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Child Protection

While unhealthy dynamics and violent behaviours in families lead to the intervention of government officials to protect children, these same families often have resources and knowledge needed to break the cycles of negative behaviours. Restorative practices -- such as family group conferencing -- offers an opportunity of involving extended family members and social service agencies and the troubled families in the process of find responses and solutions.

Prescott, Dana. Child Protection: Kinship and Family Group Conferencing
The child protection system in the United States is a complex combination and collaboration of public agencies, private child welfare agencies, and community-based organizations. Most families become involved with this system due to a report of suspected child abuse or neglect. Over the years the system has operated back and forth between two emphases. One focuses on "family preservation": that is, biological family structures are in the child's best interests; keeping the child in the family is preferred. The other focuses on child safety: that is, the safety of the child is paramount; removing the child from the possibility of abuse is preferred. Against this background, Dana Prescott discusses key legislative and statistical information on child abuse and welfare strategies, the effectiveness of various strategies and policies, and the potential of family group conferencing as an alternative model to balance family integrity and child safety.
Neff, Rob. Achieving Justice in Child Protection
As formal systems for the protection of children have evolved in this country [USA], certain barriers to achieving justice within the child protection system have emerged concomitantly. Specifically, these barriers involve ambiguous definitions of abuse and the appearance of social inequality and bias within the child protection system. One means of surmounting these barriers to justice is family group conferencing (FGC). Support for this assertion comes from the integration of the restorative justice model and procedural justice theory. When applied to the practice of FGCs in child protection, the integration of these theoretical perspectives provides a strong rationale for the use of FGC and a theoretical framework from which the outcomes and causal mechanisms of FGCs may be evaluated. Author’s abstract.
Chandler, Susan M and Adams, Paul. Building Partnerships to Protect Children: A Blended Model of Family Group Conferencing
According to statistics at the end of 2001, hundreds of thousands of children lived in foster care because of abuse or neglect from their birth families. Only a few years earlier, millions of children were reported to Child Protective Services offices in one year because they were at risk of or had experienced abuse or neglect. Many people contend that the Child Protective Services (CPS) system is in crisis and in urgent need of reform. Against this backdrop, Adams and Chandler describe a collaboration between Hawaii’s Family Court and CPS to introduce an innovative variant of family group decision-making (FGDM). FGDM is a community-based intervention strategy that diverts child abuse and neglect cases from the court and assists families involved in the court process. Hawaii’s innovation on FGDM is called ‘Ohana Conferencing (‘Ohana is the Hawaiian word for family, relative, kin group, extended family clan). Adams and Chandler look at the need for child welfare reform, the plan for change in Hawaii, FGDM, and Hawaii’s particular approach to family group conferencing.
Lubin, Jesse. Are We Really Looking Out for the Best Interests of the Child? Applying the New Zealand Model of Family Group Conferences to Cases of Child Neglect in the United States.
This Note advocates for state laws to be amended to implement family group conferencing (FGC) as the first step in cases of alleged child neglect. FGC was developed in New Zealand nearly twenty years ago and have since become a realistic method of balancing the best interests of the children, families, agencies, courts, and communities involved in the child welfare system. A FGC is a meeting among family members and professionals that is conducted in order to develop a plan for a child who is the victim of neglect. FGC places the family at the center of the welfare proceedings and empowers them to reach a solution without having to resort to the often lengthy and expensive adversarial court system. If FGC is incorporated into the child welfare systems throughout the United States, communication between the parents, social services, and the courts could increase, helping families adequately address the problem of neglect and getting the children out of the child welfare system quickly and more efficiently.
Olson, Kelly Browe. Family Group Conferencing and Child Protection Mediation: Essential Tools for Prioritizing Family Engagement in Child Welfare Cases.
Family group conferencing (FGC) and child protection mediation maximize family engagement in child welfare cases by prioritizing families’ roles in discussions and decisions. This article examines how FGC helps professionals to focus on family and community strengths, encourages family engagement, and provides targeted case plans for families and timely, permanent placements for children. It explores how courts and agencies use these interventions to empower families to contribute to resolutions in ways that are not possible in traditional litigation processes. These complementary processes help children and families by providing forums where families are allowed to make informed choices and take an active role in creating plans for their future. (Author's abstract)
FGDM Guidelines Committee. Guidelines for Family Group Decision Making in Child Welfare.
These guidelines address family group decision making as a critical practice within child welfare agencies and community-based agencies that work with public child welfare systems. In developing these guidelines, American Humane recognizes that standing alone, FGDM cannot result in better outcomes for children and families. Other parts of the child welfare system must change in ways that are consistent with the principles stated above. FGDM cannot simply be “added” to child welfare services — the principles, philosophy and practice approach must be integrated throughout the child welfare system to improve the safety, permanency and well-being outcomes for children and the well-being of families. (excerpt)

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