Evaluation of the Family Group Conferencing pilot program. AIC reports. Research and public policy series 121.
Hayley Boxall, Anthony Morgan, and Kiptoo Terer
Australian Institute of Criminology
A range of innovative practices have been introduced in Australia and overseas to improve outcomes for vulnerable or 'at risk' children and young people who have come into contact with the child protection system. One such innovation has been Family Group Conferencing (FGC). FGC is a family-led decision-making process where the family, child protection workers and service providers come together to discuss and develop a plan that aims to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person. It emerged from growing recognition that traditional decision-making models offered limited opportunity to engage the family in the problemsolving process.
It is important to recognise that FGC is the only model of alternative dispute resolution introduced in New South Wales that deals with matters outside of the court process. Therefore, combined with the promising findings from this evaluation (and others), a strong argument can be made for persevering with attempts to include FGC as an important feature of the NSW care and protection system. The NSW Minister for Community Services, the Hon. Pru Goward, recently reaffirmed the government?s commitment to FGC, while further increases in the use of alternative dispute resolution are currently being considered as part of the NSW Government's proposed child protection legislative and policy reforms. Irrespective of the final model adopted, it is hoped that any expansion of FGC is similarly evaluated to assess its continued ability to deliver better outcomes for children and young people in New South Wales.