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Intergenerational dialogue in Family Group Conferences: moving from protection to participation. Dr Cath Larkins University of Central Lancashire Children,

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Presentation on theme: "Intergenerational dialogue in Family Group Conferences: moving from protection to participation. Dr Cath Larkins University of Central Lancashire Children,"— Presentation transcript:

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 mothers 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? Recent legislative change > greater use likely – (Masson 2010) Concerns about children being heard – (Holland et al 2004; Holland and ONiell 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)

7 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 – met 4 times, for a day each time, – to decide and reflect on further questions, themes, priorities.

9 Dialogue Using young peoples 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 peoples 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 (Hayes and Houston 2008: 995) Getting ready Advocacy Information sharing to define focus Family time Putting the plan into action (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 Peoples Group Who is there What is discussed

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

14 Family Time and the Plan They all sat around and talked and all said their part. I liked it because they all talked. It wasnt 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 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 arent listened to Advocate Three young people said plans were not made because their family would not participate.

15 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 shouldnt 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 dont see what is going on for you and it helps them realise.

16 Discussion Why does it work sometimes? Safety and influence achieved through supported dialogue Advocate who knows / follows role Coordinator who listens to childs 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 childs 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 childs 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.

18 Enhances safety by Young people and others knowing they can take a break. Giving weight to young peoples 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.

19 When doesnt it work? YP2: Depends on the parents and how theyve brought you up. YP3: It can help you build a relationship back up, so it can help with a short-term problem. But you cant 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 dont have that caring when you are young then its not going to work trying to talk about it when you are older, because why would it?

20 Are FGCs intergenerational?

21 And also…

22 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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