NSW Minister for Women – Pru Goward
FAMILIES would spend less time in court and more time in conferences under a new approach to child protection in NSW, Minister for Women Pru Goward says.
She was speaking at the launch of a report on a pilot program of family group conferencing for cases involving child abuse and neglect.
The program, which seeks to resolve child protection issues within the family, is the only alternative form of dispute resolution in NSW.
“It places families at the centre of planning in a way that court proceedings simply cannot,” Ms Goward said.
“We needed to move away from a system where families felt pitted against child protection services – ‘welfare’s coming to get your kids’.”
NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith said the adversarial nature of Children’s Court proceedings didn’t foster collaboration.
“People get very frustrated and angry when they can’t be heard, and it allows parents to ask questions so they can understand what’s happening and why,” he said.
He said many families involved in such cases were disadvantaged and could find court proceedings confusing and alienating.
The evaluation found 90 per cent of families in the pilot program were able to develop a family plan, and over 80 per cent of conferences resulted in the disputed issues being either fully resolved or narrowed.
“These programs will go a long way towards better including families in decisions regarding their child’s care – even if that decision is a wake-up call that the best thing is removal – and they can ensure that case workers spend less time in court and more time with families,” Ms Goward said.
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