Family Group Conferences

We want young people to be safe, strong, and sorted so they can make good choices.  Sometimes, young people make mistakes. Being part of a Family Group Conference (FGC) is a way to put things right.

What is a Family Group Conference?

A Family Group Conference (FGC) is a meeting where a young person who has offended, their family, victims and other people like the police, a social worker or youth advocate, talk about how to help the young person to:

  • own up to what they did wrong and learn from their mistakes
  • find practical ways the young person can put things right and make up for what they did
  • look at why they offended and find ways to help them turn their life around. This may include programmes that help with life skills, employment or education, or activities like team sports and mentoring.

Most conferences take one to two hours, but some may take longer.

After being part of a FGC most young people won't go on to offend again. In fact the FGC has proven so successful that many other countries have followed New Zealand and adopted the process.

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People who can go to the Family Group Conference are the:

  • young person
  • young person's family
  • victim and support people
  • youth justice coordinator
  • police
  • young person's lawyer, called a youth advocate
  • a social worker
  • other professionals, for example health and education.

An interpreter can attend the meeting if needed.

Who organises the Family Group Conference?

The FGC is arranged by the youth justice coordinator from Child, Youth and Family.

The youth justice coordinator is the key person for the young person and their family. They are there to help everyone get the most out of the meeting and to answer any worries or questions.

Preparing for the Family Group Conference

Getting as many family members as possible to the FGC is the main thing that will help create a positive change for the young person.

If you are attending an FGC for a young person in your family, you might want to think about:

  • Who is in your extended family or whānau?
  • Where do you want the FGC to be held?
  • What special customs would you like to be part of the FGC?
  • Who is a leader in your family who could help with the meeting?
  • Who do you know that could help your young person with school, getting a job, learning new skills, or be a role model?

What happens at a Family Group Conference?

Each family group conference is unique because the young person and their family help decide how the meeting will be run.

But generally there are three parts to a Family Group Conference: Getting the facts, talking and making a plan.

1. Getting the facts

  • Everyone will hear what the police say happened
  • If the young person agrees with what the police say happened, the next step will be to talk about how the young person can make things right.
  • If the young person does not agree with what the police say happened, the conference will end and the police or the court will decide what to do next.

2. Time to talk
Everyone talks about:

  • What the young person did wrong (the offences)
  • How it made other people feel, like the victim and the young person's family. The victim will talk about how the crime affected them and what they think should happen
  • What the young person can do to make things right.

3. The plan
The young person and their family talk about a plan to put things right. The plan should be fair to the victim and help the young person learn from their mistakes.

Once the family has thought about a plan, they report their ideas back to the meeting. Everyone talks about it and decides if they agree on a plan. If agreement can't be reached a judge will decide the plan.

A good plan will help a young person:

  • face up to it and admit to what they have done wrong
  • put it right with the victim as much as possible and accept consequences
  • move on by supporting the young person to make positive choices from now on
  • be strong as part of their family and whānau.

The plan will also include:

  • who in the family will support the young person
  • a clear timeframe for when the tasks need to be done
  • who will monitor each of the tasks.

After the Family Group Conference

The young person will need help from their family to make the plan work.

Once the plan has been made it is legally binding and has to be completed.
The plan will be reviewed by Child, Youth and Family to make sure all the tasks are done.

If the plan isn't being carried out as agreed the youth justice coordinator will talk to the family about getting things back on track.