Saturday, July 4, 2009

“Family Group Conferences” or “ForeGone Conclusions

Does FGC mean “Family Group Conferences” or “ForeGone Conclusions” as I now call some of them and will explain why?

I make these comments because in some cases, (not all) Child, Youth and family New Zealand (CYF) control, who can attend, and they can filter the information they deem should be presented at the conference to the detriment of a good outcome being reached.
If key people are excluded or not enough of or the right information is given, this can dramatically affect the possibility of any outcomes being reached before the conference has even taken place. In other words its setup to fail before it even starts, by CYF.

Potentially CYF can make sure they get the outcome they want by providing the only options, via information and people, they want presented to the FGC. The unchallengeable opinion of the FGC coordinator can make or break a FGC or influence an outcome based on their opinion only and that can depend on what mood they are in or if they like you or not.

The outcomes of an FGC can be predetermined before the FGC even takes place, by excluding people and information, only allowing that which CYF want to be presented to the FGC. They can influence the result (if needed), while seemingly giving the family a choice and doing what is required by law as to arranging the FGC..

CYFS can also put unreasonable timeframes, therefore: restrictions on the FGC, making it impossible to reach an outcome in the allotted timeframe resulting in a none-agreement.
In the event of a none-agreement is returned after and FGC is held CYF get the power back, to come up with a solution. Owing to the fact the family was unable to come to any agreement even if it was CYF own failings as outlined above and agreement could not have possibly been reached.

As a side note, some families have stated they only really had one option presented! So felt compelled, to go along with it, rather the risk CYF making a decision for them, that most likely could be different to what the family wanted. They would rather have little say, than none at all! So agreed, based on that conclusion. So given CYF claim, that 90 per cent of cases family group conferences, agree about what should be done. Under what circumstances? Bring this conclusion about. This is the real question. Given some of the examples I have stated, if an agreement was under duress, or influenced by controlling the amount or type of information, along with people and timeframes available to the conference, this truly can be said, ‘hardly keeps within the spirit of the FGC ethos.’ Some could call that; abuse of power or manipulating the system for their own gain. Which it is!

I would like CYFS to read this comment I have come across:

“Please note that any two people who attended the Family Group Conference can request the Care and Protection Co-ordinator to reconvene the Family Group Conference if they have serious concerns for any reason that cannot be resolved informally”

Source: Pamela Putland Care & Protection Co-ordinator prepared this information,
Children Young Persons & Their Families Service Otara

CYF can in fact hold a FGC without the family if they refuse to attend so basically at times they are blackmailed into turning up and going along for the ride even if they know it’s a fast. It seems strange to call it a Family group conference if none of the family turn up, but never mind that LOL
How about telling the family an FGC is being held, the whole family decide not to attend and do not. Often CYFS claim one was held. Strange? The ‘F’ (Family) part of the FGC was not in attendance.

Just to clarify a point, family members in some cases have given CYF lists of people they wanted invited to the FGC, CYF lost the lists or the invitations or claim they went astray in the post, or CYF claimed they did not know about the people who missed out and blame the family for not telling them. That’s the subtle approach when I talk about people be excluded, or they will make a time for the FGC wherein certain people can’t come and say “sorry we tried, but can’t suit everyone’s needs”

Now in brief, if you read CYFS own webpage, then some off the stuff I allege has happened; is a breach of their own guidelines and protocols for example:

Under The heading Family Rights:
… give and be given any necessary information…
…. take as much time as necessary to find solutions….

Not only that but CYF are advised:

The challenge to the Department of Social Welfare from these findings is to minimize the degree to which things go wrong, while maximizing the benefits from the process for the families involved.

M. Gilling, L. Pettersen and B., Walker (1995) Family Members' Experiences of the Care and Protection Family Group Conference Process¸ Social Policy Agency, Wellington.

The is another good bit of advice for CYF:
“Family empowerment will occur when there is a genuine partnership between the family and the professionals”
Social Work Now/Number 11/December 1998 page 17

While I could sat a lot more will leave it there but would like to point out to people who have to deal with CYF you have rights and should take a look at the following:

Example Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)
Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) and guidelines
State Services Commission (SSC) Code of conduct for the State Services, This page has a heap of information on it about integrity etc.. you can download

Graeme Axford

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