Family Group Conferencing provides an opportunity for a family, including the child or young person, to come together to make informed decisions about the arrangements for the care and protection of their own child or young person, that addresses child protection concerns. Family Group Conferencing is underpinned by a principles of family led decision making which recognises that:
- Families are experts in their own lives.
- Family involved in a Group Conference will include: children, parents, extended family and even significant friends and neighbours to the family (who may not actually be blood related) and can include a cultural representative
- Families, including extended family and communities, have an important role in caring for children and young people, and keeping them safe
- Providing an opportunity for families to come together to make informed decisions about what is best for their children and young people, benefits children and young people, families and communities
- Better outcomes are achieved for children when families and children themselves are involved in decision-making processes.
- Children and young people’s connection to their family and culture is crucial to their wellbeing and development.
A circle is protection and safety whose boundary helps encourage sharing and confidentiality. Circle work allows us to sit in story to connect the act of Dadirri deep listening.
The Ngartuitya Family Group Conference
For families to participate in an Ngartuitya Family Group Conference (NFGC) they must be fully informed by a Department for Child Protection (DCP) social worker about the safety concerns for the child and agree that to minimise or remove those risks for the child to thrive, a whole of family approach could work.
Families’ participation in a Family Group Conference is voluntary.
Once the family agrees to participate, they are referred to Ngartuitya Family Group Conference Service at Relationships Australia South Australia who will connect with the family to discuss preparation for the conference. This includes the allocation of a Ngartuitya Coordinator to support members of the family come together for the benefit of the child.
Once the child, parents and all family members have understood the purpose and agree to participate in an NFGC, the Ngartuitya Coordinator will organise a suitable venue and time so that the family can come together to discuss how, as a family, they will work together to support the child.
On the day of the Family Group Conference, the Ngartuitya Coordinator will be present at the venue and family members will attend. Either this can be in person, via video or telephone link or the Ngartuitya Coordinator can provide written contributions from those who cannot attend. The space will be set up to be welcoming and facilitate shared discussion.
- Introduction to the Ngartuitya Family Group Conference – The first part is sitting together as a family so the Ngartuitya Coordinator can ensure that everyone present, including the DCP social worker, is aware of the purpose, each person’s role and responsibility and that the child’s safety concerns to be addressed, are clear to everyone present.
- Family time–this is private time and space for the family to make decisions on what solutions they can provide within their own family and community to address concerns raised. The Ngartuitya Coordinator can provide facilitation assistance if requested by the family. The DCP social worker is not part of the family time
- Family Agreement (the plan) – the Family Agreement has to say what needs to be done, by who, and when these actions need to be taken to address the safety and wellbeing concerns for the child or young person. All participants, including the DCP social worker – who is required to approve the Family Agreement, must agree to the decisions made, understand their own role and their responsibilities within the timeframes agreed on at the conference. The Ngartuitya Coordinator will ensure that all present receive a copy of the family agreement.
Ngartuitya Family Group Conferencing team are eager to hear your feedback and each participant will be contacted about their experience which will help us understand what is working well and what to do better.
Reviewing the Family Agreement
Families will be followed up by the Ngartuitya Coordinator and the DCP social workers within 3 months to see how the Family Agreement is working and to assist with any adjustments. The Ngartuitya Coordinator will check in with the family and may arrange for the family meet again and participate in another conference.
The family is able to request a review if two or more family members who participated in the Family Group Conference believe it is required.
Culturally responsive service
Ngartuitya Family Group Conference team recognises the protective factors that cultural identity provides. All families from diverse cultural backgrounds will be provided, wherever possible, an appropriate Ngartuitya Coordinator whose role includes ensuring that the processes of the conference support the family’s cultural identity and encourages pride in culture.
It is of critical importance to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the child protection system and Ngartuitya Family Group Conference Service will provide Aboriginal Coordinators wherever possible and appropriate, to ensure services are culturally inclusive, safe and respectful to Aboriginal families living in South Australia.
Families also have the right to choose a cultural representative to attend their Family Group Conference.