Term Paper: Family Group Conference in New Zealand

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Family Group Conference in New Zealand

New Zealand launched a revolutionary and visionary package of legislation in 1989 called the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act - and from that bill the Family Group Conference (FGC) was born. The notion setting the stage for this new law was that there was a need for far greater participation by family members and community members when there is an instance of youthful lawbreaking. In terms of the management of the child from that point on, and discipline the child should receive, and the cultural and social implications of the process of justice, the FGC was viewed as not only important but also vitally necessary. It was, as Nicola Atwool and Cindy Kiro of the Office of Children's Commissioner explain, "a radical change," and moreover, it set an "international precedent for the involvement of children and families in decisions affecting them" (Atwool, et al., 2006).

The Family Group Conference concept was, as this paper will illustrate and detail, far more than just a new way of meting out justice in New Zealand. Indeed, as Atwood and Kiro of the government explain, it provided a way of officially coping with "the insidious nature of institutional racism"; the FGC indeed was a way of providing a culturally sensitive approach to the management of children. Further, the new law was to provide full participation by the Maori community in matters of social justice with reference to their young people and the existing laws.

I have chosen this topic because it is the basis of a far more honorable approach to youthful violations by the official New Zealand powers that be. Also, I am deeply interested in the ongoing success of this legislation and of the Family Group Conference approach basically because I plan to be involved in the delivery of social services in New Zealand. The whole world is watching New Zealand to see how effective this program will work out over the long haul. And I am watching too, and looking forward to my own person professional opportunity to help make the FGC a cultural and social triumph.

References

Annotated Bibliography

Atwool, Nicola, & Kiro, Cindy. (2006) Child Rights, Family Rights and the Family

Group Conference: The New Zealand Experience. Section IV - Models of Practice. Slide 1, Slide 2, Slide 3. PowerPoint Presentation.

This presentation is a review of and an explanation for the legislation, Children, Young Persons and their Families Act (CYP&F), by two advisors to the Office of the Children's Commission of New Zealand. It is a very candid yet formal description of why the legislation was necessary, the process that brought it into its final form, and how successful (and unsuccessful) it has proved to be over time. It is valuable in terms of this research because it shows how a society can, if it wishes to, take child legal issues out of the courts and into the hands of the community.

Ban, Paul. (2005). Aboriginal child placement principle and family group conferences.

Australian Social Work, 58(4), 384-391.

Writer Ban gives credit to New Zealand for the innovative, progressive system of dealing with troubled youth through the Family Group Conference system. Indeed, this program has been emulated in many countries throughout the world, and Australia is among those nations; hence, this article was chosen for this paper.

Dyson, Ruth. (2006). Celebrating innovation in family decision making: the family group

Conference. "Coming home - Te hokinga mai." Wellington Town Hall, 27 November.

Ruth Dyson was the Minister for Child, Youth, and Family Services at the time she gave this speech. Her presentation did not shy away from being honest about New Zealand government's weak points when it comes to cultural fairness vis-a-vis how the government approaches child misbehavior. "A statutory response from a government agency can sometimes do more damage than good - making use of community providers can often be a more positive alternative." Hence, the Family Group Conference, as an alternative to government agencies ruling roughshod over community issues at the local level. Dyson remarked that notwithstanding the successes that the FGC experiment has enjoyed, the New Zealanders "must learn from others if we are to continue being good parents of our tamariki."

Law Access. (2008) Being placed in the care of Child, Youth, and Family. Retrieved July 2008, at http://www.lawaccess.Isa.govt.nz.

Law Access. (2008). Care and protection declarations: cases that go to the Family Court. Retrieved 30 June 2008, at http://www.lawaccess.Isa.govt.nz.

Law Access. (2008). Emergency protection: removing children from their families. Retrieved 1 July 2008 at http://www.lawaccess.Isa.govt.nz.

Law Access. (2008). Finding solutions without the courts: family / whanau agreements

And family group conferences. Retrieved 1 July 2008 at http://www.lawacessIsa.govt.nz.

Law Access (2008). Investigations of reports of child abuse: Who investigates reports of Child abuse. Retrieved 29 June 2008, at http://www.lawaccess.Isa.govt.nz.

Law Access (2008). Reporting child abusive. Retrieved 30 June, 2008, at http://www.lawaccess.Isa.govt.nz.

Law Access: Violence against children: How the Domestic violence Act protects

Children. Retrieved 30 June 2008, at http://www.lawaccess.Isa.govt.nz.

The Law Access fact sheets were very helpful and they contributed greatly to the literature and to this writer's understanding of the legal aspects of the process leading up to and through the Family Group Conferences. These fact sheets present a basic "how to" for professionals and interested citizens when it comes to youthful members of society - whether they are Maori of Caucasian. Details of how the investigations are carried out, and how the FGC is arranged and administered, and more, are available

Mackay, Robert E. (2003). Restorative Justice and the Children's Hearings - a Proposal.

European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, 11(1), 1-17.

Author Mackay offers a clear presentation of Restorative Justice. His article is important for this paper because a very pivotal ingredient in the dynamics that occur in a Family Group Conference is the face-to-face meeting between the victim and the offender. Mackay also notes that the needs of the community are just as important as the interaction between the young offender, the victim, law enforcement, and the families.

Maxwell, Gabrielle, & Morris, Allison. (2002). Restorative Justice and Reconviction.

Contemporary Justice Review, 5(2), 133-146.

These researchers from Victoria University have done a great job in putting together data reflecting the fact that when the victim in a controlled, community-sponsored venue confronts offenders, lessons are learned and changes in behavior do occur. That is not to say that every time a Family Group Conference takes place the law-breaker changes his ways totally; but statistics do tell a positive story about restorative justice and the FGC successes, and New Zealand can be proud that it chose a visionary way to go to confront offenders in a culturally sensitive format.

Maxwell, Gabrielle, & Morris, Allison. (2006) Youth Justice in New Zealand:

Restorative Justice in Practice? Journal of Social Issues, 62(2), 239-258.

This journal article is an ideal research piece for a paper that is delving into the issue of both justice and culturally sensitive interactions between a minority (the Maori) and the victim of that person's crime. How to best deal with the offender is no longer a decision by a prosecutor in New Zealand, nor by a judge (in most cases). The youth justice system, according to this article by Maxwell and Morris, is in fact today more of a mirror of the Maori custom and law, tikanga o nga hara, "the law of wrongdoing," than some European strategy brought over from England centuries ago. And in Maori culture historically the responsibility to redress grievances and to make right what was done wrong, was the collective responsibility of the community.

Pakura, Shannon. (2003). A review of the Family Group Conference 13 years on.

Reading 6. Te Komako, VI, XI (3), 3-7.

Shannon Pakura is the "Chief Social Worker" with New Zealand's Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and hence, her remarks carry weight in any discussion of the success and challenges of the Family Group Conference model. The importance of her governmental position, and the perspective she takes are both important reasons for including her narrative in this paper. She points out that there are many problems that remain and must be resolved. Given that her report was written in 2003, it is of course possible that some of the concerns she mentions (such as an apparent lack of Maori input and participation at some levels) have subsequently been addressed. But her report seems fair and balanced; she offers the view that for the most part, the Maori believe they have been empowered by the FGC system, the social workers have embraced the system, and the outcomes for Maori children are mainly effective.

Umbreit, M.S., & Coates, R.B. (2006) Restorative Justice Dialogue: Evidence-Based

Practice. Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 29 June 2008 at http://www.rjp.umn.edu.

The Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking in Minnesota is renowned for being among the most respected institutions for teaching the art of restorative justice. That fact makes it appropriate for a research article… [END OF PREVIEW]

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