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Dr Cath Larkins University of Central Lancashire

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1 Intergenerational dialogue in Family Group Conferences: moving from protection to participation.
Dr Cath Larkins University of Central Lancashire Children, Young People, and Adults: Extending the Conversation UCLan, Preston UK, Sept 2012 Ear2theGround - Trudy Aspinwall Action for Children

2 What is a Family Group Conference?
A family led meeting to develop plans to address child welfare concerns. Idea developed in New Zealand in 1980s Used in the UK since 1990 a space in which different generations within a family meet together, without professionals, to develop and define plans to provide solutions to the difficulties their family are encountering (FRG 2005).

3 (Hayes and Houston 2008: 995)

4 Illustrative Story Joshua, aged 15, and his family, were referred to FGC by a social worker who was concerned about his anti social behaviour and non-attendance at school. - mother wanted the focus to be the failure of her ex-husband to have contact with Joshua, his son. - father wanted the focus to be the mother’s lack of parenting skills. - Joshua wanted the focus to be the failure of his school to provide him with training as a mechanic. - The coordinator works with all to agree a focus. - The 3, plus grandparents, have FGC to set a plan.

5 Outline for rest of this paper
Why explore FGCs Methodology and Methods Findings Getting ready Advocacy The beginning of the meeting/information sharing Family time Putting the plan into action Extra thoughts Discussion Conclusion

6 Why look at FGCs? Participation? Protection? Intergenerational
Recent legislative change > greater use likely (Masson 2010) Concerns about children being heard (Holland et al 2004; Holland and O’Niell 2006) Concerns about children being distressed/bored (Kirby and Laws 2010) A space of dialogue – Habermas (Haynes and Houston 2008) How facilitator supports dialogue (Holland and Rivet 2008) Participation? Protection? Intergenerational dialogue and advocacy?

7 Pockets of participation
Methodology Participatory Dialogic Research (Freire 1973; Save the Children 2008) Pockets of participation (Franks 2010) What makes a good Family Group Conference? What makes good advocacy within FGCs? Following the fieldwork Critical Realism – mechanisms, agency and structure (Pawson and Tilley 1998)

8 Methods and participants
Initial meetings with staff to decide research questions. Questionnaire to ask everyone who had taken part in Family Group conferences over the previous year (120 sent) - (response rate 25%) Questionnaire results as ‘generative themes’ explored by participation group of 15 aged 8-17. met 4 times, for a day each time, to decide and reflect on further questions, themes, priorities.

9 Dialogue Using young people’s questions and themes
5 interviews with family members 3 focus groups: referring professionals, internal and external advocates 2 interviews with FGC coordinators Their ideas were developed into a priority ranking questionnaire (55 sent) - (response rate 15) Young people’s responses in dialogue with (but given weight over) professionals’. Dialogue may continue in further analysis

10 Some of the Findings Difference in the stages of FGC

11 Inter-generational dialogue
not only in family time Getting ready Advocacy Information sharing to define focus Family time Putting the plan into action (Hayes and Houston 2008: 995) (Larkins and Aspinwall, Forthcoming)

12 Young people should be involved in the pre FGC dialogue about
Making a referral – self-referrals not possible Whether FGC takes place “I think [an FGC] should be when everyone agrees that there should be one, but that if one person wants one you should do something about it” Young Person ‘You should only have a family group conference when you know everyone will do what they promise to do’. Young People’s Group Who is there What is discussed

13 Agencies should also be clear about
Risks Social Services - if there are particular consequences. All external agencies - what services and support are available to the family and/or young person. Provision 13

14 Family Time and the Plan
“I was the only person there – no-one from my family showed up” Young Person “There have been times when adults keep on arguing and young people aren’t listened to” Advocate Three young people said plans were not made because their family would not participate. “They all sat around and talked and all said their part. I liked it because they all talked. It wasn’t telling you what to do” Young Person Half the steering group felt • listened to •like family cared more about what was going on for them “We all wrote it, worked really well; he (young person) was writing everything down on big sheets” Parent 14

15 What happens when it works?
Discussion What happens when it works? YP3: “It makes you realise you are pushing your parents too far and makes them realise that you are older than they think you are, YP4: Or younger than they think you are so they shouldn’t be expecting so much of you, like that you should be going out to work. YP3: Makes them see the child as a person. Sometimes they don’t see what is going on for you and it helps them realise.”

16 Why does it work sometimes?
Discussion Why does it work sometimes? Safety and influence achieved through supported dialogue Advocate who knows / follows role Coordinator who listen’s to child’s views Young person who feels confident Family takes views seriously

17 Extract …of checklist on Advocacy
Meet with young person together with parents/carers to explain advocacy role Meet with young people individually at least twice before the conference Charter: An advocate will … a. Get the child’s views heard. b. Explain things to the young person c. Support young people through the meeting whatever happens d. Remind children and young people what they wanted to say e. Tell other people if they are worried about a child’s safety f. Be independent from the family g. Establish some agreement with young people about what to do should things get upsetting in the meeting. 17

18 Enhances safety by Young people and others knowing they can take a break. Giving weight to young people’s views on who should be at the FGC Advocate is not primary protector, although can agree to take on an element of this role as determined by the young person. Coordinator role to judge risks. 18

19 When doesn’t it work? YP2: “Depends on the parents and how they’ve brought you up. YP3: It can help you build a relationship back up, so it can help with a short-term problem. But you can’t take back the things that have been said and done over years. YP5: If they have made you feel like they really care for you when you are younger, say up to the age of 7, if you then have problems or fights when you are a teenager at least you have got that to fall back on. I think that when you don’t have that caring when you are young then it’s not going to work trying to talk about it when you are older, because why would it?”

20 Are FGCs intergenerational?
Adult to adult dialogue influencing Whether conference should take place, with who Focus of FGC Extent children are heard Whether promises are enforced Esp. access to resources = structural tendencies

21 Content of the plan Child to adult dialogue influencing
And also… Child to adult dialogue influencing Whether conference should take place, with who Level of risk/harm/safety they are comfortable with Content of the plan How promises are enforced e.g. impact of participation group = provide a potential for change for some

22 FGC are an arena of intergenerational dialogue between
Conclusion FGC are an arena of intergenerational dialogue between Children and conference coordinators Children and advocates Children and older family members FGC can encourage intergenerational dialogue to recommence in families Where negative intergenerational dialogue is occurring – it is better for children and young people that this occur in the relatively supported setting of an FGC

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