people’s participation in family group decision making: Concepts and practice issues.

Protecting Children, 22(1), 20-36.

This article argues for enhanced child participation and involvement in decision-making processes that affect their lives, particularly family group decision making (FGDM). Historically, adults have not fully considered children’s perspectives regarding important decisions. The author contends that this is partially due to society’s long-held assumption that adults, rather than young people, truly know what is best for children. As a result, adults tend to speak on behalf of children, while children’s views become marginalized, even in circumstances where children will be the most impacted. Studies looking at children’s participation in and views of family group decision making have shown largely positive results. However there are still barriers to full child participation in family group decision making, including a lack of organizational mandates for the involvement of children. The author argues that effectively involving children in family group decision making requires sharing information and listening to children, using innovative and creative strategies to increase child participation and having people present to support the child. In addition, when supported and informed, children should be provided with opportunities to contribute to the monitoring and reviewing of family plans overtime. Likewise, children can even be involved in service development procedures, such as staff training and hiring. Overall, because children know what it means to be a child better than anyone, social workers, policymakers and other adults would be wise to listen to their perspectives in order to improve services and child outcomes.

Keywords: children; young people; adults; rights; participation; involvement; family group decision making; FGDM; U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; power; advocacy; barrier; evaluation; service development; listening

Nixon, P. (1998).
Exchanging practice: Some comparisons, contrasts, and lessons learned from the practice of family group conferences in Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Protecting Children, 14(4), 13-18.

This article compares and contrasts family group conferencing in Sweden and the U.K. Sweden has less specific child abuse laws and strong preventive ideologies, whereas the U.K. has child welfare practices that are residual and reactive to child abuse and neglect. This is expected due to public and political lack of support for social work in the U.K. Sweden’s family group conferencing practices are coordinated nationally but they allow for local deviation, while family group conferencing in the U.K. was evolutionary, with middle managers often taking the initiative in these types of projects. Both regions have placed high importance on training and challenging the existing attitudes of caseworkers. Sweden and the U.K. have also both worked to improve family participation in family group conferencing and adjust their collaborative work styles. The similarities in the two countries overpower the differences and both reported that workers were positive about family group conferencing and wanted to continue these practices.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; Sweden; United Kingdom; U.K.; similarities; differences

Mutter, R., Shemmings, D., Dugmore, P., & Hyare, M. (2008).
Family group conferences in youth justice.

Health and Social Care in the Community, 16(3), 262-270.

The use of family group conferencing in the U.K. is usually restricted to the social care system. However, more recently, the process has been extended to the youth justice system as a means of bringing victims and offenders face to face in a safe environment and as a restorative justice alternative to formal cautioning. Supported by their families and friends, offenders get the opportunity to apologize, while the victim can express how the offense has affected his or her life. Based on evidence from an evaluation of 30 conferences convened as part of a pilot in Thames Valley, this article explores how family group conferencing can be used as a mechanism for restorative justice and how it is interpreted by the young people who take part. The authors argue that, used correctly, family group conferencing can have an extremely positive effect on those involved and help minimize the risk of reoffending. It can also help ensure that young offenders are shown why their behaviors are problematic without entering into the formal criminal justice system, which, the authors argue, can stigmatize and exclude young people from the restoration process.

Keywords: U.K.; United Kingdom; youth justice; evaluation; mixed methods

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

Morris, A., Maxwell, G., Hudson, J., & Galaway, B. (1996).
Concluding thoughts. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 221-234).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This article addresses the successes and challenges of family group decision making (FGDM). FGDM has the ability to cross cultural boundaries, shift thinking from blaming parents to supporting families, and increase communication between and among family members and community supporters. The article indicates that FGDM is more likely to give disadvantaged individuals a voice than are traditional dispute resolution formats. Some of the continued challenges addressed were location of services and the criteria of referrals within FGDM. The article explains that it can be hard for child welfare professionals to transform from “policing” to “facilitating” roles in the FGDM process. If child welfare professionals are not willing to make the necessary changes in their practice styles, FGDM becomes a mechanism of controlling families rather than supporting them. The tools families need to be successful in FGDM are appropriate and realistic services, trained child welfare professionals who are committed to the goals of FGDM, the inclusion of all necessary family members in meetings, a supportive environment, space for families to make their own decisions and the effective monitoring of plans and outcomes.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; family group conferencing; FGC; culture; restorative justice

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

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

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

Merkel-Holguin, L., Tinworth, K., Horner, A., & Wilmot, L. (2007).
Using family group conferencing to achieve permanency for youth.

Protecting Children, 22(1), 38-49.

This article exposes the challenges foster youths encounter when emancipating or aging out of foster care, including homelessness, poverty and lack of formal education. The authors argue that permanency for youths cannot be achieved at the legal level but rather through connections with caring and committed adults. One of the barriers to permanency can be the system’s belief that older youths are not interested in forming or strengthening connections to adults and that youths’ extended families are not interested in committing to the youth. These myths are contradicted by research that documented that youths repeatedly affirmed they want permanent family connection and long-term stability. Family group conferencing is portrayed as an opportunity to achieve permanency for youths and teach them, at a young age, the value of civic participation.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; permanency; youth; family; foster care; homelessness; poverty; education

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

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

Marsh, P., & Crow, G. (1996).
Family group conferences in child welfare services in England and Wales. In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 152-166).

Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This article presents the England and Wales Children Act of 1989. It underlines some key links between the act and family group conferences. Partnership between service providers and families is presented as a key principle of the act. In addition, the authors emphasize the cultural appropriateness of the act and respect of the wishes and views of the child. The article relates the history of initiating family group conferencing and the role of the Family Rights Group in this achievement. Also, the article relays the different steps of family group conferences and the role of coordinators from preparation to conference facilitation. Lastly, the authors offer two case examples in which families were able to reach agreements.

Keywords: family group conference; FGC; England and Wales; children; family; welfare; Children Act of 1989; family support; culture

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

Immarigeon, R. (1996).
Family group conferences in Canada and the United States: An overview.

In J. Hudson, A. Morris, G. Maxwell, & B. Galaway (Eds.), Family group conferences: Perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 167-179). Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.

This book chapter describes the developments of family group conferences in Canada and the U.S., including work being done in British Columbia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New York and Vermont. Family group conferences began in British Columbia in the 1990s as a result of aboriginal advocacy and concerns that non-native laws were devastating the Aboriginal Nation, families and people. In the U.S., two national foundations were strong advocates for family group conferences. The article explores numerous states’ early implementation efforts of family group conferencing.

Keywords: family group conference; FGC; Canada; Newfoundland; Labrador; Manitoba; British Columbia; aboriginal; development; pilot; Child, Family, and Community Service Act; Michigan; Vermont; Maine; New York; W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Edna McConnell Clark Foundation; American Humane; policy

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

Holland, S., Scourfield, J., O’Neill, S., & Pithuose, A. (2005).
Democratising the family and the state? The case of family group conferences in child welfare.

Journal of Social Policy, 34(1), 59-77.

The authors discuss family group conferences as an opportunity to empower families and give a voice to the less powerful of its members -- children. They state that through family group conferences, children felt heard and included in the decision-making process. In addition, the authors argue that while family private time is a crucial element in family group conferences, the process is still infused with professionals’ intervention, power and control. The article uses data from family group conferences to demonstrate families’ satisfaction with the process and the high engagement of fathers in conferences. Moreover, the data show sustainable positive outcomes six months after conferences had taken place.

Keywords: family group conferences; FGC; U.K.; United Kingdom; Wales; children; fathers; gender; empowerment; decision making; professionals; private family time

Holland, S., & O’Neill, S. (2006).
“We had to be there to make sure it was what we wanted”: Enabling children’s participation in family decision-making through the family group conference.

Childhood, 13(1), 91-111.

This article describes the results of involving children in family group conferences from a study carried out in Wales. The authors acknowledge that family group conferences help children interact both with the state and the family. The authors state that both anecdotal and research evidence have been positive; however, these findings are more process-focused, rather than outcome-focused. The article details some of the standard concerns about children participating in the process. Using a child-centered and participative evaluative approach, the authors conclude that in the majority of cases, family group conferences helped empower participating children and family members.

Keywords: empowerment; family group conference; FGC; participation; Wales; children; decision making; risk; family

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

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

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

Glode, J., & Wien, F. (2006).
Evaluating the family group conferencing approach in a First Nations context: Some initial findings.

Unpublished manuscript.

This article presents family group conferencing as practiced in Nova Scotia. The authors explain that traditional child welfare practices have been shown to be less effective than family group conferencing. Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services adapted New Zealand’s family group conferencing model to their context, adding a talking piece, traditional storytelling and language to the process. Nova Scotia’s family group conference project worked with 28 out of 475 active cases. The project had promising results and clients expressed their satisfaction with the process. The authors reveal some implementation challenges in the family group conference process.

Keywords: family group conferencing; FGC; Nova Scotia; family; First Nations families; Maori; New Zealand; culture; decision making

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

Family Rights Group. (2008, October).
Using family group conferences for children who are, or may become subject to public law proceedings: A guide for courts, lawyers, CAFCASS and CAFCASS CYMRU officers and child care practitioners.

London: Author.

The purpose of this publication is to provide information and guidance to all involved in public law cases so that family group conferences are used as effectively as possible for vulnerable children, particularly those who are at risk of being taken into care. It does not cover the use of family group conferences for private law proceedings. Developed by the Family Rights group, in consultation with the Family Group Conference Network, the Family Justice Council and CAFCASS, the paper outlines the benefits, purpose, structure and process of a family group conference, giving practitioners who come into contact with vulnerable children at risk of entering the care system the necessary information for applying the family group conferencing model in this context. As well as stating what a family group conference looks like, the paper describes the processes which fall outside or run contrary to the family group conferencing model. It also provides guidelines for when family group conferencing can be used; family group conferencing projects that practitioners can refer a case to; and a list of studies, including their findings, which support the use of family group conferencing as an effective model in meeting the needs of children and families.

Keywords: U.K.; United Kingdom; child welfare; practice development

Edwards, L., & Sagatun-Edwards, I. (2007).
The transition to group decision making in child protection cases: Obtaining better results for children and families.

Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 58(1), 1-16.

This article introduces different decision-making approaches in the child welfare system in Santa Clara County, Calif. The authors advocate for the use of alternative approaches to assure safety and protection for child victims of abuse and neglect. The article describes different processes used simultaneously in the county: * Team decision making brings together family members and professionals to develop agreements. * Family group conferencing differs from other processes by giving the families time to meet privately and construct a plan that meets their needs, and by allowing them to collaborate with professionals to use community resources. * Child protection mediation tackles unresolved legal issues out of the court setting. * Wraparound services is a need-driven approach that provides families and children with the services they need to overcome the situation they are facing. * Emancipation conferences are used when a child is close to aging out of the child welfare system, in which the family meets to address the youth’s future life goals and offers support when needed. In addition, the article describes Family Finding, a way to find extended family members, which can be used to complement any of the family involvement models.

Keywords: Santa Clara County; child welfare; decision making; abuse; team decision making; TDM; family group conferencing; FGC; child protection mediation; wraparound services; family finding; emancipation conference; information sharing

Doolan, M. (n.d.).
Family group conferences and social work: Exploring the connections.

Unpublished manuscript.

This article examines how the field of social work has been slow to embrace family group conferencing, despite the fact that family group conferencing is in line with many values and skills of the social work profession (e.g., the importance of human relationships, meeting people “where they are at,” and supporting self-determination for clients). The author specifies the concerns that social workers and professionals have when a child’s safety is at stake and argues that traditional, professional interventions are not the best way to protect children. The author uses research findings highlighting the effectiveness of family group conferencing in reducing re-abuse of children and the better quality of plans compared to traditional, professionally driven processes. The author underlines the fact that social work and family group conferencing are “natural allies.” The author also compares the New Zealand approach to child welfare to the U.K. approach and concludes that family group conferencing is not a model for less complicated cases. Unlike in the U.K., New Zealand deals with complicated cases through family group conferencing and the results are promising and compare favorably with the traditional system’s results.

Keywords: New Zealand; United Kingdom; U.K.; family group conferencing; FGC; social work; child safety; plan; family

Doolan, M. (2007).
Duty calls: The response of law, policy and practice to participation rights in child welfare systems.

Protecting Children, 22(1), 10-18.

This article provides a brief history of the child welfare systems of Western, English-speaking countries, emphasizing that the rights of families and children were often not respected. In contrast to child welfare systems of Western continental Europe, where there is an increased focus on solutions and family unity, English-speaking systems tend to be risk-oriented and characterized by legalistic and adversarial processes. This focus has made it difficult to introduce family-led decision making into these child welfare systems. The author describes the changes needed at the national and local levels to create child welfare systems that are more responsive to families and children.

Keywords: child welfare; family rights; family group conferencing; FGC; English-speaking countries

Doolan, M. (2006).
Statutory social work and family group conferences: Exploring the connections.

Protecting Children, 21(1), 5-18.

Historically and internationally, social work professionals have been reluctant to support and adopt family-centered decision making practices in child welfare. The notable exception to this stance is New Zealand, which legally mandated family group conferencing with the passage of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act in 1989. This article discusses potential reasons for the resistance to family group conferencing implementation and offers recommendations for how family-centered practice can be more broadly embraced by the social work profession. In particular, the author suggests that family-driven decision making will never be fully incorporated into statutory child welfare practice until there are specific mandates requiring its implementation. In addition, it should be made clear to child welfare workers that their professional power and input will not be discounted, but rather used differently, when they partner with families. Overall, the author argues that the concepts of child protection and family support should not be viewed as distinct objectives, and that child safety and well-being are enhanced when family groups and professionals collaborate. The author also provides a background of the origins of family group conferencing in New Zealand and a summary of the overall process.

Keywords: New Zealand; family group conferencing; FGC; the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act; Maori; statutory social work; child protection; family support; professional; kinship care; mandate; post-modernism; partnering; power; safety; context; U.K.; United Kingdom

Doolan, M. (2004).
The family group conference: A mainstream approach in child welfare decision-making.

Unpublished manuscript.

This article depicts the effectiveness of family group conferences in contrast with traditional operations of the child welfare system. The author argues that families, children and communities’ involvement in child welfare decision-making processes amounts to a human right. In contrast with the traditional child welfare approach, family group conferences have been adopted by many countries to fit many needs, from child welfare to criminal justice issues. The author strongly advocates for a new approach that does not alienate families and communities from making the best decisions to safeguard their children and provide the support and care they need. The author supports his arguments with research studies carried out in New Zealand, England and Wales.

Keywords: family group conferences; FGC; New Zealand; England; Wales; human rights; involvement; families; communities; children; social worker

Crow, G. (1996).
Evaluating FGCs in the pilot projects - Social workers’ views of the early stages.

In K. Morris & J. Tunnard (Eds.), Family group conferences: Messages from UK practice and research (pp. 65-79). London: Family Rights Group.

This article depicts a national study on the use of family group conferences in the U.K., in which participating projects agreed to share experiences and pool information to provide an overview of the use of family group conferences. The national evaluators interviewed social workers about a variety of areas, including the number of family group conferences and social worker involvement in conferences. They also asked social workers for advice in setting up similar projects. Social workers discussed the time needed to introduce the model to practitioners, the need for training, the chance to discuss or introduce the model, having the model endorsed by senior staff, getting resources for the project, the need for a project manager or lead person, the need to involve other professionals and reservations about the motivation behind the project. The evaluators concluded that family group conferences have been held for children of all ages, setting up the meetings can be difficult, a wide range of people have been included in the family group, the number of people attending varies, the length of meeting time varies and most meetings discuss placement needs. Further research will be conducted, including gathering social workers’ opinions on the effect that family group conferencing can have on families and themselves.

Keywords: family group conference; FGC; Family Rights Group; evaluation; social worker opinion; overview; involvement; training; resources; project manager; collaboration; reservations; motivation; placement; effects

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

Crampton, D. (2006).
When do social workers and family members try family group decision making? A process evaluation.

International Journal of Child & Family Welfare, 9(3), 131-144.

This article examines what factors or case characteristics may influence child welfare professionals and families to try family group decision making (FGDM). An exploratory analysis of 593 referrals (from 1996 to 2000) to Kent County, Michigan’s Family and Community Compact program aimed to address the following questions: * What were the differences between cases deemed appropriate for the program (and thus for FGDM) and those considered inappropriate? * Of the referrals deemed appropriate, what were the differences in cases where families chose to participate in FGDM and those where families chose not to participate? * Of the families who participated in FGDM, what were the differences between those who developed a plan for their children to live with extended kin and those who did not? Overall, this study found that both child welfare professionals and families were more likely to try FGDM in cases characterized by parental substance abuse, improper supervision, children with special needs (including behavioral needs) and/or identified kinship care providers. In addition, referrals that involved identified kin were more likely to result in a plan that included extended family members as care providers. The author notes that these findings are not surprising, as extended kin participants tend to increase the success of FGDM processes. In contrast, in cases where parental rights had been terminated, referrals were less likely to be approved for FGDM. The author reasons that both professionals and families may be more likely to try FGDM in situations where the case has more ambiguity or lacks “a straightforward course of action.” Moreover, the author suggests that this study’s findings indicate that there are few case characteristics that professionals and family members consider to be inappropriate for FGDM. Finally, the author concludes by highlighting the debate over whether FGDM is an appropriate approach in cases of severe child abuse (i.e., sexual abuse), and suggests that FGDM could be most beneficial in such circumstances when used on a case by case basis.

Keywords: family group decision making; FGDM; Family and Community Compact Program; referral; professionals; family members; appropriate; inappropriate; case characteristics; kinship; substance abuse; mental illness; supervision; special needs; homelessness; education; ambiguity; sexual abuse; plan

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

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

Connolly, M. (2006).
Up front and personal: Confronting dynamics in the family group conference.

Family Process, 45(3), 345-357.

This article addresses the issue of power dynamics that often occurs during the process of a family group conference. The author discusses how the family and workers can challenge each other, how other professionals may challenge the practice of family group conferences, and how challenges between family members can also occur, particularly during the private family time phase of the process. The author describes the findings of a study involving focus groups with family group conference coordinators. Coordinators were guided to discuss their experiences with family group conference coordination and how the practice has changed over time; what worked and did not work during a typical conference; and how family members affected the overall process. Findings from this study include the following themes: * Workers need to communicate clearly and honestly with the family about the concerns of child protective services so that they can make informed and safe decisions. * Discussions during private family time can often be influenced by the input of professionals or by more powerful members. * Family secrets can often contribute to existing power imbalances within the family but may also be sources of hidden support for children. * Skilled facilitation is vital to ensure that the process is truly family-driven. * Differences in professional values and levels of power may create tension between workers and other professionals. * Paradigm shifts (i.e., from a child rescue focus to one that supports the entire family’s needs) are necessary in order to do strengths-based and family-focused work. The author also highlights the potential for family group conferences to enhance family resilience by having the wider extended family work collaboratively to solve and address problems.

Keywords: balance; Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act; collaboration; consensus; coordinator; dynamics; family group conference; FGC; focus group; honesty; New Zealand; power; private family time; professional; solution-based

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

Connolly, M. (1994).
An act of empowerment: The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act (1989).

British Journal of Social Work, 24(1), 87-100.

This article depicts the limited success of social services in New Zealand before the enactment of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989. New Zealand was following the international trend of using fostering and institutional care as a way to provide care and safety for children. In comparison with this approach, the act recognizes the cultural strength of whanau, hapu and iwi, empowering kin networks to care for their children. Moreover, the author underlines some ambiguities in the act, such as not defining serious deprivation of children. In addition, the act fails to determine the threshold for calling for a family group conference.

Keywords: New Zealand; family group conference; FGC; Maori; Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act; culture; Department of Social Welfare; child; safety; abuse; decision making

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

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

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

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

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

Ban, P., & Swain, P. (1994).
Family group conferences: Part one: Australia’s first project within child protection.

Children Australia, 19(3), 19-21.

In this article, the authors outline family group conferencing as a medium to apply the family decision making technique as developed in New Zealand and adopted by the missions of St. James and St. John, Victoria, Australia. This process allows families to make decisions about the welfare of their children, with professionals providing information regarding assessments, supports and resources. An independent coordinator facilitates the process and assists in clarifying information. The article describes the intricacies of the family group conferencing process, including the roles of the coordinator, social worker and other service providers. The authors argue that family decision making is more than gathering families and professionals to create a plan. Rather, it is more about a set of values that underpin the practice. The authors identify some of the values they believe are core to this way of working with families.

Keywords: family decision making; FDM; family group conferencing; FGC; Victoria; Australia; New Zealand; children; family; care; welfare; Missions of St. James and St. John

Ball, C. (1996).
The Children Act 1989 -- Creating a framework for partnership work with families.

In K. Morris & J. Tunnard (Eds.), Family group conferences: Messages from UK practice and research (pp. 5-12). London: Family Rights Group.

This article explains the U.K.’s Children Act of 1989, what led up to the act and what practice looks like after the act was put into effect. The author states that this is the most inclusive child welfare law to date in the U.K. According to the article, problems that existed before this legislation included poor crisis intervention mechanisms, confrontational techniques, inappropriate placements and a lack of effective legal systems. The article goes on to explain that the act came out of a public outcry in 1987 regarding a large increase in child abuse and neglect cases. The Children Act of 1989 emphasized voluntary services, local services, partnerships with parents and making emergency actions take place in a shorter time period. The author concludes the article by stating that the changes that took place due to the Children Act of 1989 allow for children to remain with their own families whenever possible and provide a supportive environment for families to receive services.

Keywords: United Kingdom; U.K.; Children Act of 1989

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

Allan, G. (1996, October).
The New Zealand family group conference -- A lawyer’s perspective.

UNDER CONSTRUCTION: Building a Better Future for Colorado’s Children and Families Conference, Denver, CO.

This paper emphasizes the importance of families in the family group conference process and rationale behind the legislative choices incorporated in New Zealand’s Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act of 1989. The author asserts family members are naturally better positioned to provide care and love to their children than are professionals. The author also describes the choices of the act to not include attorneys except for those appointed by the family court, in order to preserve the non-adversarial nature of the conference; keep meetings confidential so that families can tackle serious issues facing them; and make the process flexible to fit different cultures and families’ choices. Lastly, the paper describes the family group conference process and the professional’s role in that process. Built into the implementation of family group conferencing is a system of checks and balances to safeguard children’s best interests, in which social workers and judges can overturn the conference decisions even though the data show that this option rarely occurs.

Keywords: family group conference; FGC; lawyer; family; New Zealand; confidentiality; professionals; social worker; Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act

Adams, P., and Chandler, S. (2004).
Responsive regulation in child welfare: Systemic challenges to mainstreaming the family group conference.

Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, XXXI(1), 93-116.

This book chapter examines the challenges that arise when trying to transform child welfare services. John Braithwaite’s model of responsive regulation and the Braithwaite pyramid are applied to family group conferencing in child welfare. The authors note that Braithwaite’s model helps to understand the relation of two seemingly contradictory but essential elements of family group conferences: empowerment of the family and state or social control. The levels of the pyramid represent different decision-making processes; in child welfare, the pyramid reflects a continuum from state-imposed decisions to state-managed but family-regulated outcomes. The chapter also addresses the difficulties of shifting the role of the state from that of controller to that of regulatory partner when working with families in the child protective services system. The authors then discuss the threats to implementation of family group conferencing and variations of such in the U.S. Threats to implementation include concerns about cost, preparation time, staff training and debates about appropriate cases for family group conferencing. Finally, the chapter describes the use of family group conferencing in Hawaii (called Ohana Conferencing) and the elements that led to its successful implementation.

Keywords: John Braithwaite; responsive regulation; restorative justice; family group conference; FGC; child welfare; child protection; Hawaii; Ohana Conference; implementation; variation; United States; U.S.; cost; staff; transformation; Braithwaite pyramid

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