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Family group conferences in youth justice

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Abstract

This paper discusses part of an evaluation of the ‘Family Group Conference (FGC) Project for Young People Who Offend’ within a large social services department (‘Exshire’). The evaluation covers all 30 family group conferences during a 15-month period from September 2000 to December 2001. This article presents the findings relating to young people along with changes in their psychosocial profile using a modified version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; Goodman 1997). The views of all participants were positive, with the majority saying they would recommend FGCs to others. FGC was felt by most participants to have brought about changes in the way young people view the world, partly by helping them to accept the reality of offending in a way that had not previously been possible. It provided victims with a unique opportunity to become involved in the youth justice system, recognising them as key stakeholders as a result of a crime. This process left most victims with a sense of satisfaction and resolution. Average SDQ scores were lower following FGC for the 12 young people who responded to follow-up interviews. Although there are a number of restorative justice projects using FGC in youth justice, we believe this project is among the first in the UK to establish the use of the New Zealand model with its emphasis on ‘private family time’ as an ongoing established service. Although the data were collected before 2002, the project contains unique features which we believe should be brought to the attention of the wider academic and practice community given that FGC is still a fairly new, unexplored and under-evaluated phenomenon in youth justice. There is currently a need for more research looking at the use of FGC in relation to young offenders.
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Keywords: empowerment and young people; family group conferences; restorative justice; youth justice

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London, Docklands Campus, London, UK, 2: School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Chatham Maritime, Kent, UK, 3: Middlesex University, London, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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