Source: (2006) Presentation for the Study tour: A Restorative Justice System for Juveniles: Information for Mexico from New Zealand.

This paper summaries the values, goals and philosophy underpinning the care and protection system in New Zealand and in particular emphasises the importance of: participatory practice involving families, whanau and communities; diverting families from more formal processes and keeping them within their families and communities, empowering families and children to take decisions about their own lives, and broadening the safety net for children, and improving the quality of social work practice. It identifies some of the key ingredients in a successful conference process including: developing and reaching agreements about quality plans for children, supporting and resourcing these, ensuring participant satisfaction with outcomes, and the critical importance of preparations for the conference; including the provision of appropriate information to participants. It reviews the research literature on family group conferences from New Zealand and elsewhere. This research provides information on the key finding that have emerged through evaluation research and practitioner experience in the area of care and protection. It also identifies important aspects of practice that were of concern in New Zealand in 2005. It reports on a major study of later life outcomes for young people who have been involved in youth justice family group conferences. This research identifies best practice likely to enhance wellbeing, empower children and families, and ensure culturally responsiveness. The findings reported here also focus on the features of best practice that are associated with positive life outcomes for children, young people and their families, and are also likely to be relevant to care protection processes. We conclude that there is little doubt that the care and protection family group conference has the potential to make a real contribution to empowering participants, harnessing the support of family, whanau and community and increasing the safety net for children but that success in achieving these goals is dependent on effective practice and supportive policies. (author's abstract)

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