Restorative Practices and Child Welfare: Toward an Inclusive Civil Society
Journal of Social Issues
Child welfare systems in the United States are failing to include families in making plans, and this reduces their success in stabilizing children's placements and promoting children's well-being. A North Carolina study demonstrates how one restorative practice-family group conferencing (FGC)-advances family participation in child welfare planning. A sample of 27 conferences showed that the 221 family group members outnumbered the 115 service providers at the meetings. Family group members were
... usually satisfied with the conference process and decision and saw the plans as primarily reached through consensus, following a trusted leader, and bargaining. Satisfaction with the decision was reduced when bargaining was employed. Manipulation was more likely to occur when conference preparations were inadequate. Child welfare systems across the United States are substantially out of conformity with national standards for child outcomes and service delivery (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [US DHHS], 2003). In particular, they are failing to involve families in making plans, and as a result, their success in stabilizing children's placements and promoting children's well-being is reduced. These performance deficiencies are, in part, a function of the high volume of child welfare work, rapid turnover of staff, and national trends that overload the capacity of families to care for their children. Another reason rests on the premise shaping the U.S. child welfare system.