The Family Group Conferencing pilot program was implemented by the NSW Government in response to recommendations made as part of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW to increase the use of alternative dispute resolution prior to, and during, care and protection proceedings.
There is no formal program other than the NSW Family Group Conferencing pilot program that provides alternative dispute resolution services for care and protection matters that are not currently before the Children’s Court. The use of Family Group Conferencing has provided an important opportunity to resolve child protection matters and build support networks for families outside of the court process.
The NSW Department of Family and Community Services contracted the Australian Institute of Criminology in June 2011 to undertake a process and outcome evaluation of the pilot. This thorough evaluation of the program provides useful policy analysis of what makes Family Group Conferencing an effective alternative dispute resolution program within a government child care and protection system.