After the youth justice family group conference

What's Important To Us

Our social work interventions acknowledge the child or young person as a member of their local community through a carefully monitored and regularly reviewed comprehensive plan. The plan will reflect a genuine engagement with, and understanding of, the child or young person, their needs and strengths, and how best to motivate them to change.

Timely assessment and engaging supports are an integral part of generating change and positive outcomes for children and young people. With these in place, Child, Youth and Family can respond to a child or young person’s offending and work toward the reduction and prevention of their re-offending.

When a plan is developed it is important that it is monitored to ensure that people are carrying out their tasks, that things are on track, and that progress is being achieved. It means we can identify when something isn't happening, or isn't working well and we can remedy it. Regularly reviewing the plan provides encouragement for the child or young person and assures the victim that the child or young person is being held accountable for their actions as well as improving their wellbeing.

This policy outlines the actions required to support the successful outcome of a family group conference plan for a child or young person. 

In addition to this practice guidance, Va'aifetu and the Family Group Conference Practice Standards should inform all family group conference practice.

See also Key Information - Va'aifetu guidelines for integrating culture in to FGC practice

This information outlines the actions required to support the successful outcome of a family group conference plan for a child or young person.In addition to this practice guidance, Te Toka Tumoana, Va'aifetu and the Family Group Conference Practice Standards should inform all family group conference practice.

Changes to the family group conference plan by Youth Court

Where a child or young person is before the Youth Court and the charge is proved, a family group conference must have been held before the youth Court may make a s282 discharge. A family group conference must also have been held before the Youth Court may make any order under s283. The conference provides an opportunity for entitled members to consider ways that the Youth Court might deal with the child or young person in relation to the charge.

The Youth Court judge will consider the written record of the family group conference and is not required to approve it. The requirement is simply that the conference is held and the Court will take the decisions, recommendations and/or plans into account.

The Youth Court judge may consider that the conference decisions, recommendations and plan are adequate and the court may make an order on condition that the conference decisions, recommendations and plan are adhered to. In some cases the Youth Court judge may adjourn the proceedings until the tasks in the conference record are completed and then a s282 discharge might be granted.   Sometimes the Youth Court will direct that different that tasks/conditions are complied with instead of or in addition to the written record of the conference. Directions of the Court that are different to the conference plan will make those parts of the plan irrelevant or unnecessary. In those cases the Judge has effectively considered the conference outcome and has then made his or her own directions with conditions attached. It does not technically change the written record of the conference - that stands as the conference record, but the plan required to be followed by the child or young person will be based on the directions of the Court.

The youth justice co-ordinator must ensure that the child or young person is aware of any directions and/or conditions imposed by the Youth Court that effectively change the requirements for the child or young person. The youth justice co-ordinator must also inform other affected persons if the plan is altered due to a direction of the court. It is important that everyone is aware of what is expected from the child or young person and others to successfully complete his or her plan.

Please note that Youth Court is a closed Court so the youth justice co-ordinator will only inform those affected persons that need to know the changes to a plan.

Assessment and planning to implement the family group conference plan

Where relevant assessments have not been completed prior to the family group conference for a child or young person or there is insufficient information to implement the plan or parts of it, the youth justice co-ordinator working with the social worker will ensure that the identified assessments are completed before the plan is ready for implementation. Where a plan has been started the social worker, in conjunction with the youth justice co-ordinator, will need to consider how new information that may impact the effectiveness of the plan is then incorporated into the plan. This may require the family group conference to be reconvened to consider the new information.

Supporting the child or young person and their family/whānau with their individualised plan

The child or young person's individualised plan must be monitored and reviewed as per the timeframes agreed at the family group conference. Doing so will support the child or young person and their family/whānau to complete the plan and achieve its objectives. Contact with the child or young person and their family/whānau must occur at the frequency necessary to support the plan and the needs of the child or young person.

Where it is considered necessary for a social worker to support a family group conference plan, he or she will be allocated prior to the conference. However in the rare circumstance where a youth justice social worker was not allocated pre-family group conference, he or she will meet with the child or young person within five working days of the completion of the family group conference or where applicable the directions of the Youth Court being taken into account and incorporated into the plan.

Monitoring the family group conference plan

Monitoring isn't just about the plan - monitoring means noticing the changes the child or young person and the family/whānau is making to address the offending and to create a home environment that is supportive and positive. It is also important to note how we will notice changes in the child or young person's behaviour and attitude and picking up on and acting quickly if things are not going well

Monitoring is not a one-off action. It is important to have regular contact with the child or young person and others involved in the plan, to talk with them about how they think they are progressing. The person monitoring the plan can then easily identify if the child or young person is struggling or if difficulties arise in the course of the plan.

The intensity of monitoring needs to be matched to the unique situation of the child or young person. Factors such as the risk of reoffending as well as the magnitude and frequency of their offending will influence the intensity of monitoring. Similarly the child or young person's commitment and willingness to complete their plan may support a reduced level of monitoring. It is expected that children and young people who pose a high risk to the community will have a clear plan agreed with the youth justice supervisor and, where appropriate, the care and protection supervisor. This plan must comply with minimum supervision standards outlined in the Management of high risk children and young people policy.

The person monitoring the plan, whether a family/whānau member, provider, youth justice co-ordinator or social worker needs to be particularly vigilant when it comes to recognising and acting on signals that a child or young person may be at risk of self-harm, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse or psychological distress. An early response to these signs is important and remember: if you suspect there is a risk, act on it.

Keeping the victim informed of progress is an important part of the restorative process and is built into the monitoring plans if the victim so wishes. Otherwise, the youth justice co-ordinator establishes with the victim if they want this to happen and clarify how this is to be done (s269A). These details always need to be recorded appropriately either in the plan itself or a case note.

Ensure that:

  • there are regular progress checks, progress is recorded, success is acknowledged and active steps are taken to keep plans on track
  • the family group conference is reconvened if the plan is significantly off track and outcomes may be compromised
  • scheduled reviews are well prepared and held on time.

See FGC Practice Standard 10- Active Implementation

Monitoring by the social worker

At times, it may be necessary for a youth justice social worker to monitor the plan. It is preferable that, where necessary, a social worker is allocated prior to the family group conference. However when this is not the case, it is good practice to introduce them at the earliest opportunity as they need to build rapport with the child or young person and their family/whānau. This could be done during or at the conclusion of the family group conference.

The social worker is there to work closely with the child or young person and their family/whānau within the context of the community, to support areas of vulnerability and to continually look for strengths and opportunities that will provide the impetus for positive change. It is important that the emerging needs of the child or young person are continually assessed and responded to, not just their adherence to the plan.

There may be the opportunity for the social worker to update the Tuituia report or reapply the SACS screen to measure progress on certain aspects of the child or young person's behaviour. Comparing a current Tuituia report with previous ones or reapplying the SACS can show differences in behaviour over a period of time.

Progress reports

In some instances the family group conference will agree on monitoring via progress reports. Progress reports enable the person monitoring the plan to provide feedback to the youth justice co-ordinator or social worker on progress towards completion of the plan within the agreed time frame. They also provide insight into how a child or young person is progressing with their plan. The decision to monitor using progress reports may be agreed to in the family group conference as a "check-up" mechanism or they may be produced in response to concerns that have arisen during monitoring. If a plan is being adequately monitored, timely progress reports enable changes to be made and for any necessary timeframe extensions to be sought before the plan is finished (and if the charges are before the Court, prior to the young person appearing for disposition).

Progress reports may be done informally (e.g. in a conversation between the youth justice co-ordinator and the person or organisation doing the monitoring) or as a written report. It is important to record the updates in CYRAS.

The youth justice co-ordinator is responsible for initiating any actions that arise as a response to a progress report. This may be to reconvene the family group conference or to consult with the other participants about what action is taken.

Managing non-compliance and plan breakdowns

Sometimes significant issues arise that require a family group conference to be reconvened (s270); often this is when something occurs that prevents the child or young person from carrying out their agreed tasks and/or compromises their safety and wellbeing. On other occasions the child or young person may have re-offended. A conference may be reconvened by the youth justice co-ordinator on their own motion or at the request of at least two entitled members who attended the family group conference. If the conference plan was made under s261 a social worker, an iwi social service, a cultural social service or a child and family support service may also require a conference to be reconvened under certain circumstances (s36(1B) and s270(1A)).

See Key information - Holding the family group conference

It is important not to wait for the family group conference to be reconvened before responding to risks to the safety and wellbeing of the child or young person.

It is expected that there will be consultation between the youth justice co-ordinator, youth justice supervisor and social worker (if allocated) when it becomes clear that the child or young person may not complete all or part of their plan, or when considering a breach of formal Court orders. This consultation considers how the non-compliance is managed and how the child or young person is supported before reconvening the family group conference or lodging proceedings in the Youth Court.

An organisation or agency managing all or part of the plan must advise the youth justice co-ordinator or social worker of any issues affecting the child or young person or their ability to complete the required tasks. If there are formal Court orders they may lodge a breach with the Court if the child or young person is in their custody or request that a breach be initiated by the social worker if the young person is in the custody of the chief executive of the Ministry of Social Development.

Supporting victims

Plans must have a focus on "putting things right" for the victim and reflect their expectations in the decisions, recommendations and plan.

The youth justice co-ordinator ensures that a copy of the decisions, recommendations and plans coming out of the family group conference are given or sent to the victim whether or not they attend (s265(1)(f)).

The youth justice co-ordinator or social worker must ensure that victims receive updates in accordance with s269A if they have requested to be kept informed of the young person's progress on the plan.

As a matter of good practice, the youth justice co-ordinator or social worker will ensure that the victim is informed of the outcome of family group conference plan, whether the plan has been completed or not. This information should be restricted to indicating whether the plan was completed or where not completed and advising what action has been taken to address this (e.g. reconvene, breach etc).

Managing high risk children and young people

All children and young people who are considered to be high risk will be managed in accordance with the Management of high risk children and young people policy.

Review and determining the completion of each task and objective met

The date and method of review will have been agreed at the conference and noted in the written plan sent out to entitled members entitled to receive a copy.

The review of the plan is important as it allows everyone to see the progress made and celebrate completion. The family group conference is always reviewed at its point of completion but may also be reviewed at various stages during the plan, particularly if concerns have arisen through monitoring or a change of circumstances.

The review can be undertaken in different ways including:

  • information received from the monitor(s) being measured against the goals, tasks and objectives of the plan
  • the conference participants meeting again to review the child or young person's success in completing the family group conference plan
  • the social worker providing a written report of the child or young person's achievements and compliance with the plan.

However it is the youth justice co-ordinator's responsibility to record the outcomes of the review and to close the phase.

The progress and review reports, along with conversations with the child or young person, their family/whānau and support people, will provide information on whether the child or young person has completed their tasks satisfactorily. The youth justice co-ordinator uses their professional judgment to determine whether the objectives have been met and whether the plan was successful in its intent.

The objectives are not met if the plan is not completed to the satisfaction of the participants, if there is further offending or the family group conference is reconvened for either of these reasons

The participants can agree that the objectives of the family group conference can be met even if one or more tasks have not been completed satisfactorily. It is important to record why the task(s) was/were not completed and how it was agreed that the family group conference objectives have been met in this instance.

As well as completion of the plan the review considers the child or young person's overall wellbeing in relation to the underlying causes of the offending and ensures that any identified needs have been addressed. This is particularly important where mental health, alcohol or drug, violence or education needs have been identified. It is important to be assured that the child or young person is suitably occupied in education or employment and is adequately housed. Just because the plan has been completed doesn't mean that concerns for the child or young person's wellbeing is overlooked. It is important that we stay involved with the child or young person and their family/whānau until we are confident that the issues are being followed up, either by a report of concern or referral to another agency.

The review entry in CYRAS must record the outcomes of the tasks required by the family group conference and whether the plan has been satisfactorily completed. It will also state where the child or young person is living and how they are engaged in education, training or employment.

Closure letters detailing the outcome of the family group conference plan are sent to all members of the family group conference entitled to receive a copy and to the Youth Court if appropriate.

Celebrating achievements

A review provides the opportunity to bring all parties together to celebrate the achievements of the child or young person. The child or young person can be congratulated in the company of the people who will continue their life journey with them. A formal review by family group conference can present an opportunity for reflection, making firm and witnessed resolutions for the future and provide for closure for both the child or young person and the victim.

See also Family Group Conference Practice Standards

Update 1 July 2016