Family playing with a trainset.

Review of Family Group Conferences

Child, Youth and Family is committed to continuously reviewing its policies and practices, in order to improve services.

When Family Group Conferences (FGCs) were implemented in New Zealand 25 years ago, this approach to helping vulnerable children and young people, as well as victims of young offending, was unprecedented. A lot has changed in New Zealand since their introduction in 1989. Societal and cultural shifts, technological changes, and the increasing complexity of problems that some families now face, means we have to adapt our FGC process to meet today’s needs.

The Office of the Chief Social Worker undertook a review on FGCs in 2012. The review identified overwhelming support of FGCs as a key decision making process for children, young people and their families.

It also highlighted the need to better prepare participants for upcoming FGCs, the importance of inter-agency work, adapting our FGCs to better meet the needs of participants, and greater partnership between social workers and Māori families.

A lot of progress has been made since the release of the review. A work programme to reinvigorate the FGC process is underway and Child, Youth and Family has implemented many changes, including developing new practice guidelines for all staff to ensure quality FGCs.

The guidelines ensure the right people are at the FGC, children’s voices are heard – even if they can’t be present at the conference, and an active, meaningful plan is in place at the end that is regularly reviewed. Twelve kaiwhakatara (reinvigorating FGC champions) have been appointed to support the implementation of the practice standards and to strengthen the quality of practice across sites.

While the review includes recommendations to amend the legislation to make it mandatory for key agencies to attend FGCs, we don’t believe that will be necessary.

A significant amount of work is underway to strengthen inter-agency collaboration, and there is a genuine acknowledgement and willingness across all agencies to improve the FGC process.

We're also exploring how we can work more collaboratively with iwi, to achieve the best results for Māori children and young people. A pilot is underway with Ngāti Porou to test how this could be done.

We undertook this review to discover any shortcomings, which we then immediately set about to address. We are confident our FGCs will continue to be a world-leading model for helping vulnerable children, young people, and their families.

Family playing with a trainset.


Final recommendations on improving Family Group Conferences to achieve better outcomes for New Zealand's most vulnerable children

Sep 2012

Summary information on Family Group Conferences

Print this page.