Gallagher, Bernard (1993) Family participation in initial child protection case conferences: report on a pilot project for Liverpool Area Child Protection Committee. Project Report. Liverpool Area Child Protection Committee.

Family participation in child protection conferences, and also the wider child protection system, has been a major issue in terms of policy, practice and family rights, and it raises a number of questions regarding, for example, parents being able to put their perspective and the sharing of information between agency workers. Aware of all of these concerns, the then Liverpool Area Child Protection Committee embarked upon a pilot project to assess the feasibility of family participation in initial cases conferences in three districts. Family members were invited to attend conferences between November 1991 and January 1992. Family members attended 20 conferences in this period. The pilot exercise was evaluated by means of questionnaires administered to agency workers (81 agency workers completed, between them, a total of 125 questionnaires in respect of the 20 conferences) and interviews with at least one family member from 17 of the families represented at the 20 conferences.

The results were as follows: family members firmly believed they should be invited to attend initial case conferences, even though they found them very stressful and the conference format was not conducive to their participation. Efforts to prepare family members for participation were at least moderately successful and family members participated in the conference to a moderate degree at least. The presence of a family member did have some effect on agency worker behaviour and it affected the attitudes of a large number of agency workers. Training for family participation was highly valued but there was insufficient provision. Many of the problems experienced through participation were specific to particular families, agencies or conferences. Exclusions, of family members, were rare. Young people are able and willing to participate in cases conferences.

The conclusions of the research are that: family members should be invited to initial cases conferences but more effort need to be invested in the training of agency workers and the preparation of family members. Chairpersons and keyworkers should be involved in briefing family members before the conference and de-briefing them afterwards. Resources need to be invested in the practical or logistical aspects of family participation. The format of conferences needs to be changed to make it more suitable to family participation. Family members should be provided with a contract that sets out what they should expect from participation and the child protection system. Family members should have access to an independent person to discuss any questions or concerns they have about participation or cases conferences more generally. Family participation should be subject to an on-going monitoring exercise to determine its effects.

Report_Pilot_Project_for_Liverpool_Area_Child_Protection_Cttee.pdf - Published Version

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