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Child Welfare

With a focus on strengthening families, restorative practices in child welfare cases are seen as a mechanism for helping families build on the strengths they do have and connect to a larger support network to ensure the safety and care of children.

Clarke, Andrea and Robertson, Irene and McHale, M. Jerry. Building a Child Protection Mediation Program in British Columbia.
Effective implementation of mediation programs on a large scale is a complex challenge. This article describes the process of design and implementation of a child protection mediation model and highlights the challenges and successes involved in leading fundamental culture shifts within the child welfare system over a period of eleven years. (Author's Abstract)
County of Santa Clara Family Conference Institute. Santa Clara Family Conference Model (FCM) Executive Summary
The Santa Clara family conference model (FCM) originated in 1996 as a response to the need for families to contribute to the improvement of safety and protection of children in their care. The Santa Clara FCM is a form of family group decision-making (FGDM); this FCM is an adaptation of prototypes from New Zealand and Oregon (USA). This document provides an overview of the principles and processes of FCM, as well as a summary of key findings from a four-year evaluation of Santa Clara’s FCM program. The findings cover perceptions about the Santa Clara FCM from staff members and family participants, and outcomes from FCM processes in the Santa Clara program.
Hoover, Todd A.. Family Group Conferencing: A Message From the Bench.
In this article, a juvenile dependency/orphan’s court judge describes his experiences with family group decision making in child protection cases. He discusses the introduction and growing use of the process in Pennsylvania.
Immarigeon, Russ. Family Group Conferences in Canada and the United States: An Overview
This paper suggests possible uses of New Zealand style family group conferences in Canada and the United States. Applications are considered in British Columbia with aboriginal empowerment efforts. The interest in Kellogg and McConnell Clark foundations and the American Bar Association in preservation of families programs are considered. Recent child care and protection programs in Kansas, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, New York are discussed. The author concludes that practitioners and policy-makers have not yet examined or explored the full implications of the range of changes possible through family group conferences, especially the role of professionals.
LeCroy and Milligan Associates, Inc.. Family Group Decision Making Annual Evaluation Report
Family group decision making is a model and strategy for dealing with youth in trouble and their families. First developed in New Zealand in 1989 as part of child welfare reform, it concentrates on family strengths and capacity for change rather than on problems and deficits. This particular Family Group Decision Making Program, oriented primarily toward child welfare purposes rather than juvenile justice per se, is a relatively new effort by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES). The aim of the program is to encourage and prepare families to develop and implement their own placement plans to ensure child safety. The first phase of the evaluation focused on the implementation of the program. The evaluation began in February 2001 and covered through August 2001. This report details the program’s background, the evaluation purpose and design, a review of the relevant literature, program implementation, future evaluation plans, and conclusions and recommendations. Materials at the end of the report provide valuable materials on the tools used in the research.
LeCroy and Milligan Associates, Inc.. Family Group Decision Making. Year 2 Annual Evaluation Report.
This is the second evaluation report on the Family Group Decision Making Program in Arizona. Family group decision making is a model and strategy for dealing with youth in trouble and their families. First developed in New Zealand in 1989 as part of child welfare reform, it concentrates on family strengths and capacity for change rather than on problems and deficits. This particular Family Group Decision Making Program, oriented primarily toward child welfare purposes rather than juvenile justice per se, is a relatively new effort by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES). The aim of the program is to encourage and prepare families to develop and implement their own placement plans to ensure child safety. This second phase of the evaluation – covering the period from August 2001 through August 2002 – focuses on the implementation of the program throughout the state of Arizona. The evaluation report details the program’s background, the evaluation purpose and design, evaluation of the implementation of the program, evaluation of the program’s outcomes, and conclusions and recommendations. A number of appendices provide valuable materials and statistics on the program itself, and tools used in the research.
LeCroy and Milligan Associates, Inc.. Family Group Decision Making: Third Annual Evaluation Report
Used in child welfare contexts, family group decision making (FGDM) is a model and strategy for focusing on family strengths and capacity for change rather than on family problems and deficits. FGDM involves bringing together extended family members to develop a plan of safety and placement for children in families referred to child protective services. This document reports the results of a third-year evaluation of the Family Group Decision Making Program of the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The evaluation report includes a number of components: a description of the current legislative requirements in Arizona; a review of relevant literature; program implementation information based on surveys, site visits, and staff interviews; descriptive data; outcomes for participating families; and conclusions and recommendations based on the evaluation. Additionally, the report contains many appendices with program information, statistical data, and assessment tools underlying the evaluation.
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.
Maloney, Lana and Reddoch, Graham.. Restorative Justice and Family Violence: A Community-Based Effort to Move From Theory to Practice
This presentation is a joint endeavor by the University of Manitoba and the John Howard Society of Manitoba. Work is being undertaken at Winnepeg to assess the potential for expanding a restorative approach to dealing with family violence. It describes the results of focus groups with suvivors, offenders, and family violence practitioners in Winnipeg. The practitioner focus groups included representatives from the University of Manitoba, Departments of Social Work and Sociology; Province of Manitoba-Community and Adult Corrections; Winnipeg City Police and other community organiztions who deal with family violence. The focus groups were convened to consider the use of the Family Group Decision Making model developed by Dr. Gale Burford and Dr. Joan Pennell. (Author's Abstract)
Mandell, Deena and Meredith, Grahame and Sullivan, Nancy. Family Group Conferencing: Final Evaluation Report
This document reports the final evaluation of a three-year pilot project of family group conferencing in Etobicoke. A collaborative effort of four child welfare organizations in Etobicoke and the Toronto area, the family group conferencing pilot lasted from October 1998 to April 2001. The aim was to establish a model of family group conferencing that would function successfully by providing good and effective child welfare services in the Toronto area. This report covers the following topics: background to the pilot project; the origins of family group conferencing; specifics of the structure of the Etobicoke Family Group Conferencing Project; the evaluation’s findings with respect to outcomes, benefits, challenges, and costs of the conferences; the development of a referral system; and projection of next steps for the project.
Martin, Patricia M.. Child Protection Mediation: The Cook County Illinois Experience -- A Judge's Perspective.
The Child Protection Mediation Program in Cook County, Illinois is the result of a collaborative effort on the part of the court, its stakeholders, and the attorneys involved in child protection cases. Child protection mediation empowers families and includes parents in many decisions impacting their children. It also helps judges to move children’s cases through the legal system more rapidly and in a more efficient and humane manner. This results in children achieving more timely permanency. The program is sustained in part due to frequent outreach to, and input from, the program’s consumers. These help to ensure that the program is meeting the diverse needs of the court, the families, and the professionals involved in the cases. (Author's Abstract)
Mediation and conferencing in child protection disputes: special issue of Family Court Review
In 1997, Family Court Review published the first special volume focused on child welfare mediation. At the time it was a relatively new field gaining ground in a number of states and provinces. Since then mediation and other alternatives to traditional and adversarial child welfare proceedings have been emerging and evolving across the United States, Canada, and the world. In this follow-up to the first special volume, the articles trace the history of the development of mediation and family group decision-making programs in the child welfare arena.
Merkel-Holguin, Lisa. The Intersection between Family Group Decision Making and Systems-of-Care.
Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) is rooted in the belief that families have shared history, wisdom, untapped resources, and an unrivaled commitment to their children -- strengths that that can be leveraged to create plans to promote children's safety, permanency, and well-being. The concept of FGDM was first legislated in New Zealand in 1989, and took hold in America in the mid-1990s . The American Humane Association estimates that in 2004, over 200 communities in approximately 35 states had implemented FGDM to improve outcomes for children and their families. An increasing percentage of children and adolescents involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have emotional disturbances that increase their fragility. Organized and coordinated systems-of-care deliver mental health services and support for children, adolescents, and their families. Family group decision making and systems-of-care share some similar goals.(excerpt)
Mirsky, Laura. Carl, Gina and Gino: Family Group Decision Making Reunites a Family.
Laura Mirsky illustrates the process of Family Group Decision Making (FGDM), sometimes known as Family Group Conferencing (FGC), by relating the story of a family in Los Angeles County, California. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) placed young Gino in various homes throughout his first ten years. During this time he suffered abuse, was separated from his parents, and developed emotional and behavioral problems. Gino’s parents, convinced that his placement was the result of severe misunderstandings, struggled to bring him home through multiple court hearings and in spite of extensive DCFS interventions. Finally, Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, the director of the FGDM program in Los Angeles County, contacted Gino’s parents in response to her perception that the family had gotten "lost in the system." Through the FGDM program, Gino’s extended family, social workers, therapists, and other professionals, were able to sit down together in a conference to exchange information and develop a plan for Gino. The family was given some time alone to discuss possible options, unanimously agreeing that Gino should return home with his parents. Professionals present were able to address their concerns for the boy’s safety, and eventually approved of the arrangement. Following the conference, Gino was successfully reunited with his parents, began excelling in school, and no longer exhibited the behavioral problems he had displayed in foster care. Joselyn attributed this happy ending to the way FGDM empowered the family to focus on Gino’s well being. Mirsky highlights FGDM through this example as a means of helping families and children who have "fallen through the cracks" of the traditional child welfare system. Abstract courtesy of the Marquette University Law School-Restorative Justice Initiative
Northwest Institute for Children and Families. Connected and Cared For: Using Family Group Conferencing for Children in Group Care. Phase I: Retrospective Study, Evaluation Findings
In the child welfare system, children in residential treatment and group care facilities are the neediest. Cases for children in group care are among the most difficult to resolve. For these children – whether they will eventually live with their family again, or they will never live with their family again – family remains of great significance. Yet, for various reasons, their family is rarely included in case planning or intervention processes. Many, therefore, reach independence at age 18 with no family support network. In this context, the Northwest Institute for Children and Families studied and evaluated the effectiveness of family group conferencing (FGC) on behalf of high needs youth in residential care settings in Washington State. This document presents the Institute’s 'Phase One Evaluation' findings. These are results based on a retrospective study of a number of conferences for youth in group care placements between 1998 and 2001.
O'Connor, Lisa A and Nakashian, Mary and Gibson, Fay and Morgenstern, Jon. "Nothing About Me Without Me": Leading the Way to Collaborative Relationships with Families
This article discusses the National Center on Addictionand Substance Abuse's CASA Safe Haven, an evidence-based, community-driven intervention program for children and families in child welfare whose lives have been adversely affected by substance abuse, and for staff in the agencies that work with them. CASA Safe Haven builds collaborative relationships that feature a blend of multidisciplinary teams that share responsibility for helping families; family group conferencing, in which families are equal and welcome participants in designing and driving a service plan; and the influence of family court to hold families and service providers accountable for progress. CASA Safe Haven is a framework for collaboration. Author's abstract.
Oregon Legislative Assembly. Oregon Family Decision-Making Meeting Law (Oregon Revised Statutes, Chapter 417.365 to 417.375)
Oregon Revised Statutes law covering Family decision-making meetings, with the following sections: 417.365 “Family decision-making meeting" defined for ORS 417.365 to 417.375. 417.368 Consideration of meeting required for certain cases. 417.371 Notice to family members of meeting; definitions. 417.375 Development of family plan; contents.
Pennell, Joan and Burford, Gale. Family Group Decision Making Project Outcome Report Summary.
In concept and practice, family group decision making (FGDM) aims to build partnerships among family, community, and government to protect children and adults and to promote their well being. Joan Pennell and Gale Burford in this document report on outcomes of a family group decision making demonstration project in Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. They explain the need for research on outcomes, FGDM processes, and the research process and measures. All of this leads to summaries of actual outcomes of the FGDM project in Newfoundland and Labrador, including testimonials from participants in the project. Through a list of relevant publications, video tapes, and references on FGDM at the end of the document, Pennell and Burford provide additional resources for those interested in further research.
Pennell, Joan and Burford, Gale. Partnership-Building Evaluation in Newfoundland/Labrador and North Carolina.
According to the authors of this paper, family group decision making (FGDM) seeks to resolve family violence by building partnerships within and around families to deal constructively with shared concerns. Partners include family members, community organizations, and public agencies. In turn, FGDM evaluation should serve three purposes: assessment of the extent to which partnerships were formed; assessment of the effectiveness of the partnerships in resolving the concerns; and promotion of constructive partnerships. With all of this in mind, the authors describe the development of evaluation approaches for the FGDM projects in Newfoundland/Labrador (Canada) and in North Carolina (USA). They then build on these experiences to set forth strategies for achieving the three purposes of partnership-building evaluation.
Pennell, Joan. Restorative Practices and Child Welfare: Toward an Inclusive Civil Society.
Child welfare systems in the United States are failing to include families in making plans, and this reduces their success in stabilizing children’s placements and promoting children’s well-being. A North Carolina study demonstrates how one restorative practice—family group conferencing (FGC)—advances family participation in child welfare planning. A sample of 27 conferences showed that the 221 family group members outnumbered the 115 service providers at the meetings. Family group members were usually satisfied with the conference process and decision and saw the plans as primarily reached through consensus, following a trusted leader, and bargaining. Satisfaction with the decision was reduced when bargaining was employed. Manipulation was more likely to occur when conference preparations were inadequate.(author's abstract)

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