Youth Justice family group conferences
Youth Justice Family Group Conferences (YJFGC) give the child or young person – with their whānau, victims and professionals – a chance to help find solutions when they have offended.
If tamariki (aged 10 to under 14) and young people (aged 14 to under 18) break the law, they’ll be referred to the youth justice system, rather than the adult jurisdiction. The youth justice process gives them a genuine opportunity to change their lives for the better without getting a criminal record.
Section 4A of the Oranga Tamariki Act (1989) requires practitioners working in Youth Justice to always think about 4 primary considerations when working with tamariki and young people:
- the well-being and best interests of tamariki and young people
- the public interest (including public safety)
- the interests of any victim
- the accountability of tamariki and young people for their behaviour.
These considerations must be weighed against the youth justice principles in s208 of the Act. This can present a challenge when, for example, what might be in the best interests of tamariki and young people may not be appropriate, given the interests of the victim. Practitioners must always think about how the 4 considerations can be aligned for the best possible outcome for tamariki and young people, their whānau and any victims of the offending.
One of our goals is to work with tamariki or young people and their whānau as early as possible, to have a stronger focus on reducing the potential for lifelong offending. In partnership with others, we’ll work to prevent reoffending. Victims will also be better supported to fully participate in the youth justice process.
Youth Justice Family Group Conferences (YJFGC)
Youth Justice Family Group Conferences (YJ FGC) give tamariki or young people, with their whānau, victims and professionals, a chance to help find solutions when they have offended.
Together, with the whānau, victims, the Police and other people involved with the case, we can help the tamariki or young people take responsibility for their actions to make lasting, positive changes. With everyone’s opinion and expertise accounted for, a thorough plan can be made to help right the wrong and ensure the future wellbeing of tamariki and young people.
How a YJ FGC works
The YJ FGC is arranged by a Youth Justice coordinator. They are there to help everyone get the most out of the meeting and to answer any worries or questions.
The following outlines the general structure of a YJ FGC:
- Tamariki or young people start by owning up to what they have done.
- Together, we then work out the underlying reasons behind their actions. Why they did what they did.
- Victims are encouraged to attend the FGC and make their views known to the conference about how the offending affected them.
- The conference finds practical ways for tamariki or young people to make amends for what they have done, like community service or getting a part-time job to help pay towards any damages. Any other needs, like anger management or alcohol and drug support will also be addressed.
- Finally goals are set for the future such as:
- life skills
- team sports, and
- getting them a good mentor.
"I don't want to be like that when I'm older. I need something better."
Stages of a Youth Justice Family Group Conference
Getting the facts
The police summary of facts (this describes the circumstances of the alleged offending) will be read out, and if the child or young person agrees, everyone will discuss how they can make things right. If they don’t agree with the summary, the family group conference will end and the police or the court will decide what to do next.
Time to talk
Everyone will discuss the circumstances of the offence and the impact it's had on the victim and the child or young person’s whānau. The victim will then share their views and ideas about how the child or young person can make things right.
Whānau and the child or young person will take timeout to come up with a clear, realistic plan to take back to others at the family group conference.
The plan is then discussed with the wider group, and if everyone can agree, then a legally binding plan is created and must be completed. This will rely on whānau and professionals providing on-going support, working together, keeping each other informed about progress and problems. If things go off track, the Youth Justice coordinator or social worker will talk to the whānau about what they can do to stick more closely to the plan.
If the conference is unable to agree on a plan, the matter is referred back to the Police or the Youth Court. This may result in a further FGC or the Court making decisions about the offending.
What is a Youth Justice Family Group Conference (FGC)?
Why we have an FGC and why it can help a child or young person accept responsibility for their actions and move on.
What to expect
The INs and OUTs of the FGC process and what to expect.
Why victims should attend
Why victims are an important part of the process and how it can help them.
Who should attend?
Along with the victim and their support people, everyone who plays an important role in the child or young person’s life, and others who might be able to offer support or services, should attend. This includes family and whānau, Police, the child or young person's lawyer and social worker, and other professionals such as teachers or health workers.
A Youth Justice coordinator will organise the conference. They’ll be everyone’s main point of contact and support if there are any worries or questions.
How to prepare
Before the conference takes place consider:
- When and where should it be held?
- Are there special customs you or the whānau would like to include?
- Who in the whānau could play a lead role?
- Who could offer your child or young person continued support?
It’s also important to gather those whānau members who are important to the child or young person for the conference to help create a positive change for the young person.
Help us get better
After the conference, we may ask for feedback. This helps us identify what’s working well and what can be improved. Ultimately, we want to make sure the whole process is a positive experience for everyone involved – especially the tamariki, young people and the victims.