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Family Group Conferencing And Juvenile Justice

Family Group Conferencing And Juvenile Justice

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand the use of Family Group Conferencing in juvenile justice systems.

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Family Group Conferencing and Juvenile Justice

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When kids get in trouble with the law, they end up in the juvenile justice system. And within that system there is a conflict resolution program that seeks to hold the kids accountable for their actions, but also to promote their best interests and prevent them from repeating this kind of criminal activity. I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about that program. It's known as Family Group Conferencing.

Now, Family Group Conferencing actually came from New Zealand. And it came out of the traditions and values of the Maori people who live there. And the Maori people, when something like this would happen within their communities, they would bring the whole community together, because it affected everyone. And they would seek to understand why is this happening and work together with the juvenile to prevent it from happening again.

Well, this approach was so successful that it has spread. And it spread around the world. And we certainly do have the program here in the United States. Family Group Conferencing is a collaborative approach. Not only does it bring the juvenile justice system into play here, but the juvenile justice system works collaboratively with the family, with the community, and with any other social services agencies that would be appropriate.

So let me give you an example of how this works. There's actually five stages to the Family Group Conferencing. So here are the stages. And it starts with a recommendation. The program starts with somebody recommending this. Now, this could be from the court or from the family.

Let's say we have Jacob, and he's been spray painting graffiti on the garages of some neighbors who live down the block. And he's been apprehended, and this ends up in court. And in this case, the judge recommends Family Group Conferencing. It could, however, come from the family. If they're noticing some criminal activity, they could ask for this sort of thing to be initiated.

So once the judge, in this case, has recommended Family Group Conferencing, then the juvenile justice system would sit down with Jacob and his family and identify what some of the issues are here and explain how this whole process is going to work. So they might identify the fact that Jacob hasn't-- perhaps he hasn't done this a lot. He might be a first time offender. But they might notice maybe he has some issues in school.

Whatever the issues are, they would seek to identify those and then set some goals around what it is they want to happen. And this, once again, would involve the family, the juvenile justice system, and professionals that might be involved. Maybe there's some professional social workers from the school. So they would set goals in terms of what they want to see happen here for Jacob.

And the goals would probably involve making some amends to the homeowners whose garages got spray painted here with graffiti. And it may involve something to do with academics if he's having problems in school. So they would set the goals to meet whatever issues they've identified here that are going on in Jacob's life. And they'd work together to do this.

Then they would develop a plan. And this will be developed by the family. So the family will go back with Jacob and look at the goals that have been set here, the issues that they're dealing with, and come up with a plan. How are we going to move ahead here? Once they have done that they would return and work with professionals to evaluate the plan to make sure that it had met all legal requirements and get some help in moving forward with the plan.

And the plan might involve something like apologies. More than likely, most likely it will have some form of an apology to the homeowner, some sort of restitution, perhaps repainting these garages, working with the homeowner to do that, finding some way to make that right. There would be a plan to involve Jacob maybe with someone to work with him on his academics, to involve him in some more constructive activity. Whatever goal and plan the family came up with here, it would be evaluated. And they would get some help in moving forward with that plan once it had been approved and adopted by the juvenile court system or whatever professionals were involved here with Jacob.

So these are the stages of the Family Group Conferencing program and an example of how one juvenile might move through this program. Now, it's been a very successful program. Studies have shown that it has had a lot of success in preventing juveniles from becoming repeat offenders. And families also have talked about having increased satisfaction with this program. They feel that their needs have been met and they've gotten help that they need in working with the juvenile.

So once again, Family Group Conferencing, a collaborative approach to juvenile justice. It came out of New Zealand, out of the cultures and traditions of the Maori people. There are five stages to the process. And it is a part of the juvenile justice system in the United States. So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

  • Juvenile Justice System

    In the U.S., the segment of the justice or legal system assigned to deal with criminal behavior by minors.

  • Family Group Conferencing (FGC)

    A conflict resolution process which addresses criminal behavior by minors in a collaborative way, engaging the juvenile justice system, parents, community, and social services.